One of the biggest paradigm shifts coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic involves working from home. Many of us, myself included, had occasionally worked from home in the past.
For me, it represented a break from a long commute, especially on days when meetings occupied a majority of my time. I also worked from home at my discretion and generally if/when I wanted.
Working from home feels different though, when it’s essentially mandated and occurring during a national emergency, and at least for me, it’s taken some time to embrace, though vast numbers of workers find it very appealing. With the advent of such technologies as Zoom, Skype, Facetime, as well as legacy methods like texting and e-mail, many kinds of work can be done effectively and remotely from a home office.
Employers also recognize the benefits from their perspective, in terms of improved employee morale and productivity, reduced turnover, and lower organizational costs. From a business continuity view, companies are in a better position to mitigate a business interruption in the event of a natural or manmade disaster, (or pandemic), by having a virtually-dispersed staff, and keep operations running, even if some of the group goes offline.
So let’s identify some of the best practices that will make everyone’s "work from home" experience more productive and satisfying.
Some questions to ask yourself might include:
According to Entrepreneur.com, those that work from home should try to separate your work area from your personal spaces and dedicate such space to work, not for other activities. Your family will need to adapt as well to understand that your new workspace is no longer accessible to them, at least during some part of the day (entrepreneur.com).
If you have multiple family members using the internet, your connection may be slowed down and create a frustrating situation for you.
Consider using phone apps for calls, FaceTime for low or no-cost communications.
It was a running joke at a former company that you had to find a barking dog to participate in any remote meeting!
Kidding aside, it may be a good investment to purchase quality noise-canceling headphones, as well as make your home workspace off-limits to spouses, kids, and pets during your work times.
It’s easy to lose your sense of community during this era of social distancing and stay-at-home overload. And working from home can add to this feeling.
Consciously schedule extra social gatherings with friends and family, either safely in person or via virtual methods.
Plan for some outdoor time to take a walk or enjoy lunch in the fresh air. You’ll feel reinvigorated.
With your office and workspace always just a room or two away, it’s easy to feel the need to constantly check-in; and suddenly, you find yourself working more hours, nights and weekends simply because it’s there. Set a time to end your workday, and if possible, stick to that schedule.
The answer is "maybe". While you may save on lunches and professional work clothes, you may experience the added expenses of upgrading your PC’s, printers, internet services, and software, to name a few. Hopefully, your employer will assist with those expenditures.
To sum it all up, working from home is here to stay and can represent a positive transition from your historical ways of working, as long as you acknowledge the pros and cons. It requires a meaningful level of discipline to remain focused and forces us to do a better job of planning our workdays. Many of us may likely follow a hybrid work model; that is, we will increase our percentage of work from home days, while still going into a traditional office setting for some portion of our week. Companies will also have a major say in the future state of work-from-home as they evaluate their real estate footprint to determine if and where they can reduce office space and associated expenses. As mentioned, at the beginning of this article, it’s a new paradigm for everyone.
The Duquesne University SBDC provides free business consulting for entrepreneurs in the Greater Pittsburgh area. Click here to request free consulting, or contact the SBDC for additional help and information.
Paul Bucciarelli is a part-time business consultant with the Duquesne University SBDC and serves in the New Castle/Lawrence County Area. He recently retired from the PNC Financial Services Group after 19 years as a VP - Supply Chain Manager. Paul holds a Master's in Business Administration from Youngstown State University and a Bachelor's degree in Advertising and Journalism from Penn State. He is a part-time faculty member for the Penn State Shenango Campus, and he also serves on the Advisory Board for PSU - Shenango.