Many workplace norms were unlearned and relearned during the coronavirus pandemic, and many of them are here to stay. Annual meeting minutes in Zoom leaped from 60 billion in 2019 to a whopping 2.6 trillion in the first quarter of 2021. Needless to say, the pandemic has brought about a new work culture that would otherwise seem too outlandish. Work-from-home is on top of that list.
Now that the pandemic is gone, we have kept back and modified some changes that make sense in the post-pandemic world. Working from home has countless benefits when it comes to convenience and expense. But for many people embracing this trend comes at the cost of compromised human connection. However, many argue otherwise when it comes to productivity. Since remote work has become increasingly prevalent, let’s explore its benefits, downsides and tips to make the best of this work model.
Benefits of remote working
Since the pandemic, numerous employees in countless surveys have reportedly admitted that they feel more productive and happier while working from the comfort of their homes. Various factors come into play in such responses from the workers. Here are some of those.
Reduced commute time and expense
The wake up early- have breakfast- pack your lunch- catch the bus routine in the morning 5-6 days a week can be physically demanding and lead to burnout real quick. Especially in countries like Bangladesh, where traffic jams are a significant issue for city dwellers, we all wish to spend as little time on roads as possible. The exhaustion of commuting to the office and returning home late leaves individuals feeling all drained out with no energy for doing anything else. Furthermore, due to public transport scarcity and subpar quality, people resort to relatively expensive ride-sharing services. Remote working or even hybrid working models can ease off this everyday hassle to a great extent.
The comfort of home
Home-office in 2023 is not the same as home office in 2020 when the spreading virus impelled people to be home quarantined without prior preparation for working from home. Now the scenario has changed. Technology has advanced rapidly within a short span of time. Access to high-speed internet, video conferencing tools, and cloud-based software allow remote workers to collaborate effectively with their colleagues and stay connected with their teams.
Furniture manufacturers have designed and produced workstations that are suitable for your home. People are now well-equipped with technologies and appliances to work effortlessly from home. Those who can afford the luxury of having an extra room is turning that spare room into a home office space.
Working from the comfort of your home allows you to take time for yourself and be in your cozy pajamas leading to higher job satisfaction and productivity.
Flexible work hour
Employees who work remotely can work at their own pace and schedule, which can contribute to increased productivity. Workers who can manage their own time and work from home have higher employment satisfaction, which can contribute to increased productivity. This is very helpful for people having kids at home. They can manage their time accordingly to spend more time with their family.
Better work-life balance
Work-from-home can improve the balance between everyday work-life. As individuals get to work from the comfort of their homes, the typical fatigue that accrues from working at an in-person office by commuting or spending an entire day at a place other than home decreases. This is good because this opens up more available time to spend with family. One can also spend more time in activities that are deemed as unproductive but is rather fulfilling and refreshing which would eventually help them to balance stress and burnout.
This is especially helpful in today’s fast-moving world, where spending time with family has become more challenging and, in some instances, has become a luxury. Moreover, better family life often enables people to be more content in life and to be more productive in work life as well.
Downsides of remote working
Despite all the benefits that work-from-home comes with, it is a mixed bag with some potential downsides as well. The following are some relevant challenges.
Higher avenue of distractions
Back in 2020, a cute video of professor Robert Kelly’s toddler barging in during an online conference went viral. The BBC dad had a hard time keeping an imperturbable expression on his face until his wife swooped in to escort the kids back from the screen. It was a hilarious yet accurate depiction of working from home.
Some distractions are inevitable, such as your crying child, burning food on the stove and the urge for a quick snooze on your homey bed. Interruptions like these can slow down your work pace and cut down productivity.
Limited social interaction
Remote working or hybrid working implies significantly less informal communication between employees. The impromptu project discussions at the coffee machine, lunch in the cafeteria, and listening to each other in the hall room would no longer occur. Fewer opportunities for informal conversation and team-building activities hampers the rapport among the workers.
Especially the distance between the boss and subordinates is more discernible in an online setup. This gap is extenuated to a great extent when they take lunch together or share the same workspace. It isn’t easy to develop a sense of belongingness while working from the other side of the screen. It prevents the employees from taking responsibility beyond their designated roles.
Inefficient communication and collaboration
Communication may not occur in real-time when working remotely, which can result in delayed responses. Hence, teams may need to adjust their requirements and use more asynchronous communication channels, such as email, instant messaging, or project management software.
In a remote working environment, it is becoming increasingly challenging for managers to keep everyone on the same page.
Interaction outside one’s own team requires systematized arrangement leading to poor cross-functional collaboration. It blocks the room for innovation by restricting access to information from other departments of the company. But innovation and creativity is much easier to proliferate in an in-person office where teams are working at adjacent tables.
Working remotely is highly reliant on technology, which can be a double-edged sword. While technology can improve communication efficiency, technical difficulties and miscommunication can hinder productivity. Especially elderly employees who are less proficient in using the online setup may find it very difficult. Also, some jobs require more complicated digital tools than others, so the company often cannot ensure equal access to technology for everyone.
Tips to stay productive while working from home
- Set work standards: Set up a strict routine and suitable work environment at home to simulate your typical workday. Respect the time you have set aside for work. Create a dedicated workspace with minimal distractions.
- Self-monitoring is the key: It’s common to get carried away from your regular tasks when you are isolated from your co-workers, it’s common to get carried away from your routine tasks. Maintain a to-do list, set deadlines for yourself to stay on track and regularly update your manager on your progress.
- Take a break to de-stress: Working from home can sometimes feel lonely and mundane. Be sure to motivate yourself through healthy habits, such as exercise, a balanced diet and adequate sleep. Allow yourself to have some “Me-time” engaging in your favorite pastime. De-stressing helps prevent burnout and keep up your productivity.
- Maintain connection with co-workers: Maintain regular contact with your co-workers and supervisor. This can assist you in remaining driven and accountable. If needed, plan after work fun activities with colleagues.
Tips for managing a remote team
- Communicate expectations: Be specific about your required work-hour, deadlines, task assignments, communication channels, meeting schedule, and other details. That way, it’s easier for the employees to fulfill their responsibilities on time.
- Promote collaboration: Form groups among the workers to foster team spirit among them. It also creates room for group discussion, problem-solving, healthy competition, knowledge sharing, and innovation.
- Provide prompt feedback: Formulate a routine feedback mechanism that prevents the employees from lagging when working from home. Maintain a dynamic dashboard to track and share their real-time progress. It prompts the workers to stay active until their goals are met.
- Have faith in your team: Don’t vex your employees with too much micromanaging. Everyone has their preferred working pace, especially when it comes to remote working. Encourage them to be self-motivated for increased productivity.
Remote working has both its pros and cons. Many organizations in the world are now embracing “Hybrid working” to capture the best of both worlds. It requires the employees to go to the office on some days and work from home on other days. So, it’s an excellent time to accustom yourself to both to cope with the changing workplace culture.
Author- Hridita Islam