Working from home, in itself, isn’t a new concept. Several organizations worldwide offer this liberty to employees regardless of whether there’s a pandemic or not. However, WFH then and now has taken on a new meaning. Earlier, it was a perk that employees can avail of if they deem it necessary. Today, WFH is a given.
Is WFH As Conducive to Productivity As Physically Reporting to the Office?
Different people work differently. Some employees prefer working from home because they find it easier to concentrate or be more productive when they are in an environment they can control. Others feel that being around people and engaging with them fuels their productivity. It’s the same case as to how some people are more productive during the day while others like burning the midnight oil. There’s no right or wrong way to go about things. As long as the quality of work is not affected negatively, we’ve got to make peace with the fact that people have different ideas of what an ideal working environment or time is.
The Challenges of WFH for an Extended Time
In a regular set-up, employees working from home still can physically show up at the office in case of group projects or important meetings. In the current scenario, this is out of the question for most organizations. Even if your company opens its doors for employees to operate within the office, there is likely a restriction on the number of people allowed in it at any given time. Collaborating on team assignments becomes a challenge here.
Employees also report feeling unmotivated because of a lack of structure while working from home. In most cases, this happens because now people are responsible for managing their own time and schedule. WFH, over long periods, breaks down this structure. This makes it difficult for some employees to keep their productivity fuel burning.
On the other side of the fence are managers who feel that their reportees don’t get as much done when they are WFH. It may not be accurate for all cases, but it’s undeniable that the current work scenario isn’t always ideal for collaborating or staying in tune with team members.
Tips on How to Work From Home Successfully
Create a Structure That Mimics a Regular Work Day
As simple as it sounds, following your daily routine can make all the difference in how you feel about working from home. Wake up around your usual time and what you usually do in the mornings before you go to the job. Time your lunch and coffee breaks to mimic a regular workday at the office.
Organize Your Workload
Structure your workload to finish important or ‘tedious’ tasks around the hours you generally feel most productive. If you like your days to start slow, begin it by checking off small tasks such as replying to emails or filling in timesheets. Organizing similar tasks and checking them off your to-do list one after the other instead of scattering them over the day also helps.
Have a Dedicated Workspace
Create a dedicated workspace for yourself within your home environment. It’s okay to switch things up by moving places now and then. But having a dedicated workspace helps center yourself. For instance, say you work in one place at fixed hours every day of the week. You’ll find it easier to mentally log off from work once you sign out and get up from your workspace.
Communicate with Your Team Members & Managers
In a standard office set-up, employees can directly go up to people and address any work-related issue on the spot. A vast majority of managers also say that tapping into the minds of their reportees is challenging when working remotely. Regular communication is the only way to bridge these gaps – whether it’s via chats, videos, or mails. Employees find it easier to remain optimistic about work when they have a clear idea about their position.
It’s Okay to Take Breaks
Do you feel guilty about taking breaks while working from home? You’d be surprised to know that it isn’t just you. A considerable percentage of employees say they find themselves overworking when WFH. Here’s the thing – on a regular day in your office, do you work every minute, or do you take some time off to socialize? We’re guessing it’s the latter. Why feel wrong about needing to unwind in between work when at home? It’s only natural to do so.
Switch Off Completely When You Log Out of Work
About 47 percent of employees say that they often find themselves overworking when WFH. One of the reasons for this is that clients or their subordinates assume they are always available since they are always home. And they feel guilty not addressing work-related concerns as soon as it comes to their attention.
Continue this way for long enough, and you will likely suffer a burnout. It’s essential to establish boundaries when operating remotely. Give people an exact time frame of when you are available for business. Try not to entertain them once you log off from work.
Initiate/Participate in Virtual Coffee Breaks
Making time to ‘play’ is just as important as dedicating time for work from home. We bet you miss swinging by your colleagues’ desk to chit-chat or going to the cafeteria for tea/coffee breaks. It may not feel the same, but you can recreate these recesses virtually. Maybe even set up a weekly ‘coffee break’ date with your team members where you can all chill and hang out like at work?
WFH During the Coronavirus Pandemic
A report sent out by the United Nations International Labor Organization states that employees are more vulnerable to interferences, longer working hours, more stress, and a more intense work pace when working from home. The findings of this study are limited to employees forced to work from home over extended periods.
People who have pets, younger family members, or those who share space with plenty of other people report feeling the most distracted. You may not be able to avoid these interruptions, but you can limit or control them to an extent. If you share space with pets or young children, make sure you establish a kind of signal for others at home so they know when you are busy and cannot afford to be disturbed. Providing ways for your pets and kids to keep themselves occupied is also helpful. Also, try and keep your working hours consistent for your sanity.
If you’re someone who draws inspiration from being around people while working, being forced to work from home can be tough. Here’s how you can create an environment where you don’t feel isolated during these times – initiate virtual social breaks.
Is Your Organization Ready for a Permanent WFH Working Model?
With everything said and done, a vast majority of employees say they would grab the chance of permanently working from home if they had the option to do so. According to them, working from within the comfort of their own space makes them feel more at ease, efficient, and productive. Many respondents who live alone say that it’s easier to focus and get more work done when there’s no office chitter-chatter going on around them. Others say that getting ready and commuting to a job requires a considerable amount of time – time better spent doing more productive things.
Those are what the employees say. But are organizations ready to allow employees to work from home permanently? ‘Permanently’ may be a stretch. But some companies say they wouldn’t mind allowing employees to work from home for as many days a week as they want even after the pandemic.
For a long-term WFH situation to be successful, companies need to consider certain factors:
- First, have a reliable platform through which employees communicate with each other and with the organization if they have to do so. It’s also notable that WFH permanently may be less forgiving for teams that require regular/constant collaborative activity.
- Figuring out a way to work around time zone differences is another vital aspect of employees working remotely. For this to do well, employees should be accommodating about working with people in different time zones.
- Working with clients/employees located in areas with an unpredictable internet connection is another common concern. It’s always good to have a back-up plan for virtual meetings and other such appointments in such scenarios.
- Companies must also consider the anticipated costs of having employees come into office vs. them working remotely.
- For a permanent WFH model to be successful, organizations may need to restructure hierarchies. It becomes even more critical to define the role and expectations of each employee clearly.
- Making arrangements to facilitate frequent virtual catch-ups between team members is also vital.
- Interdependence between teams is standard in an organization. However, it’s crucial to minimize these interdependencies for things to continue smoothly in a permanent or semi-permanent WFH model.