Addressing the Challenges with Working from Home
Table of Contents
- Is It Time to Go Back to the Office?
- An Extra Challenge for Parents
- The Pros and Cons of Working from Home
- Final Thoughts on the Challenges with Working From Home
Most office employees had a reasonably routine work-life before 2020. Then COVID-19 turned everything upside down. Virtually overnight, companies adamantly opposing remote positions told all their employees to begin working remotely. It was a sudden transition that some of us struggled to deal with, the challenges with working from home seemed daunting.
Now, with the benefit of some hindsight, we've discovered some common advantages of hybrid and fully remote models. Only time will tell if most companies internalize the lessons learned and incorporate them into their strategy moving forward.
Is It Time to Go Back to the Office?
Ever since the first lockdowns were enacted, companies have been chomping at the bit for their employees to come back to the office. Some organizations have set hard deadlines for their employees and want to return to pre-COVID conditions to the extent possible. Other companies with a partial migration back to the office but are willing to accommodate a hybrid schedule. (For example, Google has set a goal for 20% of its employees to telecommute.)
At the opposite end of the spectrum, companies like Twitter have gone all-in on the idea of the remote workforce. The question is, which approach is yielding better returns?
Interestingly, a recent study by Vodafone found that 75% of businesses that introduced the concept of flexible working have experienced high-performance levels among their employees. This business model has empowered many companies to leverage their employees' actual productivity and achievements into a more focused, efficient workforce. This is as opposed to focusing on contractual business hours and location.
Granted, for some businesses, in-office employees are a necessity, not a luxury. And there will always be some advantages to working on-campus. Nevertheless, the convenience and increased productivity associated with working from home may very well outweigh any drawbacks that come with it.
An Extra Challenge for Parents
Of course, remote workers with children may be facing more challenges with working from home.
For instance, what if the company wants their employees back in the office, while at the same time schools want kids to stay at home for their safety? Will the parents be able to go to work in the office? Who will look after their children while they're gone? This dilemma is even thornier, with approximately 20,000 child-care centers closed because of the pandemic and 1 in 9 child-care worker jobs lost.
The best solution for parents in such a predicament is for their employer to work with them individually. Perhaps allowing them to work within an adjusted schedule, if not 100% remotely. Otherwise, the parents will be forced to make tough decisions and may have to look for new work.
The Pros and Cons of Working from Home
Millions of workers experienced both highs and lows of working from home over the past year or two. Some of the most significant advantages include:
Saving Time on the Commute.
When your morning commute only covers the distance from your bedroom to your home office, it's easy to come to work on time and with lower stress levels. Compare that with employees who may spend an hour or more each day on their commute to work.
A Quiet Work Environment (Assuming There Are No Kids in the House).
Many people can only give a task their total concentration when they're in quiet, peaceful surroundings. For many remote workers, their home fits that description perfectly.
Flexibility To Run Errands.
This is a massive benefit for remote employees, especially when running errands that couldn't be done outside of regular business hours.
Freedom of Work Environment.
Have you ever been stuck in a cubicle next to an obnoxious coworker? You can understand why so many workers are big fans of the hybrid/100% remote option. When employees work from home, they can adapt their work environment to match their specific needs and preferences (and they'll probably be more productive as a result).
Granted, there are also some potential drawbacks to working from home as well. These include:
An Inability To “Leave Work at Work.”
When your home is your office, and your office is your home, it becomes increasingly difficult to compartmentalize your life and take a break from work when needed.
This is especially true of parents with children at home but can apply to any remote worker. Whether it's feeding the kids, arbitrating a fight between siblings, trying to juggle chores around the house with work, or getting sidetracked by a neighbor's activity, working from home has its fair share of distractions.
Lack of Structure.
Many employees struggle to stick to a set schedule when working from home. “Clocking in and out” each day at a specific time provides much-needed consistency and motivation. Managers must provide some coaching for their team members and regularly check in with them. This doesn't have to be a drawback if clear communication and manageable expectations are in place.
“Zoom fatigue” is a genuine phenomenon. Remote employees can easily experience burnout by sitting in front of their computer screen day in and day out. Remote workers might not take needed breaks throughout the day. They will lose motivation, and their productivity will start to slip as a result.
Final Thoughts on the Challenges with Working From Home
The work from home (WFH) model has its unique advantages and drawbacks. In a post-COVID world, we'll likely see more business organizations choose to implement this option moving forward. After all, apart from the benefits discussed above, working from home reduces office costs, mitigates the potential for spreading any contagious disease (not just coronavirus), and allows employees to keep working despite inclement weather.
In time, WFH may very well become the “new normal” for the corporate world. Until then, remote employees will continue to navigate the challenges of their situation successfully, strive for an acceptable balance between their home life and work life, and perform their duties at a high level. Our employees have been navigating the challenges with working from home for a decade.