Working from Home – The Narrative Continues
Most of us would agree working from home offers an amazing amount of flexibility, but the flexibility has not been a panacea for the struggle called “work/life balance.” A year of “practicing” working from home has not freed us from grappling with challenges such as lack of direction, isolation, impact on motivation, lack of feedback, and disconnection from others.
Returning to an in-office setting or even a hybrid setting is no more a magic bullet for these challenges than was quite suddenly finding ourselves working from home, as we did a year ago. Let’s take a look at some considerations that may help leaders and team members alike navigate the tricky waters of “work/life balance” and fully embrace the WFH opportunity.
- Lack of Direction.
Remote work affords autonomy, which is wonderful, but leaders’ lack of clarity on the direction of the team, department, and organization and what accomplishments are expected can quickly leave a team with a sense of floating aimlessly in a vast ocean of unknowns.
Consider: A strong vision will provide direction and help the team row in the same direction, with purpose.
Action: Spend time designing, revisiting, clarifying, and continuously communicating the vision for each area of the business – the overall organizational vision, the department vision (aligned to the company’s vision), and the team vision which supports the overall purpose of the company.
Isolation and loneliness are still commonly shared by many professionals who work remotely. A new report by Harvard University researchers finds that 36 percent of Americans are experiencing “serious loneliness,” and some groups, such as young adults and mothers with small children, are especially isolated.
Consider: Answering a few questions may help you and/or your organization address these serious conditions: What are you doing to proactively connect with others in your industry? Are you taking time to attend online learning events, participate in social networks, and/or reach out for virtual coffee dates?
Action: Schedule time each week to talk with others personally (non-work-related) and to participate in virtual social events. Consider working on a collaborative project.
- Reduced Motivation
Each of us has different internal and external motivators.
Consider: What are the things that motivate you – personally and work-related?
Action: Get clear on what propels you forward. A few ideas to start the thinking process include journaling, going for a walk, and spending time thinking about what gets you excited, what you enjoy doing, and what satisfies you most. Once these motivations are identified, find ways to bring them into your remote working environment.
- Lack of Productivity
Routine can be a key to productivity when working remotely. Boundaries between work and life can vary from very fluid to non-existent.
Consider: Have a plan and designate clear start and end times for the workday. Communicate these to your manager and your teammates and hold fast to these boundaries. Awareness of your personal peak productivity times will help design the work plan that works best for you, your family, and your colleagues.
Action: What habits and routines support you? Learn what works best for you and implement a routine that maximizes productivity for you.
- Lack of Feedback
Typically, working remotely limits the feedback loop from both your manager and your colleagues.
Consider: Think about what feedback you need and when, and schedule accordingly. Avoid the temptation to use standard meetings as a substitute for this personal feedback.
Action: Determine what works well for you and communicate this to your manager. Discuss ways to engage your colleagues to provide and receive feedback on team projects, discuss challenges, and celebrate successes. What worked well? What should we be doing differently next time? What should be celebrated?
- Disconnection from Others
Working remotely may lead to a feeling of disconnection and isolation.
Consider: Becoming part of a networking group may to help you continue to grow and learn. Peer networks provide opportunities to grow your skills, develop your expertise, get answers to specific issues or questions, and to simply connect.
Action: What external networking or peer group interests you? Consider joining and participating in at least one group.
Working remotely doesn’t have to lead to loneliness and isolation, and the collective difficult experiences of 2020 do not have to continue into 2021.
We need connection, variety, routine, and clarity to find our own unique ways of being productive. Leaders, encourage your team to explore different interests and activities that support them. And do the same for yourself.
Are you ready to take an honest look at your organization’s remote work culture? Let’s chat.
P.S. Book a Complimentary Strategy Session so we can get you moving in the right direction; click on my Complimentary Strategy Session calendar link here and let’s book a time together so you can get started today!
P.P.S. With over three decades of professional experience in corporate operations and executive human resources, I am a proven results-driven leader. My expertise includes strategy, change management, talent management and organizational development, employee relations, and executive and leadership coaching. I am a highly effective communicator and team leader with proven ability to build long-term relationships across internal and external customer environments built with integrity, confidence, authenticity, and trust.
 Harvard Study: An Epidemic of Loneliness Is Spreading Across America - Foundation for Economic Education (fee.org) 4/14/2021