The Future of Working from Home

So there has been this thing, you might have heard of it: COVID.  It has upended our lives in all kinds of ways, and now, all these months in, we are starting to think about life post-pandemic.  What will go back to normal and what will remain the same?  For many, one thing that people see as remaining is the increase in remote work.  The pro-telecommuters are coming out in droves (most of whom are HR pros) showing the increase in productivity because of the time saved in traffic, and the reduction in the need for real estate to name a few.  But there are still those who are not fully convinced.  Just because they are spending less time in traffic, are they productive? What about the Zoom Meetings where the people are doing other things (like taking a shower – remember that?) And while I am all about Work/Life Balance, the evidence is clear that multitasking doesn’t work, so how is it that someone who is home with their kids helping with homework is also giving 100% to their job?  My son was doing “remote learning” last year.  I’m not saying that he didn’t learn, or that the teachers didn’t do a great job of lesson planning, but his Instagram was still fairly active during school hours.  I’m just sayin’.

So what is a torn HR Geek to do?  Is there a balance that can be struck between working remotely and also maintaining productivity?  I mean the places we work are not charities (OK, maybe some of you work for charities, and that is great, but even then, the charity isn’t to solely provide you with an income and not get something in return).  And yes, I firmly believe that productivity can be maintained, and even increased, in some remote environments.  I believe that some positions are better suited for remote work.  The challenge for companies, and those who are tasked with running them, is ensuring that you have systems in place to ensure that productivity is at the minimum, maintained.  This means if you decide to keep your remote work option going post-COVID, I would suggest:

  1. Looking at all positions in your organization, and ascertain which ones are viable candidates for this option.  
  2. Having some objective way of measuring the employee’s productivity while working remotely.  The manager telling you ”oh, they are more productive at home than at work” isn’t going to fly.  If the position does not have an easy way of measuring performance, I would give this some thought.  Not saying that it can’t work, but you need to consider how you are going to deal with challenges when you go into number 3…
  3. Having a procedure for calling back those who are not maintaining the work product that you would expect.  It needs to be consistent and fair.  Anything less is going to open you up to headaches.

I’m not saying that working from home is a bad option because, for the right position and the right person (yeah, I said it), it can not only work, but work very well.  However, if you go in blindly, say that this is the way it is from now on, I think we will find ourselves pining for those pre-COVID days.

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