Home is Where the Heart (and Office) Is

By this stage in the pandemic, most of you have spent time working from home. According to Deloitte, more than 40 percent of U.S. workers were working from home full-time as of June 2020. Further, on average, CEOs expect 36 percent of their employees to be working remotely in January 2022, up from 13 percent pre-pandemic.

Several companies have already implemented permanent work-from-home policies including Twitter, Facebook and even Nationwide Insurance, according to an NPR story. Forbes reported that Deutsche Bank plans to have staff work from home twice a week on a permanent basis.

I haven’t taken a scientific survey like Deloitte, but it’s probably safe to say that some love working from home, some hate it, and some merely tolerate it.

From dogs barking uncontrollably, garbage trucks rolling by and cats jumping into video meetings, things are certainly different these days. And while some of these distractions are funny, others can be quite inopportune. Think of the college coach who was being interviewed and purportedly flushed the toilet mid-sentence (something he denies). Or the boss who used a filter to turn herself into a potato during a Microsoft Teams meeting and couldn’t figure out how to disable the feature, so she spent the entire meeting speaking to her employees as a spud.

All joking aside, with many of us now working remotely, it’s important to make sure we are set up for success. Read practical tips from Regus (the flexible workspace folks) to help make working from home a bit more comfortable. Below are some of my own:

  • Make sure your workspace is working for you. Whether a sturdy chair or good lighting, you need to be comfortable to be productive. 
  • Personalize your space to feel energized and happy. Even if you’re working at a card table in the living room, little touches like plants and photos can make a real difference.
  • Listen to music to ramp up productivity. Choose something calming that will allow you to stay alert, or blast rock or Cuban salsa if that helps you focus.
  • Join an online community with others who are working from home to get ideas about how to make the most of your current situation and to feel less isolated.
  • Create a routine and schedule time to step away from the computer (this important one is from The Kansas City Star).

Nobody knows whether working from home is a temporary fix or a more permanent in nature, but some very prominent CEOs have weighed in on the future of work. Fortune spoke with Satya Nadella of Microsoft, who said that collaboration needs to be reinvented, and that worker wellbeing needs more focus.  In the same conversation, Accenture’s Julie Sweet mentioned that it is “absolutely critical” for businesses to be more responsible as digital acceleration continues. HP’s Enrique Lores said that, “As leaders, we all have changed.  We all have learned how important it is to lead with empathy and build a different level of trust with our employees.” Consulting firm McKinsey summed it up nicely. “The virus has broken through cultural and technological barriers that prevented remote work in the past, setting in motion a structural shift in where work takes place, at least for some people.”

The pandemic work from home experience has been, and will continue to be, different for everyone.  Let us know how you’re coping.

Laurie Berman, lberman@pondel.com