As we read of a greater distribution of the COVID related vaccines and more and more people who have received either their first or second doses, the sense of both hope and optimism seem to be growing. We begin to believe that we are on the way to being able to resume our lives as they were one, long year ago. Yet hold on. There are meaningful questions and serious realities that suggest that the ‘normal’ to which we are headed probably will not look much like the normal that many of us envision will return.
No place is this more apparent than in the business world. Whether viewed from either the employer’s or employee’s side, the drive to resume the ‘old’ normal has given way to something new. It’s realized that what was imposed on us had positives. Thus, there is an inclination to take advantages of the resulting learning and experiences and maintain those that we can use to the benefit of all as we reinvent the normal of the future.
The carry-forward learnings that are MISSED in working remotely
Without question, many studies conducted throughout this past year point to both the advantages and disadvantages to employers and employees who work from residences. As they indicate and regardless of so many organizations reorganizing around what they have learned, there are definite aspects of being ‘in the office’ that are missed.
HERE ARE SOME OF THE MOST EXPRESSED ISSUES
- Socialization that occurs with co-workers
Working together under the same roof the ability to easily develop connection with other on both a personal and business-related level. How about lunch … or a cup of coffee … or what did you do this weekend simply aren’t easy or even realistic when the relationship becomes remote.
- Having face to face meetings
The likes of zoom have certainly provided the ability to ‘see’ otherS in our meetingS. However, it has not replaced the desire of people to want to sit around a table to discuss and reach solutions or next steps. Remote meetings provide an artificial sense of being together and a formality to discussions that tend to zap energy. And energy is a valued ingredient to reaching decisions that are enthusiastically embraced by ‘the team’.
- Having a natural separation of both sides of one’s life … work and home
One gets up in the morning and heads to the office. We walk in that door and our thoughts, plans and efforts are directed toward achieving our intended goals for the day. It’s a structured routine that works for many. In working remotely, it is the responsibility of the worker to create and achieve that same mindset … at home. It’s an acknowledged challenge by many who have experienced this during this past year.
- Greater ease in being and feeling productive
Again, it is the structure that going to the office provides that is missed when working remotely. Walking into the office door and sitting at our desk carries with it a mindset as to why we are there. We can immediately attack our ‘to-do’ list intending to leave at day-end feeling accomplished and productive.
- Collaboration is simply easier when in the office
It is most common that the work we do is just one piece of the overall project. Ultimate accomplishment of it very often requires collaboration with others in one’s department oR another. The ability to simply converse in person with someone else is often faster and more efficient than the need to use email or phone.
- Developing a sense of trust, confidence and belonging is easier at the office
Working together doesn’t make these traits and qualities an automatic given. Rather they are things we tend to develop with time and exposure. Of course, it’s possible in a remote work environment. However, it’s a more natural occurrence and just easier when at the office.
ASPECTS OF REMOTE WORKING THAT ARE WORTH RETAINING
With all the things missed about the inability to go to the office, the remote work environment has provided some very definite and desirable advantages that the emerging ‘new’ normal will include.
- The commute
This one is atop the lists of many for the hours per week that employees are forced to make a drive to the office. Especially in larger cities having one’s day consist of an hour or two spent driving between home and office is frustrating and maddening. It’s viewed as a great, yet necessary, waste of time having little of any value. To regain this time in a remote work environment is time that can be used to one’s personal advantage and is a welcome benefit.
- The dress code requirements
Although dress codes within the office are somewhat more relaxed in these times the remote worker is prone to taking ‘relaxed’ to a new level. What one is wearing does not carry a guarantee of what is achieved and why not be comfortable. As for a zoom meeting? Stay in your chair and your only concern is how you appear from the waist up. Just don’t stand as favorite sweats probably don’t cut it.
- The politics within the office environment
Remotely, office politics aren’t easily expressed or even that evident. The things that often give rise to them i.e., in-person meetings, the water cooler chats diminish both the occurrence and the ease of promoting them.
- Office noise and distractions
There is little argument that sitting at one’s desk or cubicle carries with it assorted distractions created by others around. And now, after a year of working remotely and having established a specific work area at home, many have come to appreciate the ability to focus and concentrate without interruption. Therefore, this becomes one more aspect of the experience that many want to retain.
- We’ve learned how to be effective at home
Without question, suddenly working remotely from our residence had significant challenges. If other family members we home trying to do their job-related work it was juggling for space. If children were learning remotely it required parental involvement that was clearly disruptive though necessary. Now, one year later, many have carved out their work area. Rules have been established designed to provide the ‘work’ atmosphere needed to be productive. And it appears that efforts are being seriously made to allow children to have ‘in-school’ learning. Thus we have settled into this new structure and able to focus on and be aware of the advantages provided.
- Business organizations are beginning to enjoy the anticipated reduction of operational costs related to a remote workforce
Investments involved in helping employees set up their remote work areas have already been made to a large extent. Providing automation and work tool access has happened. This has enabled companies to reduce space and redesign the office around the revamped use that will accommodate occasional meetings and planning sessions going forward.
With each day one can read of organizations who are altering their approach to conducting their businesses. The amount of space they used to occupy is being reduced by many. Existing space is being redesigned to accommodate team members who come together on occasion for key meetings or planning. The investment has been made to allow the employee to successfully function remotely and maintain desired productivity. Computers, access to needed tools, information and workstations all represent a major investment that companies are not so anxious to throw away. At the same time, employees have come to like and even thrive in their remote environments. Thus, all indications are that the normal of our future is going to be a combination of what was, what became and what is now going to be. Who would have ever thought?