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What Do People Need to be Successful Working From Home? – It Varies

According to this article I was reading, there are some basics:

A survey of more than 1,000 US workers by software company Nintex found that the majority are coping well in remote work environments, yet still faced a number of challenges. At the top of the list were technology, flexibility, time, and mental health resources.

This makes sense. Working from home when you’re lacking the same technology you had at the office is tough. Navigating difficult VPN connections and trying to communicate and collaborate without the proper tools in place to do so, will absolutely harm productivity.

The other tree, though, are a little different. Working from home should provide more flexibility, time, and be good for our mental health, yet we still see all of those listed as challenges. I suspect it’s because too many organizations are still not truly trusting the remote employees, and also assuming that they are available to work, essentially, whenever. Doing that will absolutely create more challenges than they solve.

Take, for example, time, and flexibility. Working from home should provide us with a time savings, after all, there’s no commute, there’s no interruptions as coworkers chat in the hallways, etc. And yet, instead of simply having that extra time due to not having to commute to the office, we start to see the encroachments. Of course meetings can run a little over at the end of the day, or we can send emails right at the end of the day that require a response. It’s not like you need to drive home right now or pick up the kids from daycare, right? Or, of course we can schedule that meeting a little early for me so that we’re getting the folks in an earlier time  zone right at the start of their day, it’s not like I’ll still be driving at that time, right? And then it just goes from there. One meeting runs late, followed by another email that needs to be answered, followed by more emails from folks who send you work well after hours “so that you can work on it in the morning”, without realizing that your schedule doesn’t have any time available in the morning, so you start working on it at 9-10PM to meet that deadline, and before you know it, you’re working all the damn time, and getting completely burned out.

Sound familiar?

And yet, the same survey also discovered that when they broke it down by generation, each one had a different top response:

Nintex found that priorities differed by age group. For example, 55% of Gen Zers said the thing that would improve productivity the most was software to help them automate work. For Millennials, better hardware topped the list, with half (50%) expressing a desire for laptops, monitors and other home office equipment.

Gen Xers mainly said a more flexible working schedule was the key to productivity (56%) while the majority of Baby Boomers (42%) said an increase in pay would help them work more efficiently.

Hmm, there’s some interesting tid-bits in there, most obviously the fact that only older workers seem to hang on to the belief that simply being paid more makes people do better work, while that simply doesn’t really register for younger workers. But, maybe the most important thing is that even in identifying the “top” priority for each generation, we didn’t get far away from 50% responding with that answer, meaning that, for example, almost half of your Gen X employees actually would prefer something other than flexibility.

Why it’s almost as if we should ask individuals what would help them, and within reason, provide that. After all, even within each age group, parents might prioritize something different than single employees, or those sharing an internet connection and space with a spouse or roommates also working from home might prioritize something else. Some may want to adhere to strict 9-5 hours so that they can spend the rest of their time on childcare or side-businesses, while others may value the ability to take a couple of hours during the day for schoolwork and then pick up work again in the evening.

We would do well to listen to what people need, talk about what we expect, and also understand what we are doing with our own actions. In the example above, it’s too easy to start pushing those time boundaries a little here, a little there, etc, without realizing that every one of those late meetings, late emails, or just by setting the example of working late hours, sends the message that it is expected, and that working from home is not going to provide more time and flexibility to employees. It might be no wonder that these folks can’t wait to go back to working in the office. At least then the expectations could be limited by the reality of life. If we aren’t careful to let people keep those boundaries, we run the risk of ruining not just the productivity of our employees, but their mental health and personal lives as well.

Is that really what you want?


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