Working from Home — 5 Lessons I Have Learned

by Mike O'Neill

Are you debating about letting your staff work from home because of COVID, but you’ve got some concerns about the cost, employee disengagement, or you’re afraid productivity will suffer?

You’re afraid they’ll get distracted by their family, their pets, and their household responsibilities now that their work and home life are mingling for the first time. Everyone is worried about the growth of homeschooling children during these times, too. 

Or on the flip side, you’ve got superstar employees you’re afraid will burn out fast overworking themselves because they won’t be able to “unplug.” You’re afraid their mental health will quickly decline, and their relationships with their family and friends will become strained. 

There are psychological effects that can happen when working from home like loneliness and isolation, anxiety and stress, the pressure to hustle, multiple hat syndrome, and depression. All of these are valid concerns. With the right tools and a little patience, all can be worked through. 

“What once was impossible is now mandatory” ~ Anonymous Client 

We interviewed Dr. Melissa Gratias to get her perspective on working from home and its effect on businesses and their employees. Dr. Gratias is a productivity specialist with a vast amount of experience working remotely. Watch the webinar or keep reading for 5 lessons we learned from Dr. Gratias about working from home.

Lesson #1:
Remote Work Saves Money

Working from home is a cost-saving practice. Desks are vacant up to 60% of the time — costing a company upwards of $90k per year per 100 employees.

To figure the cost for your company, think about the square footage of your office. How many desks do you have empty at any given moment? How much square footage do those desks take up? 

By allowing your employees to work from home, you can reduce your office's size and decrease your monthly rent expense. If you can allow your entire staff to go virtual, you’ll eliminate your rent expense. 

To put things in even more of a perspective. If you're a business with open-concept office space, with few or no private offices, you’re likely to have many employees eager to work from home. 

The reason being is that with open-concept offices, employees are often distracted by what is going on around them. There is no way for them to turn it off or tune it out. While this is great for promoting collaboration and conversations, it’s not so great when someone needs quiet to focus. 

In these types of settings, productivity diminishes, which costs the company. Many of these employees would be more productive working from home without the chatter and distractions. 

If your company chooses to provide some, if not all, equipment necessary for its employees to work from home, chances are, those costs, over the lifetime of the employee, will still be cheaper than the price of them working from an office. 

Some equipment costs to consider would be laptops or desktop computers, extra monitors, paid software like chat and video programs, time tracking software for remote workers, telephony, headsets, and webcams.  

Due to COVID-19, “77% of workers are already set up to work from home.” - Melissa Gratias

Lesson #2:
Workers Can Be Productive From Home

“In America, 85% of workers are ‘fully productive’ working from home.”
- Melissa Gratias

Workers can be productive when working from home, and it’s relatively easy to do so. According to Melissa Gratias, when people are more engaged, there is a concept called Flow, fully focused work, which is, when you are in the groove. When you’re in the groove producing useful things, and you feel like you’re doing your best work. For Flow to occur, employees will need all the available resources in front of them. 

Employees must see the task. They must know the time to work on the task. Tasks must be completed without distractions. 

How can you or your employees find flow?

Create a routine and a schedule and stick to it. Schedule all activities, just like work tasks. Don’t forget to set aside breaks, just like if you were in the office. Step away from screens. Enjoy some lunch. Decompress for a few moments. Take a short walk outside or have lunch in your backyard. 

“Having something pleasant to focus on like trees and greenery helps distract your mind from negative thinking, so your thoughts become less filled with worry.”
- Dr. Jason Strause

Schedule time to exercise. Before work, after work, on a break, whatever time you decide, schedule it and stick to it. Fight the urge to stay sedentary. Studies show that exercising up to 30-minutes a day can significantly lower anxiety levels while boosting endorphins and increasing serotonin, which leads to happier moods and higher productivity. 

Using the Pomodoro method can help with focus and productivity. The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method that was developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. This basic technique uses a timer to break down work into focus and break intervals. Focus intervals are generally 20-25 minutes, and then a break is set for 5-10. Focus Booster is a popular Pomodoro app for those working at home.

If you need more assistance, click here to learn 8 ways to encourage a healthy work-life balance for your remote employees. 

Lesson #3:
Remote Workers Have Fewer Interruptions

“Contrary to what we may believe, working from home has fewer time-wasters.”
- Melissa Gratias  

In 3 different surveys, (2013), (2014), and (2015), we’ve found the top areas where time is being wasted. 

  • 54% of employees are wasting time on short breaks to boost productivity (2014)
  • 42%  say it’s due to gossiping with coworkers (2015)
  • 34% of employees say they are not challenged enough (2013)
  • 34% say they work long hours (2013)
  • 32% say there’s no incentive to work harder (2013)
  • 26% say the Internet is a distraction (2014)
  • 23% are just bored (2013)
  • 23% say they are wasting time on emails (2015)
  • 18% say it’s due to low wages (2013)
  • 12% say it’s due to an annoying boss (2014)
  • 10% say they’re distracted by coworkers on speakerphones (2015)
  • 7% say it’s due to being unsatisfied with their job (2014)
  • 4% say it’s wasted on social media (2014)
  • 2% say it’s wasted on personal phone calls (2014)

External interruptions like coworkers and phone calls can use up to 78 minutes per day for office workers. When working from home, this can drop to 43 minutes per day.

A relevant example here, Zoom meetings. With the need for businesses to shift to work at home environments, in-office business meetings had to be moved to video meetings. Zoom has proven to be a great time saver. During in-person meetings, there would be a lot of cross-talk, personal talk, small talk, questions not about that day's topic, and general disruptions from the outside office staff. 

In work at home environments with video chatting software like Zoom, there are fewer interruptions and distractions. Employees and business owners are staying on topic and not wasting as much time on trivial chatter. 

Disengaged employees have been a chronic and expensive issue with businesses. The above statistics show a wide variety of reasons for employee disengagement and plenty of ways for employees to disconnect from their job without leaving. 

Pre-COVID, employers mistakenly thought they could better monitor their employees’ behavior to keep them on track and productive. They thought their employees wouldn’t work if they stayed home. Now employers are seeing just the opposite. 

Since COVID forced so many businesses to send their employees home to work, they’re finding their employees are responding with a much higher engagement rate and improved productivity. People are wasting less time than ever before.

Given all of these time-wasted statistics working from home is proving to lead to more productivity than working in an office environment.

If you need help managing remote employees, click here for 6 tips from an expert trainer.

Lesson #4:
Remote Work Frees Up Time to Work

When people work at home, they will also get back the time it used to take them to get ready for work, plus drive time. Depending on your morning routine and where you live, this adds up to a considerable amount of time.

We show that people save an average of almost an hour a day commute time alone, but if you live somewhere like Atlanta, your commute could be two or more hours a day. People aren't wasting this time. They are putting almost half of their commute savings toward work.

Working from home allows for more workable hours because there are no in-office meetings. In-office meetings tend to be overly social. Because we’re now working from home, the meetings are shorter due to fewer distractions. Time for meetings is being used efficiently, causing fewer meetings to be held, leaving more time for work at home productivity. 

Lesson #5:
Working From Home Is Not for Everyone

“A predictor of work from home success is self-discipline, and this can be measured with personality tests.”
- Melissa Gratias

Working from home is not for everyone. According to Gratias, post-COVID, 76% of workers want to work from home at least one day per workweek. Pre-COVID, this number stood at 31%. 

Here are some things to consider for yourself or your employees when moving from in-office to a home office space. 

First, you’ll probably have to upgrade your home office. 

One way or another, employees working from home will need a computer equipment upgrade. Many home "offices" are little more than a laptop on a counter. Work-at-home employees need all the equipment they previously had at their disposal in the office.

One survey conducted by Buffer shows that 84% of remote workers get their tasks done from home instead of coworking spaces (8%), coffee shops (4%), libraries (0.5%), and other places (3%). 

Because you’ll be spending more time in your home office, you need to make a designated space to serve as your office, if you don't have one already. You want to make sure it’s ergonomically correct, comfortable, inviting, and free from distractions. 

You’ll have to establish boundaries and learn to say “No.” Working from home has its own set of challenges. People may not respect your time to work or workspace. At times, someone will find out you’re working from home and think they can stop by whenever or ask you to do things for them since you’re home. 

It can also complicate your workday if you feel like household chores should be done. It's hard to concentrate if you're thinking about the laundry while you’re working. Schedule your work time as you would if you were going to the office to avoid distracting thoughts like it’s break time, better toss in a load of laundry. Or, it’s lunchtime, let’s do the dishes while I am here. Save household chores for chore time, not on work schedule time.

Learn to establish boundaries while working and practice the art of saying, “No, I cannot do that right now,” whether it's to yourself or someone else. 

Get Free Advice From an Expert

With more and more people working from home right now, it can be hard to know what you need to be productive and stay on track. One simple search on Google can lead to 100’s of results for tools required to work from home, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed. 

Kids are out of school, pets who are happy you are home with them all day, and all of your routine household chores, the distractions can be endless. Time management seems foreign to you right now.

Your company is growing, and you’ll need to onboard new hires with a work-from-home environment. It can feel like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. We can help guide you through that. 

We know how impossible it may sound right now with all the changes going on in the world today, but we can help you learn to create an environment that keeps you on track and sane.

Professional coaching breaks down the barriers holding you back; we have experts that help you focus on the actions you need to take to achieve your goals. 

Working with a coach to set your goal and expectations is a great way to stay ahead in these strange times. Schedule a coaching call - Let's talk! 

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