Profits and Perils of The ‘Work from Home’ Autonomy
Remote Working allows greater work-life balance, but what are its impact on productivity and acing WFH like a pro
Heels make a great power and style statement in corporate corridors. Samantha Cole, leadership freelancer at the Fast Company took cognizance of this statement and decided to walk in the office with those perfect heels. But, call it luck or timing, Cole took a rather bad fall and she was in cast and crutches for months that followed. All thanks to well-meaning telecommute that helped Cole to stay at home and work for leading social media.
Took a fall, hands-on parent, addition of the caregiver role to your itinerary or maybe the traffic making you uncomfortable – work from home is gaining momentum across industries. We are the sandwich generation. The average age of the workforce that opt for remote working is 46 years. So, work from home is not a part-time or non-serious adventure anymore. It is a serious professional step for most people who choose it.
Save the Travel, Spread the Joy:
But, Samantha Cole did not choose the work from home option, she was confined to a place and that was her only option. Lucky for her. In her own words: “Not having a commute is amazing. That can’t be overstated.” An average American spends two hours every day commuting to work. If you do the math, it is 22 days of travel to and fro the Middle Earth aka workplace every year (and the journey is not half as adventurous as the Middle Earth one). Give employees work from home and they are almost as happy as they will be with a $ 40,000 raise— Dan Buettner of National Geographic laid this comparison and we like to believe it.
The Bliss of Remote Working:
A survey from TINYpulse.com says: remote workers score 8.10/10 in happiness while office workers get stuck on 7.42/10 only (guess the city traffic juices out the happiness fuel from them). 91% of workers feel more productive when they are allowed to work remotely. You know where they are coming from. A chatty colleague or an immediate attention seeker superior can be a potent distraction at the office. Remote workers feel more valued when compared with their regular counterparts (7.75 against the latter’s score of 6.69).
How are you sure it will work?
So, you end up saving commute time (that is a ‘yayy’ moment), but then what about seeing those lovely faces in the office? How will you communicate? Work from home looks fine for creative minds or for research people. However, leadership and management have a different equation. They have communication, meetings, delegation and more meetings to deal with. Employees need to know that the boss is here and just a knock away.
The major bone of contention against work from home is trust. Employees need to work under active supervision. You approved work from home for one employee and the next thing you see is a deserted office. Even if you are ok with that, who knows your star employee is slugging it on the couch, eating waffles and watching his or her favorite show, cooped in his or her pajamas. While your employee sits glued to the TV set, super urgent assignments are piling up in her laptop.
Even if your employee does not fancy waffles or TV much (a very unlikely combination), there are chances that he or she has a day scheduled very different from yours. You cannot see them and cannot call them for emergency meetings, or can you? Telecommute was Samantha Cole’s savior when the cast came between her and the office. We do not want to sound clichéd, but technology has revolutionized communication. If it was 2012, communication would have been an impediment. We all know and experience how the video conference and connectivity worked back then. A typical office scene has you shooting emails and communicating through chats. You know how the day looks like, with that quick coffee meeting. 52% of remote workers communicate with their managers once or more in a day. Now, some of them (say 34%) keep that communication to just once a week. 10% of them feel the distance might make the heart grow fonder and keep the communication to just once a month. And there are 3% of phantom presence employees who never communicate.
And there is always a catch!
So, you save commute time, can be the hands-on parent or a caregiver for family members. And work from home keeps you off from the chatter distraction and that particularly nosy boss. So, what is the catch? If you believe Samantha Cole, the practice of rolling out of bed and straight to your work can throw your daily routine off-balance. You may end up cooking dinner at noon. And you may put the working glasses on till 3 am. People working from home often spend their dinners checking and fretting over work emails.
You get out of bed, take a bath, change and are all set to work from home, the clock shows 9 o’clock and with a to-do-list, you know the 7 o’clock party is on the cards. But then your mobile beeps, there is a notification, just one. But, you very well know, it’s never just one notification or just five minutes. The next thing you know it’s 10:30 am and you are still checking your social media newsfeed.
So, it’s 10:30 am and you get back to work, nothing is lost, just shorter breaks to follow and your friends will see you at that evening party. But, hold on, your friend buzzes in for a casual chat, you are at home, right? Frankly, you miss your social days, and quite like your friend as a surprise guest. Your kid decides to hover around and show her masterpieces, now that is an adorable distraction, but a negative for your productivity at work.
Know your style
Getting ready, taking that commute to work, brisking away to your workstation with coffee and quick ‘hellos’, have a psychological impact; you are in the zone and work clothes are on. And pajamas do not mean serious business. Next time you grab that laptop and settle down on the couch in your pajamas to work from home, make sure you stick to the working hours. The small living spaces make separate working zone at home a running joke, still, try not to work from the bed. Screen time is tough, ensure that you get regular breaks, but ensure the breaks do not take you to another screen. Cut low on the social media carb.
Feeling alienated can be a problem with work from home workforce. Chatting appears as if you are conversing with a bot. Make the call (We mean literally). Make sure you and your colleagues' video conference or call at least once a day. And the once a month or never-ever communication mentioned earlier are the worst remote working practices. Connect with other remote workers, if they are in the same city, maybe go out for a drink or two after work. If you have a culturally diverse workforce then interact and virtually understand their way of working.
If you are in a leadership position or even a manager and want to work remotely for the day, make sure employees know your chat and ‘Skype’ id. You are still a (virtual) knock away from your team. But, when an employee comes knocking asking for work from home arrangement and productivity concerns loom heavy, sit back and relax, maybe sip in some coffee. Your remote workforce is working just fine sitting smug in their pajamas and typing reports with their waffle fingers. And, what about the urge to just switch on the TV from your couch of work? Rachel Gillet, from The Fast Company, says this particular thought never came to her mind.
While work from home sounds an awesome time and energy saver, make sure you do not overdo it. Many people feel comfortable working from office space. If you are going for a remote workforce arrangement make sure that the employees are in the office at least once a week. Giving your office a visit once a week, or on alternate days, keeps you connected and gives people the necessary social connect. Ideally, a 3-day work from home may strike the deal, but again have a thorough meeting to understand how individuals perceive remote working.
Some jobs need you to be in the office. You cannot be the remote working waiter or medical professional. Understand the nature of the job and how remote working can have an impact on its daily execution.
So, what are your experiences with remote working? Tell us how you schedule your day in remote working and office working. We will be glad to hear it from you.