I am currently sitting on my couch, drinking coffee, listening to the birds outside and I’m working. Because of the malleability of working remotely, I have been able to leave New Orleans to be with my family in Houston. Like many people during this pandemic, I have been working from home since mid-March. At first, it was a huge challenge for me because I am a very social person, but as the weeks have gone by, I have been still and have settled into a routine of life-work balance. As states slowly re-open after being quarantined, I wonder what is next? Do companies revert back to everyday operations or are Teams/Zoom virtual meetings the way of the future? Is this our new “normal”?
After a conversation with my boss and mentor, I think the answer is yes to both. Here are some reasons:
1. Work/Home Flexibility – I think we have learned that working from home offers flexibility with schedules and family time. Companies have an opportunity to allow employees to create more quality time with loved ones while still getting work done. As my colleague said, “The one silver lining with this whole thing is I’m getting to see my kids grow up more.” Who can argue against that? Additionally, I have found that sitting in front of my computer for 7-hour stretches does not always produce my best work. Having a boss that understands the need to walk away from the screen for a bit to get inspired is a tremendous asset. As long as the work is done, having a flexible schedule is ideal.
2. Remote Technology – Most companies have to rely on Zoom, Teams, Slack, and video messages during the pandemic to stay in touch with employees and clients. This has put the “soft skills” of communication, collaboration and innovation (to name a few) to the test. The daily Teams meeting at 8 AM is one of the ways that my company stays abreast of what each person is working on, is struggling with or upcoming events. Other colleagues will offer solutions and advice. We also rely heavily on Slack throughout the day, not only for business questions, but also as a comic release – a way to let our hair down around the virtual water cooler. Employee engagement is necessary not only for a company’s success, but for a positive employee experience so we laugh a lot with each other. These tools are great ways that technology can sustain and reinforce a company and its culture.
3. MISC Perks – There are also non- direct work reasons to consider when contemplating the work from home vs in-office schedule. From an economic standpoint, working from home or in a hybrid position saves money on gas and the wear and tear on a vehicle. Business attire and dry-cleaning bills also go down when working from home every day or part of the week. I, personally, have saved money on dry-cleaning, hair products and makeup over the past 2 months and don’t even get me started on the joys of yoga pants!
It is time for companies to take a look at their workforce to determine if it is necessary for all staff to be in the office 5 days a week for 8 hours a day or if it is possible for some positions to work from home all of the time or at least a hybrid of both in-office and at home. Some questions for upper management to ask themselves:
Chances are good that no one is going to be able to go back to traditional work practices nor should they. Nothing in life is static – including how we work. So, what’s going to be your new normal?
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