Working on Working Remotely

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Published in The Business News on October 10th, 2021.

Working from home isn’t the same as working in the office. Keeping a standard nine to five schedule 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 six of those hours.

“WFH” Champions

Long before the virus, we heard the work from home (WFH) champions saying things like, “I can get a full day’s work done in about 2-3 hours, when I am at home”. Maybe… However, jobs that require collaboration could suffer from an all-remote structure.

Sometimes, you just can’t replace 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.

Even for jobs that do not require collaboration, I seriously doubt that someone can do a full day’s work in 2-3 hours. 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 “2-3 hours” statement is false, or at least an exaggeration. 

You may not always, be able to provide the same value remotely, but you can provide as much 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 schedule. 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 make you 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, but we also keep different schedules. While one employee starts very early and is done by mid-afternoon, another employee starts a bit later and works into the evening. How do these two employees collaborate?

In the overlap. We have core hours, based on our personal and work schedules. These are standard times that are reserved for collaboration. For us, core hours are 9:00 AM to 11:00 AM and 1:00 PM to 3:00 PM, on select days, throughout the week.

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 each other’s priorities, schedules 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

Employers need to be consistent and not change the expectation, based on the reason someone is or isn’t available. 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 this option.

Remote work isn’t a new trend. For many companies it became a requirement last year, but working from home will continue, even after the pandemic has gone away. There are a lot of advantages and disadvantages to working remotely. If you approach it as an opportunity, you may find a structure that works for you.