Up until 2020, working from home wasn't an option for most jobs. Most employers didn't offer a work from home program due to lack of technology infrastructure and productivity concerns. That was until that perk became our best option to keep employees safe. Once Covid-19 hit in March, many companies were sending their employees home to work remote for what they thought would only be a few weeks. Those few weeks turned into a month, then two, and now here we are 8 months later with the vast majority of employees across the U.S. still working from home.
I've heard some companies mention return to office dates of well into 2021, while some might not have employee return at all. Employers have learned that their employees working at home are being as productive, if not more, as they were when they were in the office.
What does it take to be a productive employee at home? There are many factors that need to be set in place for one to be able to successfully work from home long-term including:
- Dedicated Workspace
- Equipment Setup
- Sense of Company Culture
Having a dedicated workspace helps one get into the routine of getting out of bed and "commuting" to their workspace. You want this place to be a separation of work and home. When you're at the office sitting at your desk, you typically aren't able to see your favorite Netflix binge on the TV across the room. Even if you don't have a separate room to create an office out of, having one spot that you consistently work at will help give that feel that you are at work and help you not get distracted by what's going on around the house.
Having a proper equipment setup will not only help you be productive during work hours, but it will again create that sense of the "at the office" feel. Most companies, if they are sending you home to work remotely will provide you with the proper equipment and tools to help you do your job as you would at the office. That could include a desktop computer, laptop, microphone, webcam, VPN connection, etc.
Not only is physical equipment important, but now that we are in the times of Zoom and Microsoft Team meetings, having the necessary software downloaded on your devices and knowing how to use them helps ease through those daily meetings and connect with your team and customers.
When you are used to working in the office everyday, working from home is a whole new experience. It can sometimes be hard to stay motivated with things around the home that can interrupt you that couldn't before. I know from experience that the dog has been stoked that I have been around more often now and thinks I am on vacation and can play with him every time he brings his ball up to me. I'm not going to lie, I may have given into his puppy dog eyes once or twice and took a few minutes to play some tug-o-war. Putting rules and routines in place will help keep yourself focused during your workday - whether that be making sure your family members know when not to interrupt your focus or having a designated time you take your lunch break each day.
Sense of Company Culture
The thing I miss most about working in the office is getting to see my co-workers every day. It can get lonesome working at home when you know you can't look over the cubicle wall and ask your neighbor how their weekend was. A few things I've done to help keep the company culture vibe while at home is having company SWAG on my desk, taking a few minutes to send an email or call to teammates to catch up for a few minutes, and wear company apparel.
The change from working at the office to working at home won't come easy for everyone. As it becomes the new normal, we will have to adapt and do what we can to make it a seamless change.