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27-Jan-2022

Work from home balance – the best of both worlds.
Work from home

Right before 2020, a vague notion was taking shape on the way businesses work. With drastic technological progress and innovation, more people wandered through questions like, is working together on site, really a necessity, and should work from home be considered as a practical and positive option for employee productivity and progress, rather than being a privilege for a select few?

Well, the pandemic struck and more people saw this speculation, beginning to be then new normal for many employees across the globe. Sure, there were unfortunate job losses, business closures, and lay –offs. However, for the fortunate ones who continued being employed, work-from-home or remote working became the new norm and necessity.  It was clear that not collocating with colleagues was a workable option. It was an overwhelming change for many people both employees and employers.

This trend did not get enough time for a trial run, but had to be steadfastly normalized with the pandemic shuffling and redefining everything that once seemed normal.  May tech giants have already rolled out work from home for their employees until the threat of coronavirus, does not subside. The health and safety of employees is priority and businesses are taking all possible measures to ensure a smooth run with remote working.

Many are even conducting trainings and workshops to assimilate technology in processes and work trends. Some employers have also started working on plans to allow remote work even after the pandemic, for good.

While work from home is now the new normal and many people are enjoying the benefits, it however, does come with its own set of challenges. Many in favor of remote working say, work from home has given them a fresh boost for productivity. The biggest benefit being – reduced commute time. Employees revealed, it has given them better sleep time, and better management of chores, all while saving an enormous amount of time travelling to and from work.  

Employees love the geographical flexibility, and the idea of being able to work from almost anywhere, even across the globe.  According to a study, employees found remote working truly rewarding, being closer to family, proximity to medical care  for children,  setting up their own work space, better views, being able to enjoy the weather, and more recreation al opportunities, are some of the benefits that made people happier, with remote working.

The liberty to plan the day better with work from home options, has benefited personal lives, with many being able to spend more time, stay connected and positive with family. To many remote working definitely is like playing a larger part for everyone; towards his or her family, their employer and to their own selves as well.

Employers too have a bright side to look at. With many shutters completely down, employers can count on reduced or eliminated costs of real estate, hire core talent perfect for job roles – globally, without immigration issues and costs. Another upside is increased productivity with the happy employee and positive work-life balance.          

For many employees, not working from office is a big challenge. They feel isolated and withdrawn from the team dynamic. Not being able to maintain contact with the office culture and colleagues has made them lose the sense of belonging.

For employers the biggest judgment always has been whether employees are giving their 100% to work. Productivity is very important for any organization and to individuals too. With efficiency, employees can claim recognition, growth and rewards.

With some employers, the slowdown of the pandemic, made them rethink and open gates to welcome employees back in office again. However, a large percentage of employees are hesitant to go back to pre–pandemic routines. They worry about unvaccinated colleagues and unsafe workspaces because of corona virus. There are surprising instances of people quitting their jobs, only because they were not comfortable with going back from work-from-home to on-site working.

Increased productivity – has it hit a wall?

The initial phase of work from home was like an adrenaline rush for many workers, with a sudden sense of freedom with working from home. The liberty and exposure to a new working normal, new work atmosphere and location, for many was a refreshing change.  According to reports, this was the prime reason for tremendous boost in productivity among workers.  For many staying employed in the pandemic was the challenge. People gave their full energy to stay relevant, visible and prove to their employers, that they could work from home and still add value.

This initial rush however, has worn down with time and it seems like people have hit a plateau.  Workers are burned out and tired. The pandemic has slowly declined, however the stress around employees has risen again.

The challenges of working from home –

A study has confirmed that productivity has in fact increased with remote working, but it has also increased the number of working hours employees clock in every day.

The physical boundary between workplace and home makes it easy to turn off work-mode and set a healthy routine or boundary. With remote working practically allowing you to work from anywhere, these boundaries are hard to set after a while.

For many workers, completing individual tasks or routine tasks was easy with remote working. However, being productive at tasks that required collaboration, co-creation and teamwork, is still a challenge for many with their colleagues at a distance. For many employees working in a team is crucial for productivity, and they are unable to give their 100% when collaborating remotely at all times.

Many factors, if not handled efficiently while working from home, can also cause exhaustion and disorientation. For example, working with kids around is a big task. Being available for them at all times, helping them with online schooling, attending to their health and over all care, could take a toll for many work from home parents.

It is also difficult to set boundaries, when family, neighbors, or friends ask for help or other engagements during working hours. 

The atmosphere at home too may not be always favorable to focus. Noisy backgrounds, kids playing or attending a virtual class, disturbance by a family member like a sibling or spouse or even a roommate on endless work calls, may be too much to handle on a blue day!

Some employees experience social isolation, which can negatively impact motivation and productivity.

Remote working means less travelling and moving about and around. When working from home, people can experience less physical exertion. The lack of exercise may add to the endless physical and mental side effects of and idle lifestyle.

As per a research, work from home employees reported higher stress levels, as compared to on-site workers.  Many reported a blur in boundaries, distinguishing personal and professional life and the balance between both. Many remote workers also reported a lack of organization and the inability to unplug and end their day of work.

How to make the most of work from home?

Experts suggest getting the basics right along with precise organization and time management to make sure you employees get the best out of remote working, along with maintaining a good balance of work and personal life,  and remaining calm in all the noise.

Working from the comfort of your home, can get too comfortable if you are working straight from you bed or couch. Lethargy, lost focus and other distractions can also lead to poor productivity.  Design and dedicate a workspace that helps you focus and work consistently. Set up a good environment, with natural lighting, preferably with plants and/or fresh air around. Set up a chair and desk with your essentials like laptops, notebooks, stationary, water bottle and others.

Choose a space that has minimal noise and distractions. Depending on your home space, choose an area that fits your requirements the best. Once your mind gets used to this office-esque surrounding, focus and dedication will follow.

Develop healthy boundaries, with fixed time and schedules for work and home activities. Constant work at all times can cap workers’ productivity and interest. It can lower motivation and lead to frustrations and burnouts.

You can start with a ritual that marks the beginning of your day. A quick walk, exercise, stretches, a cup of coffee etc., can be set as your everyday routine, before starting work. Setting an alarm for your work timings, like when to begin work, break times, and when to call it a day, can help you stick to your routine and stay organized.

Invest enough time in personal pursuits to balance work –life. Take small breaks, move around the house or take a quick walk, practice mindful breathing, and stretch at intervals, etc., to be reenergized and back to work with a fresh mind.

Your work essentials need to be up and running at their best too. It is advised to invest in a good working system and internet. A poor network can create work disruptions and hamper collaboration with clients, co-workers, vendors, etc.  Ensure your work device is equipped (technology, upgrades, processors, operating systems etc.) to handle your everyday work without breakdown and interruptions for smooth functioning of your work.

Dress up! Working in pajamas may be ‘in’ right now, but it certainly takes away the mental stimulus required for a productive workday. Of course, you cannot dress up in fancy formal attire every day, but simply dressing up in decent yet comfortable clothes (something you do not wear for sleeping or relaxing) can get your mind rolling for a good productive day.

Investing in mental health and achieving a healthy balance …

Sure, physical arrangements and changes can help you set up the perfect environment for work.  However, fine tuning and refreshing your mental health is important too.

One of the best ways to ensure a positive and calm mind is good sleep. A prime factor affects everything in your routine; make sure you get adequate good quality sleep every night. Unwind early and practice a good sleep routine.

Learn to say no to distractions.  Non-work related requests are no stranger to people working from home. Unless it is any emergency, learn to turn down people’s requests, without feeling guilty about putting your needs first. It is completely ok to deny a favor, if it interferes with your ability to focus and give your best to your job. Set appropriate boundaries.

Invest in your physical health. Practice self-care, and stay connected to yourself and your needs, to achieve work – life balance. Exercise regularly, practice mindful eating, and follow a healthy diet. Design a self-care plan that suits you the best depending on your work schedule and personal commitments.

Reward yourself to keep your motivation up. Set realistic goals, and break down in smaller and manageable goals. Reward yourself with things like quick social break, chatting up with your friends, a positive reaffirmation, etc.

With remote working, there is more pressure on employees to prove their value to their organization. However, be open and accept that sometimes it is ok not be perfect, and not everything needs to go as planned. There may be imperfect days, anxiety of new job roles, transition into newer work arrangements, etc., that may cause you to take on more work and responsibility than you could handle at a time.

Be open to discussing your issues with co-workers, managers or friends. Lead the way with encouraging good mental health practices. Check in on workers who you think may also be struggling with work stress.

For Employers …

Employers can also help in creating strong bonds among employees, and motivate them to build stronger relationships.  Ensuring they are working on meaningful tasks that add value to their work and strengthen bonds.

Consider starting a contact center / desk to help employees who may be feeling stressed or anxious regarding their job while working from home. Think of options, and ways to keep employees connected to each other while working remotely. Include online team building and motivating activities.

Focus on productivity – yes, but focus on keeping employees safe and healthy too during this pandemic.

Remote working – the future of work for all?

The pandemic has taught us many lessons and remote working is just another successful perspective that helped many businesses continue their work even in worst pandemic times. Many companies are already thinking of continuing remote work for all employees in the near future.

Whether or not it will be the future of work for all is still a big question, considering mixed reactions and bittersweet experiences of working from home for both employees and employers.

What do you think will be the future of remote work? Have you experienced the two sides of working from home? If yes, do let us know about your experience and tips on making the most of working from home, with the perfect work- life balance!

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