The concept of working from home ricochets around the media like an echo in a canyon, and the stories reveal an interesting duality. First, most employees whose jobs can be done from home actually enjoy it and would like all or at least some of their job to exist there; and second, most managers and corporate leaders want their staff back at the office.
This isn’t surprising given that the culture of work for the past century has been for employees to come to an office or physical place where they can be led and supervised. But for those whose jobs are based largely on the use of a computer, the lockdown events of Covid showed an interesting new possibility. This is starting to shape this century’s second decade into something new and different, one that delivers some truths that many managers don’t want to admit.
Here are five facts about the new work-from-home paradigm:
- Most employees actually want to do good work.
The fear among many in management is that employees, if left unsupervised, will slack off, as if work itself is a punishment they would rather avoid. Though there will always be a few like this, most employees take pride in doing a good job, are self-motivated, and are enthusiastic about learning new skills. They don’t need to be monitored in order to do good work.
- Everything that can be done at the office can be done from home.
We all know that we can meet online through video chat and do self-directed work outside the office. But the component that managers always warn is missing — casual time where employees and managers can interact, chat, and create spontaneously — is also available. While some take place in the formal video chat platforms used in great number over the past two years, these interactions also happen in the newer, less formal, and more immersive online environments designed specifically for existing together in a virtual and casual place.
- Work and life are blending.
The 2020s aren’t the same as the 2010s or earlier. The world has changed and has become much more connected and certainly more expensive. Professionals who struggle to balance jobs with home responsibilities are looking for opportunities that are flexible in terms of work hours and times, as well as those that don’t incur commuting. Not all change is brought about by novelty. Some happens due to realities of today’s life.
- Managers are responsible for many employee-workplace failures.
In general, managers call meetings and send emails that interrupt the flow of concentration. They make additional requests and announce unplanned urgencies, requiring fast reprioritization. They approve training and meeting sessions that include too much information too fast or that don’t fit an individual’s working and learning styles. This doesn’t apply to all managers, but sadly is more common that it should be. When teams and individuals are left alone more often, they actually get more done.
- People are choosing to work from home anyway.
The Great Resignation represents an uptick in the number of people who are resigning from their current job because the ROI just isn’t there. Their desire to do good work has been stultified by the traditional processes and pressure of the workplace. So, in greater numbers than ever, they’re voting with their feet, seeking and finding work that they can do on their terms.
To be fair, there are many great managers out there who are working hard to evolve and to create a better work environment. But many, as well as the organizations they work for, find it difficult to pivot quickly, especially when there’s so much legacy — including processes, traditions, buildings, and floor space to account for.
What can managers do? They need to dispense with the idea of being monitors and focus instead on becoming mentors. They need to establish and demonstrate trust through better, more personalized relationships with employees. And frankly, they need to step back and let their teams do the work that they truly want to do.
Written by Steve Prentice.
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