As businesses continue to reopen, many employers and employees find themselves transitioning back to the office after an extended period of working from home. While the task of working remotely, often with kids underfoot and distance learning to support, is no easy feat, feelings about remote work have evolved over the past few months.
Some employees find themselves eager to return to the hustle and bustle of the office. They miss the interaction with others, physically going to work each day, the separation that promotes more work-life balance and the ability to focus free of distractions. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you navigate the impending transition back to the office:
Office interaction will be different.
For many, the best part of the office is connecting with others. From water cooler chats about life and work to in-person meetings that allow for focused and productive conversation, office life is about connection and engagement. It’s important to remember that the interaction you remember and miss will not exist in today’s office. While employers are transitioning back to the office, this includes appropriate social distancing for the health and safety of the team. Phone calls and instant messages instead of in-person conversations. Virtual meetings via Zoom and Google Hangouts instead of gathering in the conference room. Despite these changes, the act of going to the office is still something to be celebrated. Ultimately, this period is temporary and returning to the office still restores a degree of normalcy to life as we know it.
Work-life balance and boundaries.
When working from home, boundaries between life and work are often blurred. The day starts earlier and ends later. There are more distractions throughout the day. Transitioning back to the office creates both a physical and mental boundary to the work day. For many, these boundaries are necessary to create balance in life. Whether work was more demanding while working from home or it was just harder to balance work amidst the distraction of kids and household duties, the ability to go to the office each day is a welcome change for many.
The opportunity to truly focus.
Some employees need boundaries to truly focus and be productive. Going to the office each day creates the space to focus on the tasks at hand, without the mental burden of distractions and competing priorities.
While some are eager to return to the office and a degree of normalcy, other employees have discovered a love for remote work. Whether it is the ability to more leisurely start the day, work in comfortable clothes while enjoying the summer weather or even the flexibility to do work on their own schedule, not everyone is eager to return to the office. These are important considerations, especially for employers with an existing work from home policy or overall workplace flexibility. Here are a few considerations for those who enjoy working from home:
Do you need to continue to work from home?
While offices are reopening, some employees have young children at home with limited to no childcare options. This means they need continued flexibility and the ability to work from home. As many await word on school this fall, it is hard to predict what the future holds and employees appreciate an employer that understands this strange time and the need for flexibility in where and how they work.
Flexibility over boundaries.
For many employees, the flexibility of working from home outweighs the lack of boundaries around when and how work happens. That might actually be a positive. Mornings feel less rushed as there is less need to get ready for the day by a certain time. Work can be performed from a variety of locations, whether on the deck in the sun or from the comfort of a family cabin. And if you have children at home, it’s about being available when needed for meetings and deadlines, but having the flexibility to do the work when it fits into your schedule.
Some employees even find themselves being more productive at home. Perhaps this is a result of managing competing priorities and maximizing windows of opportunity, or just a need to demonstrate value to your employer. No matter what the cause, this productivity should be recognized by the employer.
Whether you are someone who is eagerly awaiting the transition back to the office or has discovered their love of working from home, there are benefits to each. Ultimately, it comes down to employers providing employees the flexibility they need to do their job each day while also ensuring the work is done and done well. At the very least, COVID-19 will cause employers to re-evaluate the where and how of work in a new world. Planned or not, many employees have proven an ability to work and work well from the comfort and convenience of their own home.