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Working From Home – A Recipe for Success or for Disfunction?

With huge numbers of employees working from home across organization types and industries, more data and feedback has become available regarding the benefits and challenges of remote work. While some teams and types of workers experience the benefits and challenges more significantly than others, worker data and feedback indicate that the following are common.

Benefits to Working Remotely

For Front-line Employees:

  • Flexible Schedule – This obvious benefit is helpful when employees have the flexibility to handle minor personal tasks or appointments that would normally be a challenge when working at the employer site all day.
  • No Commute – A commute can add hours and stress to an already busy workday. This will result in a better work/life balance and provide more time for family and personal life. One common theme from employees is that they are physically healthier after a period of working from home and trading commute time for exercise.
  • No Office Interruptions or Distractions – Working from home for many can provide a much higher level of productivity when free from interruptions and distractions.

For Business Owners & Leaders:

  • Increased Productivity – Many companies are finding that with their remote employees, there has been a surprising boost in productivity.  Employees, including managers, have less interruption and more flexibility in their schedule.
  • Cost Savings – For many companies, the option to reduce real estate costs for a smaller building, or no building at all, can save them big dollars.
  • Retain Top Talent – In a recent study of 3500 workers, 98% of them would like some form of remote work for the rest of their career. The ability to offer this will keep employers competitive in today’s market where many companies are offering this.
  • Decreased Attendance Issues – Whether it is meeting attendance, or calling in sick, employers have seen better attendance for meetings and less “call-off’s” for various personal issues.

Challenges to Working Remotely

For Front-line Employees

  • Unplugging After Work – Blurred lines between work and personal life may become even more blurred with no change of location to create a natural “break” within the day. This has been the #1 challenge sited by employees in surveys.
  • Decreased Collaboration & Communication with Team (Loneliness) – Without face to face interaction, it can become lonely, and some are concerned that their managers may not see the full extent of their contributions, thus slowing their career trajectory. Additionally, this may lead to less of a personal connection to a team and thus, less of a barrier to voluntary turnover.
  • Distractions at Home – From kids to pets to overgrown grass and whatever else creates a distraction, most people struggle to stay focused at some point while working from home.  Additionally, there is increase in personal interruptions, such as children or unexpected visitors during meetings and conference calls.

For Business Owners & Leaders:

  • Communication – When teams work remotely, it takes more effort to foster and maintain open communication and comradery. Managers may get “lost” in their own work and struggle to stay connected to their team.
  • Tracking Productivity (Trust) – It can be difficult to know whether someone is maintaining productivity and/or if they are being underutilized. Taking time to prioritize work and measurable activity can help ensure that managers and employees stay on the same page.
  • Company Culture – Company culture takes time to cultivate. In a remote environment, it takes a more concentrated effort, especially with new/young employees, and is more challenging overall. Leaders can no longer rely on the natural osmosis of culture and values that occurs in an in-person work environment.
  • Onboarding – Studies show that leaders need to spend double the normal time they typically would to implement a successful onboarding plan for new employees that are working remotely.
  • Data Security – Concerns with confidentiality of client and company information have increased with so many more employees working remotely. Many organizations have not put in effect policies and control measures to protect intellectual property, confidential and proprietary information.
  • Change – Some leaders resist change and are having difficulty adjusting their mindset from how things have always been and will try to revert back to the exact way things were once the pandemic ends. At the same time, some employees will naturally try to make working remotely a permanent, “every day” arrangement even after the pandemic ends. As with most things, the answer and solution most likely lie somewhere in the middle of the two.

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