Sunday via Syl: Working from home is what we make of it.
HOT TOPIC ALERT! After reading Kevin Roose’s New York Times article “Sorry, but Working From Home Is Overrated“, I knew my next blog post had to be my take on the matter: working from home (WFH). I think entering a work-from-home situation with the right mindset and putting in (more) effort can help us all reap benefits and achieve that balance we’re striving for. If you don’t read anything else past this sentence, this past sentence and the title of this blog post essentially capture my perspective.
I really enjoy the independence of working from home since there’s no commute stress and I get my stuff done as quick or sometimes even faster than if I were to be in the office (I’m just lacking two extra monitors like we have in the office, but still, all good). I also get to practice my self-motivation, self-discipline, focus, and concentration. Can’t complain here.
I feel like people who dislike or are against working from home are among:
1) those who like to have more of an in person social interaction component (sometimes people have impromptu brainstorming sessions over lunch or casual collaboration in the lounge that they feel is hard to replicate from home).
2) those who don’t have quite the best work environment set up at home to effectively do work (like if you have pets that constantly compete for your attention or people don’t feel they can do their best work with one screen versus three, it might be more difficult and tedious to navigate).
3) those who feel like others will undoubtedly slack off when they work from home (if colleagues don’t get a call/email/message from you right away, they might not give you as much leeway as they might if you were in the office. Some people might assume you’re kicking back and relaxing rather than pulling your weight).
4) those who feel the difficulty of unplugging from work. David Rabin, Vice President of Global Commercial Marketing at Lenovo said, “There is a tendency to work throughout the day to overcome some stigma that you aren’t working when not in the office.” Just because we can work from home doesn’t mean we should be available or “on” 24/7. Let’s be honest here: we don’t work eight hours straight in the office. We take coffee/water/tea/snack breaks or lunch walks and chats with coworkers. Just because we’re working from home doesn’t mean we aren’t entitled to breathers like this. Take a break to grab water, coffee, tea! Stretch! Eat! There comes a time when we should “clock out” and put our laptop away for the day.
In his article about working from home being overrated, Kevin Roose says “…being near other people also allows us to express our most human qualities, like empathy and collaboration. Those are the skills that can’t be automated.” I don’t know about you, but I’m also collaborative and empathetic even when I’m not meeting someone in person.
If you want to brainstorm, I’m super up for that – let’s hop on a Zoom video conference and share our ideas and thoughts. Let’s do some whiteboarding. Let’s use a Trello Board and track what the team is working on–top priorities, deadlines, accomplishments, etc. If you want to just talk about how your weekend was or talk about how amazing your dog is like we would be when we’re grabbing tea/coffee from the office pantry, I’m game for a video chat! It’s not quite the same as seeing someone in person, but a video chat definitely feels more intimate than just texting where things can get lost in translation.
Two quick tips for making work from home work better:
1) Instead of using our beds as chairs or lounging around in pajamas or no pants, keeping it more professional might help us view our work from home time as being more similar to being in the office. I don’t have a dedicated office at home, but I try to set up a work space that makes it off limits to potential distractions.
2) Being responsive is key–not just a good tip for working from home, but just in general. Getting into the habit of sending a prompt reply whenever you get a message, even if it’s just to say “got it”, or, “I’ll get back to you by noon” helps tremendously. Sometimes I’ll be in the middle of something and get Slack messages from colleagues. If I can’t tend to it right away, I let them know I received their note and will get back to them or will work on it, then follow up again when it’s done. People will appreciate it more than you know!
Research also suggests that in an eight-hour day, the average worker is only productive for two hours and 53 minutes. That’s only almost three hours. What about the rest of the time?
I’ve heard from colleagues that they were able to sleep in more because they didn’t need to commute in and when they finished all work at hand, checked to see that nothing else needed to be done, they were able to squeeze in laundry, build IKEA furniture, or get a workout in.
Some people are not for doing chores and errands while working from home, but why waste time?
I strongly dislike people in the office who just stare at their screens, pretending to type and appear busy. If someone gets in at 8:30am and wastes an hour doing nothing versus someone who comes in 9:30am and is productive right away, I see no point of someone coming in earlier just for the sake of optics. It doesn’t make that someone more committed or harder working for just showing up earlier.
How amazing would it be to have extra time and leeway to also get any errands we needed to get out of the way done? How much happier would this make us? Our personal and professional lives bleed into each other. If people can still produce great work and get the results the business wants, I don’t see a huge problem in letting employees that want to work from home work from home some of the time. According to Global Workplace Analytics, 80% of employees view working from home as a perk.
For WFH to work, I think guiding principles, clear expectations and trust need to be set beforehand. How can we ensure honest and effective communication? Weekly check ins and meetings as needed? I see over-communication and trust as must-haves when it comes to remote work. Trust your team to deliver their best work output at home. For benefits that flexible working brings, none of it can happen without trust. Micromanagement has no place at any company. Communicate at all times so that everyone feels comfortable and confident in their ability to do their work at home.
With everything, there’s obviously pros and cons. Working from home isn’t for everyone. I like connecting with others in person too. So for me, WFH would be great some of the time, just not 100% of the time.
How do you feel about working from home? Like it? Love it? Dislike it? Hate it? A mixture of the above? Why?