Recently I had a CEO say to me, “I am about to put a stop to this work from home thing.”
Curious, because the comment came unexpectedly. I asked “why?”, and he said, “You just know people aren’t working when they are remote, the other day someone told my admin that they had just returned from walking their dog.”
I asked the CEO, “if the employee was working in the office and left over their break to walk their dog or run an errand would that make them any more or less productive than a remote employee?”
I felt the need to challenge the inference of ‘slacking’, considering my colleague’s organization enjoyed record profits and sales for the past two years – during which time every single employee worked from home.
An organization’s leadership that suddenly doesn’t trust employees to remain productive unless they’re visually and physically accounted for has far greater issues that could potentially impact profitability; the least of all a remote employee who takes a break to walk their dog.
Let’s recap. In early 2020 the world was gripped by a pandemic and as a matter of safety, even life and death, workplaces were forced to adapt their work practices.
Governments issued ‘shelter in place’ orders that prohibited people from leaving their homes except for essential business. Non-essential businesses closed their doors, and employees found themselves having to navigate through illness, reduced hours, school closures, quarantine.
Through it all we learned that there is more than one way to work, do business, and connect.
Organizations discovered that the productivity of their employees overwhelmingly increased. A Stanford University study conducted over a period of nine months found that organizations implementing remote working practices experienced an increase in productivity attributed to, among other things, fewer workplace distractions, better working conditions, and less time taken for sick leave. The same study found an increase in job satisfaction and a 50% decrease in attrition rates.
There is much to be said about the benefits that remote work can bring to an organization, but what about the benefits of working remote for employees?
By all accounts it’s not just productivity that improves, but job satisfaction improved as remote workers became better able to manage competing priorities exacerbated by the pandemic; and for the record we are still in pandemic mode with just under 70% of the US population being vaccinated, which means that pandemic-related closures remain the norm and not yet the exception.
Recent studies also support other health-related outcomes, including time and the physical fatigue caused by exhaustive commutes during a time in history when fuel prices are at record-breaking highs.
Countless other studies conducted over the past several months show productivity while working remotely from home is higher than working in an office setting. On average, those who work from home spend 10 minutes less a day being unproductive, work one more day a week on average, and are 47% more productive.
So, if being able to work from home or in a hybrid environment supports workers in achieving better balance, lower stress levels, and increase productivity with few negative consequences to the organization, why vilify the practice?
For the near future organizations most need to cope with most non-essential workers completing their work remotely; and the plan should not include issuing an edict that the lack of an employee’s presence in the office is a presumption of their resignation. The remote workers who kept the lights on for our businesses for the past two years deserve better.
Despite the advantages, working remote is not for everyone. Some of the issues that have been raised by employees seeking the normalcy of the pre-pandemic in office work experience include:
While it’s great to not worry about time wasted while sitting in traffic or on public transportation with standing room only and complying with antiquated dress codes, one of the downsides reported or remote working is social isolation the downside is the isolation, the lack of social contacts and having few people to interact with regularly.
For some, social isolation is real and increases risk of mental health issues like depression, anxiety, and substance abuse, as well as chronic conditions like high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes.
Lack of a proper routine
While employees can work hours when working from an office, it takes self-discipline to make sure they’re not working all the time when working from home. Initially, in my case there was no clear distinction between work and home. This had a negative impact on my lifestyle and wellbeing.
Lack of team collaboration
While video conferencing has provided a variety of tools for team collaboration many believe that there is no place like a good ole fashioned conference room. There are those employees that thrive on the energy from of an in person brainstorming session. Body language, facial expressions, vocal inflection are a part of the successful collaborative experience.
The simple solution – become a hybrid model. However, it is never that simple.
Keep in mind that there are some jobs that simply cannot be done remotely. It’s neither fair nor unfair, it’s just how it is, consider other ways to engage essential staff unable to work remotely.
Discovering alternative ways to work for some organizations is becoming a primary objective and adapting to working at home warrants a consideration that goes deeper that options or real estate and should involve the people most impacted – the employees.
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