We originally had a post ready on the idea of ‘human error,’ but couldn’t ignore how the worries around coronavirus—SARS-CoV-2, if you wanna get specific—are affecting work. A large number of people are about to experience remote work for the first time, and there are many misconceptions around what that’s like. Having experienced the highs and lows of extensively working from home we wanted to share some of our insights, along with those from research.
Why You Should Look Forward to Remote Work
Let’s get the big worry out of the way: remote work is, for the most part, beneficial to both employees and companies. Remote work improves “several individual-level worker outcomes, such as turnover intention, absenteeism, job autonomy and commitment, job satisfaction, and work-family conflict management
,” and these in turn improve job satisfaction
. That probably explains why, rather than the incorrect perception of remotees slacking off at home, when highly-skilled creative workers go remote
they are more productive
Not having to commute is a major factor, especially in cities clogged with traffic congestion. For example, in Toronto, where we’re based, the average commute is now 84 minutes a day
. Over a year, that’s 365 hours, or over 15 days. Given that most of us face some sort of sleep debt—and the massive health benefits to getting enough sleep—that time would be better spent in bed.
A recent survey by DigitalOcean
, echoes not commuting as a top reason remote work improves work-life balance. Respondents also overwhelming liked the agency to live anywhere, and the freedom in their schedule that remote work provides to run personal errands, balance work and passion projects, and care for children and/or family members. (We’d add that this also includes puppies that are ecstatic you’re at home, too.)
A Giant Pitfall to Remote Work to Watch Out For
To be clear, working from home does feel different. A common, nontrivial hurdle is feeling left out, especially if the company’s workforce is a mix of in-office and remote employees. We remember coworkers continuing conversations out the door as meetings ended, and wondering if we should have been part of that discussion.
The DigitalOcean report supports this concern of exclusion from offline conversations and distance from corporate culture. It’s important to discuss expectations around communications: what’s a reasonable amount of time to return a Slack message, since you can’t just walk over and ask a coworker a question?
Communication can also get transactional, so how can you still feel part of a company’s culture? When we were at DigitalOcean, we loved how every morning remote workers would go into the #remotees channel
and say “good morning” to one another. It’s amazing how far a small touch like that can go.
Tips for Working At Home
Even if you’re temporarily working from home, there are ways to make the experience much better. Here are a few tips we’ve picked up over the years.
Until we checked our step counters, we didn’t realize how little we moved when working from home. The difference was massive, often 5,000 fewer than when we were in the office. Make sure to take regular breaks, and go for a walk outside or head to a coffee shop. Not only will it provide a mental breather, but it’ll prevent you from being sedentary.
At home, it can be alluring to try and squeeze in some housecleaning—especially when last night’s dishes are right there
. Running the dishwasher won’t throw off your day, but attempt too many tasks and your work-life and home-life will blur. Before you know it, you’re quietly folding laundry during team meetings, while keeping an eye on beans cooking on the range. Trust us: you’ll do everything worse (and likely end up with burnt beans) because multitasking doesn’t work
Invest in Good Gear
That couch you love is great for watching Disney+ and the occasional FaceTime. It will be horrible as a setup for working from home. Get a proper chair and desk, or else you’ll end up spending that money on physiotherapy anyhow. Investing in a noise-cancelling headset with a solid microphone
will reduce your frustration in meetings. (If you don’t believe us, you will after the third “I’m sorry, can you repeat that?”)
Contrary to the idea of lazy remote workers, the real danger is working too hard. From the DigitalOcean survey, the majority of respondents felt at least some pressure to work more due to being remote. Jason Fried, CEO and co-founder of Basecamp, describes the potential harm in Rework
If work is all-consuming, the worker is far more likely to burn out. This is true even if the person loves what he does. Perhaps especially if he loves what he does, since it won’t seem like a problem until it’s too late.
One way to help set a healthy boundary is to encourage employees to think in terms of a “a good day’s work.” Look at your progress at the end of the day and ask yourself: “Have I done a good day’s work?”
Get into Work Mode
Finally, attire matters. You don’t need to go business casual necessarily, but entering a working mindset becomes much tougher when you’re wearing pajamas. With that said, also take this time to wear whatever makes you feel most empowered. After all, if you feel your most powerful dressed head-to-toe in IVY PARK
, then not only are you working, but also werrrrrqing. And, who can argue with that?