Millions of Americans began working from home when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, between 2019 and 2021, the number of people working from home tripled from 5.7%, or about 9 million people, to nearly 18%, or 27.6 million people. While some organizations have mandated a return to the office, many others have adopted a hybrid or full-time work-from-home (WFH) model for the foreseeable future.
In the face of such a significant shift in workforce dynamics, companies must continually transition workers effectively into a long-term WFH situation. We’ll explore how employees and businesses can make this WFH transition seamless.
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Employee desires are part of the reason for the WFH shift. According to a 2022 study by McKinsey, 87% of employees opt for flexible work arrangements when they’re offered. Working from home eliminates workers’ commutes. Additionally, working from home saves companies money on office space.
If your company has decided to make telework a long-term or permanent situation, here are six ways to smooth the transition.
Businesses must invest in the right communication tools to ensure remote employees stay connected, engaged and privy to insights into various projects in real time.
Work with your company to ensure you have collaboration tools and internal communication apps like Slack to enable distributed project management and freely flowing text and video communication.
One of the most common remote work complaints is video call fatigue – also referred to as “Zoom burnout.” To avoid this problem, work with the in-office team to limit video meetings. When video meetings are absolutely necessary, ensure they have a defined purpose, limited time frame and an agenda shared with everyone involved with the call.
WFH employees may not have a say in the structure and number of video meetings. However, they can work with management to streamline video meetings and set parameters.
Going from commuting to an office to walking a few steps from the bedroom to the kitchen can be a challenging transition. The best way for remote workers to trick their minds into thinking they’ve entered a workspace is to create a dedicated working environment.
You may not have an elaborate setup, but that’s OK. Even if your workspace consists of a computer monitor on your kitchen table or a desk in your bedroom corner, use that space only for work – and walk away from it when your work is done for the day.
Another common complaint from remote employees is the difficulty of drawing boundaries between work and home life – after all, work is now home. Blurred lines between work and home can lead to employee burnout, so do your best to create firm working hours and stick to them.
Communicate your boundaries to family members and co-workers, and commit yourself to walking away from work when your day ends.
When you’re used to communicating in person with team members, it can be challenging to translate that same communication level to a digital format.
You can lose significant nuance and nonverbal communication in virtual interactions, causing rifts due to wrong assumptions and misunderstandings. Commit to overcommunicating and making things as clear as possible. Instead of making assumptions, ask for clarification and restate your understanding of every decision and agreement.
Setting a schedule is a crucial remote work best practice. Remote work makes your day’s structure much more flexible, so a set schedule helps you stay on track.
Working from home can improve or lower productivity, depending on the remote worker’s time-management skills and the company’s support and oversight. To use your time wisely, take time to add meetings to your schedule and allocate specific time to various projects. Don’t forget to schedule breaks so you can stay fresh and motivated.
More and more companies are instituting permanent WFH or flexible work arrangements. HubSpot, Williams-Sonoma, Dell Technologies, Mayo Clinic and Stitch Fix were among the top companies offering remote jobs in 2022. Many more are sure to follow suit.
If you’re a business owner considering offering WFH arrangements or an employee considering remote work, carefully weigh the following pros and cons of working from home.
People who work from home may experience the following benefits:
WFH benefits aren’t universal. Carefully weigh the following remote work downsides before transitioning to a WFH arrangement.
Working from home brings many benefits to employees and companies, but transitioning to a long-term WFH situation shouldn’t be undertaken lightly. Employers must create a communication and support infrastructure that supports their WFH employees and sets them up for success. Workers must take time to organize their schedules and setups so that they improve their work-life balance, not damage it.
Remote work is here to stay. Be aware of its pitfalls and take steps to create a situation that enriches your life while keeping your career on track.
Jennifer Dublino contributed to the reporting and writing in this article.