One of the most widespread measures that businesses have implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic has been instructing workers to stay away from the office and work from home instead. Now that a few months have passed since the start of this crisis, companies have been able to analyze the effectiveness of having a fully remote workforce, and the results suggest that work outside the traditional office is lacking in a few areas.
In theory working remotely sounds like the natural next step in the evolution of work. No more long commutes, more time with the family, a more flexible daily schedule, and being able to work from anywhere are all very appealing perks. But, as companies learned during this pandemic, these benefits are offset by a number of difficulties that arise when working from home.
Although the internet has made it much easier for you to interact with others via social networks, messaging apps, chatrooms, VoIP servers, video conferences, and many other channels, these aren’t able to provide you with the same level of social interaction that a face-to-face meeting can. This is true when interacting with friends or in a business setting. In the traditional office the atmosphere is geared towards keeping your mind focused on your work, and so any form of social interaction within this space is designed to help you perform better. Since the atmosphere in each person’s home is different, social interactions can feel awkward and there is also a sense of disconnection with the other person’s reality.
When you work from home you have to battle against many distractions that have no place in the traditional office. There are needy pets, bored children, loud TV’s, noisy neighbors, booming home appliances, and a doorbell that manages to always ring at the worst possible time. And now that your whole family is also at home this makes it inevitable to be distracted.
Communicating effectively with coworkers, managers, clients, prospects, and others at a traditional office setting takes great care and skill. And when you add another layer of complexity to this, the delicate balance that held everything together seems to fall apart. New apps must be mastered, technical difficulties solved, and even in those rare occasions when everything is working perfectly the communication seems like it doesn’t flow quite as easily as in the traditional meeting room.
Most people don’t have a home office per se. They have claimed a spot in their homes to set up their laptop and they call that a home office. But sitting for 8 hours in a kitchen chair is far from ideal, and so is working from a soft couch. These flawed conditions have a huge impact on productivity, and they can create long term issues for workers such as back pain and carpal tunnel syndrome. There are also other equipment issues such as slow Wi-Fi and lack of private booths to make phone calls.
The Solution: The Hybrid Approach
While these are pressing issues that need to be addressed, you must keep in mind that working from home is still the best policy during the ongoing crisis. It would be counterproductive to just send everybody back to the office at once, and it won’t help to ignore these issues either.
The solution is to apply a hybrid approach. This means having workers alternate between staying at home and coming into the office on different days each week. Although this won’t magically solve every issue, it sets your business on the right path towards achieving balance between the work-from-home and traditional office worlds.