Work from home has gone from being an option to a mandate for many industries. Leading companies such as Google, IBM, Twitter, and so on across the globe are embracing flexible workplace arrangements since they need to evolve with the times. 

 

Human Resource Management (HRM) along with other departments now needs to ensure that the transition from onsite to work from home is a smooth one.  In addition to this. HRM must ensure that the emotional and social well being of the employees are balanced due to the changing work culture.

 

The way an organization opts to support, motivate, inspire, and engage employees now, will set the tone for the future.

Exploring the Possibilities of Continuing to Work from Home

The impact of continuing to work from home will be multifold. The foreseeable changes that will come about will include

  • A more diverse workforce with a mix of onsite and remote staff
  • More focus on productivity rather than micromanagement
  • Less focus on the hours clocked in and more attention to achieving target
  • The constant need to keep the employee morale high
  • Increased attention to cybersecurity to ensure there is no data breach due to remote work

What is Stressful About Working From Home

While it seems exciting to be able to wake up leisurely and go about one’s chores at one’s own pace without the stress of rush hour at home and during a commute, in the beginning, it soon becomes evident that WFH is fraught with its own disadvantages.

 

Most people are surprised by the stress they experience once the novelty of working from home wears off.  While the common stress factors such as the long commute, toxic co-worker interactions, or the feeling that someone always around does not exist, working from home still takes a toll.  Some of the common sources of stress that WFH brings forth are

Lack of Structure

Feeling the lack of boundaries when one needs to start and stop work does not exist in the WFH scenario which makes it easy to blur the lines between personal time and work time. This could arise from children walking around, visitors, phone calls, email, social media, or Too much of either will cause an imbalance, and trying to set it right becomes stressful. 

Increase in Duties

The quantum of work tends to increase by virtue of being home considering that household chores need to be managed with work commitments. An additional difficulty imposed due to the global pandemic has been the absence of domestic help which has created an additional burden on women. 

Difficulty in Setting Boundaries

Creating a schedule to ensure that lines between productivity and leisure time do not overlap is a difficult task. It is as difficult to set boundaries with others as it is to set with oneself when there is a lack of motivation. The feeling of not being in control of the situation could lead to frustration.

Lack of Focus

Working from home comes with several distractions and many energy drains which makes it easy to lose focus. WFH can mean that one is juggling several roles simultaneously and becomes extremely important to keep one’s eyes on the goal.

Social Isolation

While work can go on in an uninterrupted manner, due to a lack of colleagues’ presence all around, there is no mandate for social interaction at all. This is a major reason for loneliness to surface.

Work From Home – Best Practices

Some of the drawbacks of working from home can be managed by following recommended best practices: 

Designate a Workspace

Setting up a corner at home as the designated workspace gives a clear signal to the mind about work times and the need to focus.  Ensure the space is ergonomic to support long work hours –  similar to that at office.

Getting Ready for Work

Taking time to go about the normal work routine prior to the onset of the pandemic, such as a workout/exercising, taking a shower and getting ready as one would for office, go a long way in establishing a routine.

Meal Times Need to Be Fixed

Just like work timings, meal times also need to be planned into the day such that the timings are not random. This ensures eating on time and planning the menu ahead.

Working From Home – What it means for the household

Due to most people working from home and schools adopting home-based learning, most members of the household are likely to be around most times. It would be prudent to set temporal boundaries and manage expectations since you may be expected to integrate childcare and eldercare into the work schedule.

Practise Self Care

In addition to ensuring that work gets done, it is equally imperative to maintain one’s well being as well, be it physically or emotionally. This would include making time for working out, meditating or pursuing one’s hobbies as before.

Managing Stress and Difficult Emotions Arising From WFH

Given the current global pandemic, it is obvious that work will meet emotions at the intersection bringing about a myriad of stressful situations.

 

The underlying stress of work coupled with the uncertainty of the pandemic is sure to put forth several situations which the HRM of the organization needs to take note of and work to resolve. Not all issues need to be handled at the HR level some can be practiced individually too. 

Some of these are :

Proofread Messages Emotionally Before Being Sent Out

Ensure that the message being sent out is clear and emotionally sound. 

Being Mindful of Timezones

The fact that all members of the team are important needs to be borne in mind irrespective of the timezone they are in currently. Meetings need to be conducted at a mutually convenient time.

Making Room for Small Breaks

Taking periodic breaks to stretch, walk around or change position while at work need to be done mindfully to prevent stiffness, boredom, and fatigue

After Work Ritual

With the gradual merging of work and family time, it is becoming increasingly difficult in the current WFH scenario to call it a day when it comes to working. Being overworked and burn out will come about if work timing is not set and adhered to. The time after work should be dedicated to family or pursuing other fun activities.

Check-In On One Another

The major downside of WFH is being unable to meet people at the workplace. Continued practices of working remotely could give the most intelligent or cheerful person an impression of being lonely.  Virtual gatherings are a way of dispelling such negativities.

 

Going by the evolution of the World order as dictated by the COVID 19 pandemic, it looks like WFH is here to stay. While the pandemic will come to pass the work from the home norm may not exactly change anytime soon.

 

It will in fact move towards becoming the order of the day. A recent report from Gartner also looks to reiterate this fact. A study conducted by Citrix through OnePoll states that in spite of initial hiccups and amidst the global crisis, employees are recording greater productivity and higher job satisfaction which translates as better employee engagement for the organization. 

 

Employees are becoming intelligent the world over in working it out that WFH has amazing dual benefits wherein work happens on their terms and they just need to possess the determination to do better.

 

Checking in on employees’ morale by the HRM of the organization will offer the essential support that an employee needs in terms of emotional stability. Thereby creating a win-win situation for the employer as well as an employee.