A 2020 Forbes survey revealed a majority of respondents liked working from home. 60 percent said they felt less stressed and 66 percent reported being more productive. However, a year later, this 2021 report conducted in the UK paints a different picture. More than half (56 percent) of respondents found it harder to switch off after work hours. In addition, two in five (38 percent) workers found that working from home disturbed their sleep.
Working from home is hard. Sure, there are perks like no commute, increased flexibility and the ability to establish better work-life balance. Yet, working from home isn’t for everyone. The practice can erode the clear distinction between work and home life, raise stress levels at home and increase the likelihood of burnout from overworking.
As the world gets into the rhythm of remote work, what have we learned since 2020? Is working from home really the best option? Or is there an alternative solution?
A Hybrid Approach
The Key Ingredients of Successful Remote Work? Communication and Processes
Not every business is structured for remote work. Communication tools and methods can drastically impact productivity. For many businesses, the first tool they lean on is Zoom, followed closely by email.
According to Atlassian, 45 percent of respondents felt overwhelmed by the number of video meetings they’re required to attend. In addition, 73 percent of meeting attendees multi-tasked and did other work during the sessions. This means that the attendees are either not engaged in the meeting or aren’t required to be fully present.
Meetings should help employees get all the information they need to get on board with a project. As we can see in the Atlassian study, a majority of the time, Zoom meetings just aren’t the best tool for that kind of communication. Ultimately, long video calls reduce a worker’s autonomy and ability to organize their own time. Every Zoom meeting also takes away time that could be spent actually doing their job.
It’s been two years so while companies should have this figured out by now, many just don’t and employees are over it.
Working from home only works if the friction for obtaining information is similar (or less) than what employees experience in the office. This information can come in the form of project details, documented requirements, notes about what others are working on and how these tasks impact the worker’s ability to complete their own tasks.
Adopting asynchronous communication tools such as Jira, Trello and Notion can help establish remote processes, increase knowledge sharing and externalize the necessary steps complete a project. Externalizing information is important because it makes an employee’s personal knowledge about the task explicit and accessible to others in the organization. Asynchronous communication tools also allow remote work to occur on the employee’s own schedule.
To cut down on email inbox overflow, remote teams need to be using instant messaging apps like Slack and G-Chat. It’s been two years so while companies should have this figured out by now, many just don’t and employees are over it.
When we reduce the friction for accessible information, employees can work productively and complete their tasks without the need for endless Zoom meetings. And let’s face it: People aren’t really paying attention in those meetings, anyway.
Experience Gaps: The Introvert vs. The Extrovert
The same remote workplace setup can produce very different experiences based on employees’ personalities. While introverts may require minimal face-to-face interaction to thrive, extroverts need human connection to feel a sense of belonging. Without human interaction, extroverts can quickly become disconnected from the rest of the team.
There’s a misconception that businesses that advocate for the office are top-down, hierarchical and micromanaging. Rather, it may be that the business is suffering because the needs of an extroverted team aren’t being met. According to a Bloomberg Q&A with former Netflix chief talent officer, Patty McCord, remote work allowed introverts to excel in spaces the company couldn’t foresee whilst working in an office environment. In contrast, extroverts lose those important water cooler moments where they connect with the rest of the team.
It’s also important to remember that not all functions in a business are created equally. Different departments within a business tend to attract certain personality types. Tech workers or writers, for example, often thrive on a flexible remote model. In contrast, sales teams tend to attract people who are outgoing and thrive when dealing with clients and customers face-to-face.
Try a Hybrid Approach
For working from home to be successful, teams need the right tools, processes and communication channels that allow employees to work and create deliverables based on clear objectives. These are the main factors that lead to a worker’s overall happiness and a business’s overall productivity. That said, employee happiness and productivity may actually hinge on having an option. Some may prefer remote because it fits with their physical and mental health needs. Some may prefer the opposite for the exact same reasons.
Another segment of employees may prefer a hybrid solution. Hybrid work models takes the best of both worlds and caters to a wider range of employees, fostering employee autonomy, productivity and job satisfaction. With a hybrid approach, work isn’t exclusively remote or in-office but a balanced combination of both.
And the best part? Hybrid work models can cut down on back-to-back Zoom meetings, leaving those gatherings for the in-office days.