With work from home (WFH) likely to continue in some hybridized form even after the pandemic has receded, shouldn’t we start provisioning for rest in office (RIO) as well. Not just a role reversal, but a different new normal, customization of the evolving hybrid – work from home and come to rest in the office. And that’s not just about throwing in a few table tennis tables, a half-baked gym, a coffee churning machine and […]
With work from home (WFH) likely to continue in some hybridized form even after the pandemic has receded, shouldn’t we start provisioning for rest in office (RIO) as well. And that’s not just about throwing in a few table tennis tables, a half-baked gym, a coffee churning machine and a few awkward sofas scattered across the hallways. No, this is the rest we really enjoy at home – elaborate meals, hours of binge watching utterly inane shows and equally meaningless cricket games and of course long afternoon siestas after gorging on mangoes and watermelons.
While anyone who runs an office is sure to baulk at the very thought of the sacred space being put to such blasphemous uses, we do need to look at restoring the work-life balance which has clearly gone askew this past year.
There’s a reason why the workplace and the home were physically kept apart, notwithstanding calls from time to time to dissolve the difference between the two. The act of picking up one’s bag in the evening, whatever the time, and leaving for home, sends a clear signal to the brain that it is time to relax from work-related stresses. While in recent decades, the pernicious practice of carrying your work (and workplace) home came to be the accepted norm, some of the most productive people have always resisted it. Top banker Aditya Puri, for instance, in his time at HDFC Bank, always left office by 5.30 pm, didn’t wear a watch or carry a mobile phone and didn’t use email. His at-home life was distinct and different from life at work. Deepak Shourie, a media industry veteran who built such brands as Outlook and Discovery in India, is another top executive who has always believed in a clear work-life separation.
Unfortunately, WFH has blurred that distinction to a point where most executives say they don’t know when the workday starts and when it ends. This has had disastrous consequences, with surveys indicating a significant decline in mental health, job satisfaction and motivation levels among employees.
Companies did initially see great benefits from WFH in the form of increased employee productivity and reduced overhead costs. However, with the format losing its novelty, productivity has been plateauing. The biggest casualty is the decline in creativity and innovation which need the relationships and the bonding that physical meetings foster. Microsoft, whose video-calling app Skype has been one of the most-used tools for virtual meetings, recently commissioned a research project with Boston Consulting Group and KRC Research. One of the findings of the report was that “while maintaining productivity hasn’t been an issue with remote working – a strain on team culture seems to be hampering innovation.” As Dr Michael Parke of The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and a research collaborator commented: “It seems that employees are able to hunker down and get less distracted while working remotely, and they can even enjoy less or no commute times, dressing casually (less time to get ready for work), and take better care of home chores. However, the cost seems to be a loss of sense of purpose, which at work, is largely driven through strong and cohesive relationships and seeing how your tasks have impact on others. Both of these are more easily accomplished when people work co-located and are more challenging when working virtually.”
In fact, the time saved in commuting is increasingly being offset by a sharp increase in phone calls, video meetings and formal messaging. Add to that the tension of logging into the corporate network at the given time and staying online not knowing when you will be called in for a task. At senior levels, there are always ways of circumventing these exacting clauses. But younger employees unused to remote working and often living on their own, are missing out on the informal collaboration and the friendly advice from a senior pro that kept them going in difficult times at work. That’s a painful reality of remote working that productivity assessments have failed to measure.
WFH is here to stay, at least in some blended form. Global Workplace Analytics’ analysis of 2018 American Community Service (ACS) data, indicates that 25-30% of the workforce will be working at home on a multiple-days-a-week basis by the end of 2021.Against that reality, it is critical for companies to devise ways to separate the two environments, work and home. Otherwise, prepare for a world where pajama-clad execs will be belting out songs in the corridors of the office even as Blueberry muffins bake in the canteen microwave.
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Giving your reasons for leaving a job helps interviewers determine what satisfaction and engagement at work looks like to you. It can also shed light on what your long-term career plan is and what you want to get out of a new role.
1. More responsibility and better career growth. Wanting to develop your skills can be one. Give examples of the kinds of skills you want to build on and tangible ways you’d like to go about doing it.
2. A career change. A new direction professionally, to find interesting and meaningful work.
3. Company reorganization. It’s helpful to give some examples as to why the new structure isn’t working for you. And what you’ve done to try and improve things and what you’d change.
4. Better work-life balance. Try and focus on what you’re seeking for in the long term, whether it’s remote work, a four-day work week or flexible hours.
5. Relocation. Explain why you’re making the move.
Avoid launching into a barrage of complaints about your former workplace, colleagues or manager.
Achieving perfect equality between work and life is a myth. However, it is far more beneficial to focus on the quality of time you’re spending both personally and professionally — and not so much on the quantity.
When work is all-consuming, it can result in feelings of powerlessness and resentment. Getting back a healthier sense of work-life balance could help you to recharge. This can get you back in touch with the aspects of your job that you loved in the first place.
There’s a time and place for hard work. But always remember, that, at the end of the day, the best thing you can do, is to step back and give yourself a chance to reset.
Work-life balance is the key to avoiding burnout. When people sleep well, they have time to handle their lives, families, health and recreation. They are better rested, less anxious and more energetic.
When people have time to experience different things — outside of work and colleagues — they are more creative. Innovating and solving thorny problems – which fills our daily lives – requires creativity and lateral thinking. The stimuli that comes from reading, exercise, nature and having conversations with non-colleagues also enhances that. Our non-work experiences provide more sources of ideas.
Self-love is the process of knowing yourself, connecting with your inner self, and overcoming self-limiting beliefs. It involves letting go of everything that doesn’t serve you, and falling in love with yourself.
Self-love helps silence the fear of rejection, our inner critic. But instead, self-love helps us to befriend rejection so it can serve us rather than taunt us. And once we have that done with, we develop confidence in what we stand for, when we know who we are from within. With self-love, we are able to let go of self-judgment, negative thoughts, and opinions. Including people who are not aligned with our positive future.
If you are not getting “No’s” as answers, you may just not be knocking on as many doors of opportunities as you should or can.
Some doors will open wide their arms-hinge with a “Yes, welcome in”. But many more will say “No.” Be grateful that they will not all slam the door at your face. And neither will any of them nail you in a confine, to stop you from pursuing other opportunities.
No, none of them can say, “this is the end.” So, keep pursing your opportunities, and do not stop practicing self-love.
We should learn to accept ourselves wholly for who we are. And when we do, people around us also start seeing us in the same light. Likewise, when we love what we do and do what we love, we are alive and soaring in all that we do. This further draws others with positive energy to us. Ultimately, that power of love for yourself, will not only elevate your relationship with yourself, but it will enhance and deepen your relationship with work, family, life, and everything else around you.
This is a difficult time for everyone. It is difficult for employees thinking about getting back to in-person office work. But it’s also difficult for managers, businesses and for employers as they try to kind of figure out the logistics of this new normal.
Co-workers and managers need to understand that some people may still struggle with the uncertainty of the pandemic. The fears of the virus or simply seeing co-workers again after being isolated away from physical contact with each other for several months.
While this is not an exhaustive list, the 4 tips below can be a good place to start as everyone works to address their back to work anxiety.
If you haven’t been out much the past year, you should slowly and safely start doing so. If it’s really intimidating, do so in off-hours when maybe the traffic won’t be quite so high. At that period of the day, you have an opportunity to explore and just be in the world again.
See the positive and bright side
Going back to the office could actually be a good thing to many. We are designed for interactions and scheduled close work proximity can help in the delivery of certain assignments.
Basic self care is first care
Make sure to take care of yourself and start with the basics. Get enough sleep, eat well, exercise and connect with others, virtually and face-to-face. Gradually expand your safety bubble of people you feel safe to interact with without fear of the virus.
Seek professional support
If you need more help, talk to a professional. Act, talk to your manager about your concerns, engage with your human resource to understand any new policy in place and to know what type of support is going to be available. Determine to remove all possible barriers to a healthy career; seek other professional help, for example, to address mental health concerns.
The wall of tradition is coming to an end, and millennials have cemented and taken on the mantle of gender equality. Fathers in general are more involved in their children’s lives more than ever before, and now with the pandemic even more so. And they like it.
But women still carry out more of the responsibilities at home. Women still do more housework than men even if they earn more money than their husband. The scales of society rules are still tipped in man’s favor, but equality is in the pipeline.
Simple things like not having to be in the office meant not having to be out the door before the kids woke up.
Not having to do all that has allowed me time to have breakfast with the kids, which is something really small. But now, I couldn’t think of not doing that.
It allowed my wife to be more relaxed going to work, knowing that the kids were being looked after.
For many dads who may miss going to the office, being present in the family life “certainly outweighs” the rat race. This is what has always saw us struggling to get to the office for 8am.
A dad said, “the kids are enjoying having me around and I am enjoying being there and being more available for my family. These days, I am 100 per cent happier as a person and as a father. I feel sad in a way. And that is because I wasn’t around far more earlier in my kids life, when they were younger.
Giving individuals control over how to work boosts motivation. It allows them to produce quality work, and encourages a strong work-life balance.
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Shifting to remote work should not be the only focus of work redesign. A policy declaring that people must work remotely, or even one saying they can work whenever and wherever they want can have issues. It can easily become pressure to work longer hours and be available 24/7—leading to burnout over time.
There are two important elements of the initiative studied by Erin L. Kelly and Phyllis Moen. They are; training managers to shift how they approached their roles and how they can help their teams to identify and reduce low-value work.
First, managers need to express support of employees’ personal lives and to clearly articulate performance goals and expectations. This help managers to focus on monitoring results rather than “face time” at the office.
Secondly, structured team discussions helped overloaded employees identify changes they could make as individuals and teams. This work redesign approach ultimately changed everyday work practices. Such as, reducing the number of meetings or the number of people required to attend them, and increasing the ability to work remotely. It also help with the identification of low-value work that teams can reduce and still hold work hours steady.
These changes improved well-being and work/life integration for employees and managers. There was an increase in job satisfaction, and the company benefited from reduced costs associated with turnover among valuable employees.
But such benefits arise only when employees feel they can choose where and when they work – not by mandating some particular mix of remote and in-office work. It is also critical that managers and coworkers respect workers’ personal and family situations. In other words, the benefits documented come not from a policy allowing remote work per se, but from gaining a sense of control and support.
No One Size Fits All
The exact mix or blend of remote and in-office work may depend on the work being done and the personal lives of the workforce, but working at home exclusively only works well for some employees and roles. However, the research shows that having some say in when, where, and how they work is highly valued by many employees, and can be good for a company’s bottom line.
The work redesign approach deployed in this study did not set up formal policies laying out how much time was expected in the office. It does not also require individuals to get permission from their managers to work from home. Instead, it encourages regular conversations about how people hoped to work and how the team could coordinate to do its best work. Thereby, setting the stage for adaptable and customized ways of working.
This is the perfect moment to launch a work redesign initiative like the one researched. This can be done by inviting teams to discuss and learn from how they adapted during the pandemic and how they struggled, and to imagine what might work well for them. Erin and Phyllis created free training resources from their study, including a facilitator’s guide to implementing this kind of work redesign program.
Erin L. Kelly is the Sloan distinguished professor of work and organization studies at the MIT Sloan School of Management. Phyllis Moen holds the McKnight endowed presidential chair in sociology at the University of Minnesota. They are the authors of Overload: How Good Jobs Went Bad and What We Can Do About It.