In a 2016 Forbes article about remote work, the author described how Boomers and Gen Xers tended to believe that millennials were to blame for the growing remote work trend. At the time, it seemed everyone was joining the debate about the benefits of remote work and whether it would (or should) become commonplace. Now, the world of work has changed exponentially since COVID-19, and employers are planning for a hybrid and remote work future that has been shaped by what they’ve learned over the past few years. Here are a few of the key lessons:
- Work should center on what employees do, not where they do it.
The pandemic has certainly proven that employees don’t need to be in an office to be effective. Remote workers have shown that they are incredibly adaptable and can thrive in multiple locations – from home offices to coffee shops and campers.
- Employees who work from home are more productive.
Prior to the pandemic, employers thought remote employees wouldn’t be as productive as their in-office peers. Several recent studies show that on average, those who work from home spend 10 minutes less per day being unproductive, work one more day per week, and are 47% more productive.
- Burnout is real.
While being more productive is a perk for employers, it can be a serious drain on employees if not managed. As we mentioned in our blog about burnout, a recent Catalyst report showed that COVID-related work burnout was reported in 88.4 percent of survey respondents, with 60.7% of those reporting high levels of burnout. As a result, some employers have started to implement quarterly wellness days, “no Zoom meeting” Fridays, or simply encourage employees to take mental breaks or go on walks during conference calls.
- Human interaction must be created and can’t be underestimated.
With less opportunity for face-to-face interaction, building culture and community can be difficult. Employers have learned that it will continue to be critically important to find ways to create “office-like” interactions virtually, whether through informal chats with remote employees, team happy hours, pre-meeting socializing, and more. In a remote work environment, culture has become a cornerstone for retaining and attracting employees.
- It’s professional to be empathetic.
Building a sustainable and enviable remote work culture hinges on empathy. Empathy is what enables team members to understand the needs and perspectives of others. This leads to stronger team bonds, better emotional health, and better team communication – all of which are increasingly important in our new world of work. When employers demonstrate empathy, they help their employees feel heard and foster a sense of belonging.
- Remote work helps build diversity and inclusion.
When employees aren’t required to be at a physical office in a specific state, employers can hire anyone from anywhere – and thereby access a bigger talent pool that includes people with a more diverse set of skills, viewpoints, and backgrounds. According an article in CIO.com, inclusive teams perform up to 30% better in high-diversity environments. Diverse teams also tend to create an increased sense of belonging, higher levels of trust, increased employee engagement and better decision making, all of which are keys to building stronger culture.
We’ve learned a lot over the past two years, and the lessons are sure to keep rolling in as the great work from home “experiment” becomes the new norm.
What have you learned along the way? Share your comments below.