The global pandemic changed life as we knew it. In an instant, it disrupted our entire routine and habits, and before we had any time to absorb the new reality and acclimatize, we had to readjust to new ways of working, communicating, coping and living, all within the confines of our homes, with no time to pause and reflect.
Earlier, work from home (WFH) was considered a privilege or a choice mainly with entrepreneurs. Now, however, the Covid-19 outbreak has forced organizations to adapt and turn to the remote work model. For some, it was obvious that it was possible, scalable and a good thing. We had started years back already and had the time to adapt, rethink and find solutions for everyone. In fact, once you overcome a few obstacles, put an amazing project management system in place and make sure that the team looks after one another, it can really be an amazing way to work.
For some people though, it has been a real challenge, having to deal with isolation, missing human interaction, not having the ideal space at home, and mostly, not knowing how to use digital tools.
We are at a point in time when we cannot accurately predict the course of the pandemic. Nor can we say just how long this situation will last. However, having now been able to compare WFH with working out of an office space, the question arises – is WFH here to stay?
Here are some considerations about working from home in the post-pandemic future:
1. Increased reliance on communication technologies
Technology can really make our lives easier and in this case, our work. However, it is up to us to make it work. Let’s be honest. It is not always as straightforward. So don’t feel bad if you need some help. There are no stupid questions. A colleague or a friend could help you, so you can enjoy using technology and the time you save from it.
2. The blurring of work-personal boundaries
The word ‘boundaries’ has been mentioned a lot lately, and even if we all know what it means, it does not ensure that we always apply it. In many cases, there are simply no physical boundaries. People have had to adapt and live/work 24 hrs in proximity. It is important to always remember that what is easy for one person may be a real challenge for another. Lack of boundaries can add some stress to the workspace and may be a hindrance to getting things done. A piece of advice: readapt your routine, but definitely have one.
3. The need to inject greater empathy into the virtual workplace
Zoom calls, video chats, automatic calendar appointments…fast, fast, fast! But let’s pause, and remember that we have a human being on the other side. Not everyone likes to switch on the camera and sometimes, people get embarrassed or uncomfortable. They may not all have the right set up. And sometimes, even more so during the pandemic, mood can shift quickly, and coming online all the time can really get cumbersome. Some people work really well, alone at their desks, and it is good to respect that. Always start a meeting with a hello and allocate 15 minutes to check on people, talking about something other than work. Make people feel cared for, encouraged, and heard.
4. Increased flexibility and adaptability
Things happen and can get out of our control and change from one day to the next, like Covid. However, we respond to these situations by becoming more resilient. When we work from home, we adapt, and we have no other choice but to become flexible. It could also make people mentally stronger and push them out of their comfort zones.
5. Self-care, when you work from home
Self-care, when working from home, means knowing when to work and when to stop. It means doing the things that matter, even if it is ice cream and Netflix, or having an aperitivo online with friends. It means trying to take your mind off things and not having work as the only thing. But here again, easier said than done. I can definitely and honestly tell you that self-care was absent during the first few months of the pandemic. I am now working on it. You could also consider keeping a gratitude journal to help you remember all the things that you feel thankful for and to bring you some joy during these times.
Is WFH here to stay? I would say yes. Now that companies realize that work indeed gets done, employees make it happen, they get more time from not having to travel, and more flexibility in their work hours, it will stay. The other positive is that companies are reducing the cost of rent.
We, humans, adapt and grow from it. I am optimistic and always try to look at the positive side. What matters more than ever is communication, empathy, meaningful conversations, knowing when to ask the right questions and to really, really listen. I also believe that people should have the choice to go to an office or stay at home because not everyone has an ideal living situation.
Let’s keep finding ways to improve people’s lives and working conditions and let’s be kind and understanding when someone asks us for the 5th time how to find their Zoom link. It can happen to anyone. It can happen to you too, and when it does, you would want to have someone take your hand and show you how, with much kindness and a reassuring tone. We’re all in it together!