Prior to 2020, working from home was a rare luxury for many. We used to ooh and ahh and fantasize about our friends who worked from home. Employers would reluctantly and infrequently allow employees to work from home. The prevailing belief was that workers would be less productive at home than they would be in the office. Account executives were incentivized to be productive by structuring their salaries to ensure they were working when not in the office, e.g. commissions. However, as offices began to close and business travel slowed tremendously, working from home became part of a new normal in America.
There has been a misconception about working from home. The misconception about productivity. The reality is studies have shown that workers actually increase productivity to the tune of 1.4 more days worked per month. That equates to an additional three more weeks worked per year. With that increase in productivity, some remote workers might be looking for a raise.
Businesses seem to be turning the corner on remote working as well with many reporting productivity remaining or even surpassing their pre-pandemic levels. Remote working reduces the frustration of long commutes, small talk with colleagues, and leisurely coffee or bathroom breaks. Additionally, working from home eliminates the lengthy meetings and regular status updates clogging the productivity pipeline. Applications like Zoom, MS Teams, Slack, BlueJeans, and Google Meets allow for face-to-face meetings and presentations without the hassle of travel and impromptu interruptions.
Workers’ attitudes have also changed pre- and post-pandemic. A recent survey by PwC of executives and office workers found that 39% of those surveyed did not work remotely pre-pandemic. At the same time, the group reported that 32% would want to continue to work remotely five days a week even after the crisis has subsided. A total of 72% of office workers said they would like to work remotely at least two days a week.
But, every coin has another side, and there’s a reason we celebrate the concept of the silver-lined cloud. The positive of increased productivity also has the potential to have a negative impact on the quality of life for the worker. Going to an office for a structured amount of time sends the signal to the brain that, once a person leaves the office, work is over. Working at home mixes personal and professional so much that the end of the work day is less defined. The home has become one big office and working “after hours” is commonplace because the work mind has lost the “off” switch.
If you’re having trouble finding your “off” switch while working remotely, here are a few suggestions to transform your “house into a home”:
- Designate one room or area as a work space or office. Train yourself to only work when you are in that room/space.
- Work away from home on some days. Many free work spaces are still open so it would be good to get a change of scenery. This allows home to be home when you return.
- Don’t mix work and home jobs throughout the day. The garbage, the dishes, the bills, etc. can wait. Separate work from home as much as possible.
- Eliminate distractions. Younger children may require attention and supervision, but try not to mix the two. Don’t take work calls during time with the children unless absolutely necessary.
- “Reclaim your time.” Famous words spoken by Maxine Waters are so appropriate. Just because you can work at 9pm, doesn’t mean you have to.