As we look ahead to a time when teams can safely return to the office, it’s clear that people will continue working from home at far greater volumes than in the past.
Taking steps to position your team for long-term work from home success is vital, whether your company chooses to let employees work completely from home, opts for a hybrid model, or does away with physical offices entirely. Now is a great time to revisit work from home policies launched during the pandemic and make sure your employees feel cared for and can be productive as possible.
The Remote Work Landscape
Nearly 90% of people say they want to work remotely for at least part of the week post-pandemic, according to a March 2021 Boston Consulting Group study. About 60% want to work from home for three or more days per week.
Many companies have announced permanent work from home policies that will enable employees to do just that. Some allow team members to work fully from home if they wish, while others will go hybrid, letting employees work remotely a few days per week.
And a company’s work from home stance may make all the difference in retention. Of those currently working remotely, 42% of employees say that if their company doesn’t offer long-term remote work options, they’ll look for a position at a new company that does, according to an April 2021 Prudential study.
Working from Home: The Benefits & Challenges
In addition to being important for retention, allowing employees to work from home can also positively impact productivity. People report being able to work more efficiently from home during the pandemic than when in the office before COVID, according to a study conducted by researchers from Stanford and other universities. The study’s authors predict that a permanent shift to remote work will raise productivity by 2.7%.
Additionally, 70% of remote workers say they were equally or more focused after shifting to working at home, according to a study conducted by The Economist Intelligence Unit.
However, working from home is not without challenges that company leaders must thoughtfully mitigate.
For example, Gallup found that employees working remotely were more likely to experience stress and worry than on-site workers during the pandemic.
Additionally, 98% of remote workers report frequent frustrations with video conferencing, including poor audio quality and concerns about background appearance. And 94% of remote workers say they want better meeting experiences when working from home, noting that tools like a high-quality headset or digital whiteboarding technology would be beneficial, according to Webex research.
Optimizing for Long-Term Work from Home Success
As you’re helping your team address these challenges and fully embrace the benefits of working from home, touch base with your team to make sure everyone feels supported and has the tools they need to be successful. When the world transitioned to remote work nearly overnight, IT teams had to make rapid decisions and dramatically scale their solutions.
Now is a good time to take a step back and assess whether employees have the right technology and resources to thrive.
- After working from home for a while, are team members discovering they need additional tools to be even more efficient and collaborate effectively with other remote colleagues or people in the office?
- Does your company have a video-first culture, enabling valuable face time even when people are working remotely? If not, what additional training or technology is needed to make the team feel more comfortable turning on their webcam?
- Are distractions like background noise disrupting their meetings?
- Do they have access to ergonomic office chairs, standing desks, etc.?
- Are employees keeping in mind best practices around healthy work habits and remote work productivity? Have you taken steps to support them on this front?
As you’re revisiting your work from home strategies and helping your team optimize their remote work experience, encourage them to follow the eight best practices outlined below. Read on or check out the infographic below for a handy summary.
- Choose a quiet workspace. A standalone room with a door is ideal, but anywhere away from noise is also fine as long as you can focus. Anywhere away from noise and household chaos works well. And if escaping the noise isn’t possible, choose a video conferencing solution that offers background noise removal so your meetings are distraction-free.
- Get an ergonomic chair. Ergonomic chairs reduce orthopedic stress and pain. That makes it easier to focus on what you’re doing.
- Set up an external monitor. Connect your laptop to a display with more screen real estate, such as an external monitor or an all-in-one collaboration display that allows you to easily switch between focus work and collaboration. This extra space is valuable when screen sharing and collaborating during virtual meetings, as well as working with complex documents and multitasking between apps.
- Invest in a good pair of headsets. Even if your home office is set up in a private room, distracting background noises are everywhere. Consider investing in a pair of noise-cancelling headphones that can keep you focused.
- Find the right tools. Video conferencing, team messaging, cloud calling, and file sharing are all especially important when working from home, as they help form strong connections and provide immersive experiences. As mentioned above, 94% of remote workers want additional tools to improve their meeting experience at home and 98% express frequent frustrations with video conferencing, a strong sign that companies need to invest in the right tools for their teams and make sure they are leveraging them to their full potential.
- Pay attention to the background. For video meetings, make sure your surrounding area is tidy and professional. Think about setting up some plants, pictures and other furniture to create an appealing background. If you’d prefer to go the virtual background route, here’s a fun library of virtual backgrounds or consider downloading a compelling image from a free stock photography site like Unsplash.
- Go with a wired connection. For video and VoIP, Ethernet is best. An Ethernet adapter or a docking station can give you a stable connection even if your device doesn’t have a built-in jack. And for times when your family or roommates are streaming, gaming, or on their own video conference, look for a collaboration solution that adjusts video quality when it detects poor bandwidth so you don’t get dropped from your meeting.
- Play music. Music can help you block out distracting noise and be more productive, too. To get you started, try this specially curated work from home playlist.
Regardless of what work from home model your company pursues, keeping in mind these eight suggestions will help ensure your team has a strong foundation to thrive in a long-term remote work environment.
Written by Emily Brooks.
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