Working from Home: Making It Work

The Working From Home (WFH) trend is here to stay in a big way. Coronavirus shutdowns proved that WFH could be practical, and remote setups offer white-collar sectors outstanding cost savings and flexibility. But employees and employers need to adapt to this significant shift with a new set of tools and skills. Here are some things that need to be in place to unlock WFH’s benefits while limiting its challenges and downsides.

The Right Environment

Doing an excellent job without the right environment is tough. The first step for successful WFH is carving out a space that is conducive for quiet, focused work. Those with a dedicated home office are fortunate. Many will have to make do with a corner of a room or even the kitchen table. Still, it can be helpful to begin the day with a clear “desk” since a clean surface minimizes distractions and calms the mind.

Fill the Toolbox

While some employers have provided their workforce with WFH hardware, many employees are on their own. For those seeking an ongoing solution, it’s worth investing in robust WiFi and up-to-date computers, routers, webcams, speakers, and microphones. These tools are required for success, and skimping on them is penny wise, dollar foolish. A solid chair with proper ergonomic support is a good WFH investment, too. People who expect to meet regularly via Zoom may even spring for high-end videography equipment and backgrounds to project a professional image. This expenditure, similar to upgraded furnishings in a live office, cue clients, colleagues, and partners that “real” work is done here.

Living in the Cloud

Although WFH went mainstream in response to the unprecedented Coronavirus shutdown, the trend toward cloud computing wasn’t born then. Today the software programs that enable remote work are no longer optional. Typically, these tools include meeting and screen-share programs (Zoom, Join.me, Google Meet), file sharing (Dropbox, Box, OneDrive), project management (Slack, Trello, Asana), and shared documents (Microsoft Office or Google Suite). Cloud-based general accounting and customer relationship management systems (CRM) round out the suite, which untethers a company from any specific location. Even companies that aren’t fully embracing WFH gain from the resiliency and flexibility of a cloud-based infrastructure.

Focus Factors

The environment and tools create the WFH “machine,” but it’s the people who need to run it. And WFH is challenging to people on multiple fronts. Many struggle to remain focused and motivated without the formal office environment setting the tone for them. When a complex project competes with the beckoning of family, home chores, and the refrigerator (!), guess which one usually wins. WFH can only work for those who have or develop personal routines and systems to get stuff done in all environments.

Various apps can help: some lock down distracting programs, while others offer detailed time-management tracking. But often simple solutions work just fine, too. Making a daily list of primary goals to accomplish can help keep them front and center. Setting times for focused work punctuated by brief breaks for relaxing and checking emails is also a surprisingly effective technique. Self-control goes only so far, though. Ultimately, company management play a crucial role in keeping their dispersed teams on target.

Modernized Management

Managers charged with keeping a close eye on their employees have resorted to electronic methods to continue doing so when they are WFH. At the extreme, some require their entire team to keep webcams on at all times and perform spot checks throughout the day. Interest in computer surveillance software has also skyrocketed (within legal parameters with regard to equipment ownership and disclosure). Some systems capture and categorize every second of employees’ screen time and keystrokes. The software then categorizes the time spent on various tasks and monitors for errant keywords or sites visited. Other managers shy away from draconian and invasive methods and are comfortable with whatever employees do if their output is satisfactory. Most will probably fall somewhere in the middle of the oversight spectrum.

WFH Opens up Horizons…

WFH opens up many avenues for companies and employees, including the ability to recruit the best talent from multiple cities or even countries, minimize corporate real estate and travel bills, work with clients globally, live upstate, or even in Eretz Yisrael for large chunks of the year, attend a siddur play without destroying a whole day’s work, and simply avoid an onerous commute. All these, and other possibilities that we can’t yet envision, become very doable with WFH.

And Invades our Homes

On the other hand, work and the technology enabling it are invading our homes and minds like never before. Those who have valiantly held off from incorporating the internet into every aspect of their lives will find it harder to do so if WFH remains pervasive and obligatory. How do we navigate these added burdens and pitfalls? Like it or not, the WFH trend will affect our lives in many ways. We’d best get ready for it.


Want to dig deeper?

Try these related articles

Preparing for the new realities of “Location Anywhere”

Getting out of the Commuting Grind

Exploring the World of Shared Work Space

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