We have all been participants in a grand experiment over the past few years. Forced to work from home because of the pandemic, many people who may have been resistant in the past have opened their eyes to the potential of remote work. You only need to look at the impressive GDP growth we've seen over the past year to acknowledge that the economy continued to grow even with so many people working remotely.
There's plenty of evidence that plenty of workers that remote work can provide. That's caused some tensions in organizations that aren't sure how much to lean into--or out of--the whole remote work trend.
The mistake is that this conversation is presented as a binary choice: either for or against it.
But the more important question might be: what are the implications of this trend for leaders and managers about where we work moving forward? The answer should come down to understanding better the kinds of work that needs to get done and where the best place to do it might be.
In other words, let the work itself dictate where it should be done.
Whenever someone needs to get something done that requires focus--where you put your head down and immerse yourself while minimizing interruptions for four to five hours--the office might not be the best place to get that kind of work done. Tackling this kind of work in a home office might be ideal--a place where you can increase your productivity many times over.
I can speak to this personally. Ever since I moved into my home office, I can't even calculate how much productivity on focused projects--like blog writing--has shot through the roof.
Another critical type of work many of us engage in requires collaborating with other people. That might be brainstorming new ideas, selling, or planning conversations--anything that relies on interpersonal reactions. This kind of work is best done in person in the office. Zoom doesn't count. Somewhere north of all, communication is non-verbal, and we cannot pick that up as well on Zoom. The natural energy behind this kind of work gets sparked by in-person problem-solving and planning.
For some people, the ideal solution might be to split up their day or their week --half of which is spent on focused work at home, followed by another half working on collaborative tasks in the office.
A third kind of work common to many organizations is sharing information--like update meetings. These are distinct from brainstorming and ideation meetings. Their sole focus is to communicate information quickly and efficiently.
In the past, this is an area that might have called for everyone to meet in the conference or break room for 30 minutes to an hour--or longer if the meeting digressed into small talk.
These meetings are now great candidates to shift to Zoom or other video formats. They will give everyone a small taste of human interaction while also minimizing the potential for interruption from an in-person meeting.
Horses For Courses
As anyone who has ever bet on a horse race in their life knows, it often pays to pick the horse who performs best given the current conditions of the track. You might want a very different horse for a steeplechase on grass than one that's going to run a mile in the mud. As the British say, "horses for courses."
Similarly, when deciding when and where remote work is appropriate in your organization, think about the nature of the work and the specific tasks that need to be done.
Let the answer to that question help guide you in deciding where your people work and when.