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Business Beat September 2020 - The Challenges of Working from Home

In the past six-months, we have shut down our economy, self-isolated and quarantined, we have worked from home, given up travel, and learned to use Zoom, Teams and Google Hangouts. We have re-launched, carefully stepped out of our homes to reintegrate into society, sent our children back to school and realized this pandemic is not a short-term inconvenience, but a long-term challenge.

My family (near and far) have been meeting weekly to check in with one another every Sunday evening since Easter Weekend back in April (we use zoom for these meetups). We laugh and have Sunday dinner together and it is voluntary, so if you have something more important to do there is no judgement for not showing up. Sometimes we have a large raucous group that tends to engage in several conversations at once and other times we have only 2 or 3 participants and we talk more deeply about highs and lows, what we are feeling and how we can support one another.

This week we talked about working from home vs. working in the office. I should let you know, this is a very diverse group, we range in age from 20 – 70, so we have got Boomers, Karens, Millenials and Zs! I’m sure you can imagine the lively discussion; can you tell by my haircut from which generation I hail?

Back in March and April there were many articles written on the increase in productivity as people began working remotely. According to Business News Daily, remote employees worked 1.4 more days every month, or 16.8 more days per year than their counterparts who worked in an office environment. The reduction in commute time (approximately 30 minutes each way) allowed for more free time, the fuel and maintenance savings were seen as a benefit and remote workers claimed they spent more time on physical exercise and less time fighting illnesses which are often spread throughout confined office spaces.

This is in stark contrast to what I read today as I was researching this article. I encountered headlines like “Productivity Drops as Work from Home Fatigue Sets In” and “Work from Home Model Changed Worker Productivity – Especially on 2 days of the Week”. I bet you can guess which days of the week had the largest drop in productivity, you guessed it, Monday, and Friday.

According to Fortune Magazine, “remote work is no substitute for organic interaction and creative combustion has taken a hit”. Young workers have been disadvantaged by missed learning opportunities and employees are feeling exhausted working from home every day. Company culture is suffering, onboarding employees has become a logistical nightmare, employees are missing face-to-face connection with colleagues and are having trouble setting boundaries when it comes to beginning and ending the workday.

As we continue to move through the pandemic and meet the long-term challenges head-on, it’s important to take everything into consideration, what our health authorities are advising, what direction our legislators are providing and we need to understand what our workers want. I was interested to read that Tech companies still believe in physical space, lawyers want to get back to the office, millennials and Gen Z workers are anxious to go back. There are several large organizations and even countries encouraging and ordering workers back to the office.

Whatever you choose to do, it is important to get the advice of an HR Professional. If you’re looking for resources, please check out the 8-part Employer Workshop Series which includes titles such as Recalling your Workforce after COVID-19 and Managing Remote Employees. For further information and scheduling please check out the Community Futures Entre-Corp Facebook Event Page.

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