Remote work has been a rising trend for about a decade. Gallup data from 2016 showed that 43% of the workforce was working from home at least some of the time. Now, headlines are calling COVID-19 a catalyst for the “world’s largest work-from-home experiment.”
For many, remote work is a dream come true… until they’ve done it for a few months. The setting can feel isolating, and negative connotations surrounding work-from-home setups are well known: An abundance of distractions. Blurred lines between home and the office. The “always on” mentality of working where you live, and living where you work.
But for all these drawbacks, there are some distinct WFH advantages. It’s all about identifying and embracing them, to find a remote work setup that’s comfortable, fulfilling, and productive.
We interviewed a few of the world’s foremost remote work experts and influencers to get their takes on some of the more unexpected work-from-home advantages, and how managers can help them rise to the surface.
Lesser-known Benefits of Working from Home
When you started working from home for the first time, were there any aspects of the experience that surprised you?
We asked founder & CEO of FlexJobs Sara Sutton this question. Sara has more than a decade of remote work experience behind her, and is an evangelist for work-life balance through flexible work options. When asked about the more surprising aspects of working from home, Sara highlights giving employees the ability to rediscover their identity outside of their job.
“In some ways, what surprised me and continues to surprise me are the huge variety of reasons that people need flexible work options to help them take care of their lives while continuing in their careers and earning income,” says Sara. “Whether it’s working parents, caregivers for elderly family members, people with personal medical or mental health issues, people with horrendous commutes, people who are concerned with the environmental impacts of commuting, people living in economically disadvantaged areas with poor local job markets, the list goes on and on.”
Sara reflects on her reasons for founding FlexJobs and cites her belief that people need a chance to break free of the traditional 9-to-5 schedule. Not only for themselves, but for the greater good of our society (and economy).
“Professionals at all career levels in all industries will likely, at some point in their lives, need access to flexible work options. And because of that, flexible work has the potential to make profound and long-lasting economic and social impacts,” she explains. “That continues to be one of the guiding purposes of our company, 13 years later.”
“Flexible work has the potential to make profound and long-lasting economic and social impacts.”
There are some commonly understood advantages of WFH. What are your favorite parts of working from home that don’t get talked about as much?
Everyone has their own reasons and preferences for why they prefer to work from home. Instant access to the kitchen. Lounging in comfy clothes. A cat or dog peacefully napping nearby. For Evan Kirstel, B2B influencer and social media expert, it’s a combination of all these aspects.
“More time with pets!” laughs Evan. “But in all seriousness, I was on the road traveling 60% of the time last year and lost great connections with my pets. And, of course, my family and children.”
For Evan and many others, the ability to spend more time in a place that’s comfortable, surrounded by the people and pets you love, goes a long way toward boosting everything from morale to productivity. Master the ability to separate work from home, and any job suddenly becomes flexible enough to accommodate the aspects of life most important to you.
How can business leaders build upon the advantageous aspects of WFH to create a sustainably great experience for remote workers?
In a traditional workplace, everyone is subject to a similar experience. At home, that experience is vastly different for each person. According to Holly Reisem Hanna, founder of The Work at Home Woman, it’s up to employers to make remote work an enjoyable, seamless experience for employees.
“To make remote working arrangements run smoothly, managers need to establish three guidelines ahead of time,” says Holly. “First, expectations. Second, what tools will be used. Finally, how to execute communication between the team.”
Holly sees the power of process in bringing out natural work-from-home advantages, even across the spectrum of employees. It’s all about setting expectations.
“Without daily expectations clearly defined in advance, many remote workers get distracted and have lower efficiency levels,” she adds. “To keep everyone on the same page and on-task, set up expectations, rules, and protocols for different scenarios.”
“Without daily expectations clearly defined in advance, many remote workers get distracted and have lower efficiency levels.”
To Holly’s second point, employers also need to clearly define and leverage tools that enable their remote workforce. An employee can’t do their job remotely without the means to succeed. Unlike the traditional workplace, there’s no standard for what is and isn’t available to each person.
“When you work in a traditional office setting, office supplies, workspaces, and tools (phone lines, internet, and software programs) are already in place. But when you work remotely, every worker will have varying setups and tools at their disposal,” Holly says. “Ensure that all team members have all of the proper tools, equipment, and systems needed to get their job done efficiently.”
Holly also mentions the challenge of isolation. Remote work may be confining, but no person should be an island.
“The last part of the equation, which relates to the first two guidelines, is communication. When you work in an office, you can easily walk over to who you need to talk with—not the case with remote working. Establish how team members should communicate (email, text, phone, Slack, Zoom, or something else). By knowing which methods to use, you’ll cut down on confusion and misunderstandings, making for a great remote working experience.”
How to make work from home just work
The recent broad shift to remote work is a big change for many people. Those accustomed to part- or full-time office work suddenly find themselves setting up at the dining room table or carrying their laptop around the house. It’s freeing, yet frustrating; exciting, yet scary.
While it’s natural to miss our coworkers, and our established routines, there are plenty of advantages to working from home. As these experts allude, it’s valuable for leaders to focus on those benefits and take steps to maximize the quality of the WFH experience, so employees can be as happy and productive as possible.
Try out Sococo with a free trial and bring your distributed team together digitally, so they know they’ve got the support and guidance they need as they get acclimated to a new work-from-home setup.