Working From Home
Until recently, the notion of allowing team members to work from home (WFH) was not terribly popular across Corporate America. Then came the COVID-19 pandemic. And virtually overnight, employers and workers were forced to accept WFH as the new norm.
Most companies, given their avarice and fear of the practice, had neither the experience, policies or infrastructure to effectively manage remote teams…
On the home front, it quickly became obvious that most remote workers had neither the adequate workspace or necessary isolation to work from home effectively. Isolation? Yes – and it’s still an issue for many. How many times have you had a video conference derailed by the sounds of rambunctious children, barking dogs, doorbells or construction noise? If you’re like most of us, the answer is “too many.”
Rising To The Occasion
Thankfully, we’re all evolving to accommodate this new work paradigm. But it’s rarely a quick process. In the early days of the pandemic, we saw a lot of unmade beds and "lived-in chaos" in the backgrounds of our team Zoom calls. Not to mention numerous memes of half-awake, half-dressed family members captured unexpectedly on webcam as they inadvertently photo-bombed a video meeting. There’s less of that now, thankfully. Over the many months, since COVID-19 first upended our established routines, we've all learned to up our game. Improvements in technology and general comfort level are making it much easier to blend a group of remote workers into a highly functional team.
As the pandemic slowly releases its grip on the world, the business community is beginning to engage in a new debate: “Do we return to our previous WFH policies, which often meant zero-tolerance? Or do we embrace new approaches and lessons learned by adopting broader and more inclusive policies regarding remote work?
For some of us, adapting to the WFH aspect of the pandemic was a nonevent, because we’d long since made the jump to managing remote teams. In our case, we've been managing remote teams since 1995. Back then, as the joke goes, working virtually meant relying on the “three Fs” of Fone, Fax and FedEx.
Compared to those days, remote work today is practically (or even literally) a walk in the park. But even back then, we became strong advocates of this model. Why? Because it works. Maybe not for absolutely everyone, but certainly for most.
Why WFH Works
Here are some of my top reasons for embracing work-from-home and remote workers:
WFH is More Efficient
If you’re eliminating a daily commute of 30 minutes each way, that's a full hour each day returned to the worker. Sooner or later, and more often or not, the employer will benefit from that extra capacity.
WFH is More Flexible
The experienced remote worker can comfortably get the job done from just about anywhere. This means unexpected life events can be more easily taken in stride. Realities like caring for aging parents, the pull of a long-distance romance, or even a global pandemic don’t necessarily have to get in the way of work.
WFH Improves Employee Retention
Because WFH is now so valued by the workforce, adopting more flexible work policies can go a long way to increasing overall job satisfaction. Ironically, not having to “go to work” often makes for a more desirable workplace.
Everyone Gets a Front-Row Seat
This may seem trivial. But think about it – virtual meetings provide equal viewing access to all participants.
Expanded Access to Talent
Once a company embraces the virtual team mindset, decoupling your business location from the physical location of your workers, can exponentially expand your access to great talent. Suddenly, you can attract the best talent, no matter where they choose to live. Web developers working from a small town in the Rockies? A brilliant copywriter who lives on a sailboat? Welcome to the new normal.
Adopting WFH leads to Better Management
This point may seem counterintuitive. At the outset of the pandemic, world-class agency management consultant David C. Baker held a special pandemic webinar. The agenda was to help agency owners react and adapt to the new realities of business life during COVID. One of his quotes that really stood out to me: "People can be lazy anywhere. If you’re not sure whether someone is being productive, you have a management problem (not a work-from-home problem)." Successfully managing remote resources requires you to really be on your game as a manager. If you’re not already on top of this, there’s nothing like a remote workforce to wake you up.
I'm not suggesting that it’d make sense for most companies to adopt an all-or-nothing approach to remote work. But I do believe that returning to a zero-tolerance, pre-pandemic mindset on this issue would be a mistake for just about any company. You might even be setting yourself up for further chaos and lost productivity whenever the next crisis is forced upon your organization.
Like it or not, work from home, remote workers and hybrid teams are here to stay. This really has become the new normal. The sooner you acknowledge this reality, the more quickly you’ll be able to adapt and fine-tune your policies to create a work structure that works well for everyone.
And that’s just good business.