Those who prefer to work from home and thrive in the personal flexibility provided, probably did some form of working at home before the pandemic. Working from home isn’t the same as working in the office. Keeping a standard nine to five schedules may work for some but it doesn’t really take advantage of the many opportunities provided by working at home. Let’s face it, there is a lot of time wasted in the office. Water cooler talk, unnecessarily long meetings, distractions from coworkers, etc. In an eight-hour day, we probably only work for about 6 or six of those hours.
Long before the virus, we heard the work from home champions saying things like, “I can get a full day’s work done in about 2-3 hours, when I am at home”. First of all, no you can’t. You can get the work that can be done from home done in 2-3 hours, but you aren’t really providing the same level of value in 2-3 hours.
There just is no replacing in-person collaboration. If a co-worker needs your help, they will walk up and ask. They won’t necessarily call, email or plan a virtual meeting to review. In many cases, they will work around your absence. Perhaps that’s a good thing. Some co-workers do need to be more self-sufficient. However, what happens to your value, when they do learn to get the job done without you? It goes down. Again, not necessarily a bad thing but that value needs to be replenished or you are simply doing less, by working remotely.
Even for jobs that do not require collaboration, you still are not doing a full day’s work in less than half of the time. If office distractions account for 50% to 65% of your in-office workday, you are a bad employee, blaming your own lack of focus and accountability, on your work environment. All things considered; the statement is a false or, at least, an exaggeration.
You may not be able to provide the same value, in considerably less time, by working from home, but you can provide as much value, different value or even more value. It’s all about what you do and the structure in which you do it. Here are some pointers:
- Don’t try to power through a standard nine to five schedules. Stretch your workday out and allow some good breaks when there are lulls. Make meals, go for walks, check in with your kids. Allowing a proper balance of work and life, in your everyday schedule will allow you to be more successful with both. The tasks are the important thing, not the time or place.
- Have a schedule for collaboration. HawkPoint’s employees not only work from home, they also keep very different schedules. Brian starts very early and is done by mid-afternoon. Jeremy starts a bit later and works into the evening. How do Brian and Jeremy collaborate? In the overlap. We have core hours. Based on the personal and work schedules, we established some standard (core) times, which are reserved for collaboration. For us, core hours are 9:00 AM to 11:00 AM and 1:00 PM to 3:00 PM. These hours can apply Monday through Friday, but we didn’t need that, so we alternate morning and afternoons. Check in meetings are scheduled and we stick to that schedule. If collaboration is needed, it can certainly wait a few hours for scheduled (core) time. If not, call. People will call, if it’s an emergency.
- Recognize priorities but be reasonable and avoid entitlement. If you are working in the office, your priorities and expectations are not automatically more important than those of the folks working at home. Likewise, the alternative is true for those working from home. If you need something, ask for help, be clear about the priority (the priority, not your priority) and be respectful of other’s priorities, schedule and ability to help. It’s a balance:
- You are being paid to do a job. The priorities of that job should be clear, and you should be prepared to meet the expectations laid out. That’s true, regardless of where or when you work.
- Employers need to be consistent and not change the expectation, based on the reason someone is or isn’t available. If I expect you to be available to assist, with 1 hours’ notice, it doesn’t matter what you do with the hour leading up to the assistance.
- Either the job is able to be done from home or it isn’t. If it is, everyone has to be clear about expectations and the employee needs to meet those expectations. If it’s isn’t, don’t say you’ll try and then harass the employee who was doomed from the start. It’s a balance. Respect that.
- There is a social aspect to working in an office. While many may see that as time wasted, your sanity is worth something. Socializing with coworkers is good for moral and collaboration. Working from home is convenient and can be great for getting things done but, after a while, it will be easy to slip into a funk. Consider a balance of at home time and in office time. The smart companies will provide the option and variety both.
Remote work isn’t a new trend. For many jobs, it became a requirement this year and working from home will continue, even after the pandemic’s requirements have gone away. But will it maintain the numbers? Will it grow? Personally, I think it will actually decrease as many workers rush to get out of their homes, which are probably starting to feel like prisons. There are a lot of advantages and disadvantages to working remotely. If you approach it as an opportunity, not a requirement, you may find a structure that works for you, in the long term.