Working from home - will we ever go back to the office?


work from home

Work from home? Me? Never!

That’s always been my thinking.  I love my office and the people who work there.  I sure hope we’ll be back there real soon.  Nevertheless, I’ve kind of enjoyed sitting at my dining room table working away on my Surface and taking calls while stretched out on my comfy couch. 

While I’ve read much about how remote work has accelerated in the U.S. over the last decade, my personal experience working from home has enlightened me through my own “real-life” experience.  I’ve read many articles and heard from friends and colleagues about what it’s like to manage and work with their teams remotely.  The pros and cons of remote work seem endless.  So, what have I learned and what do I think about the future of remote work?

Well, one thing is for certain.  When several people in the family are working from home lots, be sure to give yourself some personal space to work!  How do I know?   Let’s just say I’m kind of loud when talking on the telephone - my wife and her employees can attest to that.  You see,  she’s working from home now too.  When I get wound up you can hear me throughout the house.  Kathy was having a Zoom team meeting.  One of her people asked, “is your husband having a party?”

But over the last five weeks as I’ve worked with my own team remotely every day, talked to many clients, and read about the situation in general, I’ve formulated some other thoughts on what this forced WFH may mean in the future.

  • People may become so proficient working from home that they’ll wonder why they ever had to go to an office in the first place.  They’re discovering right now, under forced conditions, that working from home doesn’t change day-to-day work, it just means working from a different environment. Some people, even on my own staff, think that you can actually be more productive when working from home
  • Companies that embrace remote working during this crisis may find it sticks around as normality returns. It is harder to say no to employee requests for working from home.  Especially if it means cost savings in monthly rent and reduced office space.  We’ve talked endlessly about the importance of work-life balance.  Perhaps companies will finally build a culture that allows long-overdue true work flexibility.  Those perceived barriers about managing people remotely may be challenged, and rightfully so, going forward
  • Remote work is indeed different work. Managers will have to get better at judging productivity.  Instead of relying on mere presence in the office, it will be more important than ever to set and monitor specific goals.  Employees, as well, may have to set new work habits for time management and documentation
  • We may evolve to a more sophisticated and flexible use of technology.  For the most part, technology capabilities exist to make it easier than ever for remote workers to work from anywhere. In fact, my own company is taking advantage of that right now.  For true work from home capability for all, there are situations that may require more data security capability than we have today

What is the most important thing I’ve learned about working from home as I’ve lived it every day over the past few weeks?  One size does not, and probably will not ever, fit all.   For many, the work from home exercise we are going through now may be their preferred way to work for the future as companies and workers recognize the inherent benefits.  For me, the social bonds and creative energy that develops when working side by side in an office with colleagues overrides that comfy couch!

 

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Ralph Dise

Ralph Dise is founder and president of Dise & Company. Ralph has a life-long interest in developing leaders and helping enterprises succeed. He learned his earliest leadership lessons as a teenager attending a summer military program.

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