A full year of telecommuting: how he debunked dangerous misconceptions about teleworking

There is nothing more permanent than temporary – remote work, which companies switched to last spring, has become a new norm for many. And at the same time – after a year – it turned out that the remote control is not at all what many thought it was. Let’s see what ideas about working from home turned out to be misconceptions, how they are dangerous, and what can be done about it if you do not plan to return to the office in the very near future.

Photo: Yasmina H. Source: Unsplash.com
Photo: Yasmina H. Source: Unsplash.com

Is there life outside the office

The transition to “remote”, which began around these days of last year, was not easy for everyone, even if it was largely justified. In a time of high uncertainty, people willingly endured inconvenience, hoping that, in addition to being protected, they would finally experience all the benefits of working from home. The media and media platforms encouraged everyone with stories about how much you can save if you exclude the trip to the office, do not spend money on coffee and lunches. And they also wrote about organizing business processes in a remote control format, explaining that you can get in touch from anywhere – even from a summer cottage in slippers and shorts.

In the summer, many really used these opportunities, and in a number of companies they decided to remove most of their employees from the office, regardless of how the epidemiological situation develops. For business, this step became part of the anti-crisis measures – it helped to cut rental costs and remove incidental expenses for the administration of the office life of the team. However, the journalists decided to continue to praise the remote, suggesting that the demand for it will only increase.

Then came autumn, the “second wave” and the peak of layoffs – a significant part of specialists for one reason or another did not cope with their duties, and someone was fired unfairly. At the same time, people realized that it turns out badly to equip life and adapt to new conditions on the basis of “vanilla metrics” and advice from business publications. And the issue of saving money and efficiency this time took on a completely different character – personal expenses and competition increased, and there was no need to expect a significant jump in the standard of living and comfort in the working environment. Therefore, the skeptical attitude towards telecommuting has become more noticeable.

Working from home is not more productive …

Only those who were familiar with this format and switched to it long before the beginning of 2020 turned out to be ready for a home siege. The rest had to get used to it on the go, and no matter how hard the remote evangelists tried to convince everyone of the opposite, the location affected their performance. Okay Software engineers came to similar conclusions. analyzed more than fifty thousand pull requests for IT companies of various specializations and sizes.

They found that mindlessly “spreading” employees across time zones leads to the fact that the time required to study changes in the code increases significantly: according to their data – from sixty-five minutes to more than eight hours. Communication problems begin exactly at the moment when it comes to more than a three-hour difference – for example, if an employee is delayed on a business trip or is sent to a region far from the work area. We all observed such situations last spring: those who, due to restrictions or quarantine, dropped out of the temporary corridor in which colleagues worked, dragged the team to the bottom, and then “fell off” themselves, losing their jobs due to disorganization.

Photo: Compare Fiber.  Source: Unsplash.com
Photo: Compare Fiber. Source: Unsplash.com

Assumptions that telecom eliminates the need for meetings and allows you to easily revise the schedule, too, turned out to be nothing more than another myth for both newcomers and experienced remote workers. The first ones simply moved the meetings from as-is negotiations to the format of video conferencing, while they often experienced technical difficulties and were late for calls. As in the case with time zones, they quickly “pulled” all the other participants of online meetups and spent even more time on planning meetings than offline.

According to report The National Bureau of Economic Research of the United States, which studied the experience of three million one hundred forty three thousand professionals working in sixteen cities in North America, Europe and the Middle East, took eleven percent more time to meet in total than in the dock period, and the length of the working day increased by as much as 48 minutes on average.

… and not more comfortable

Another misconception was that most office workers would have no difficulty in setting up a workplace at home. However, few people could have assumed that all adults in the family would have to do this and almost at the same time. The spring situation was just this and showed that people, of course, will work, but not at a comfortable desk in their home office. Even when the situation stabilized, former office workers continued sit with laptops right in bed – often even the kitchen table was inferior to her in terms of “attractiveness”. Against this background, the discussion of the correct position of the hands when working with the keyboard and other nuances quickly faded into the background. People started suffer not only from the disorder of space, pain in the back, neck and even trauma, but also from lack of sleep and chronic fatigue. “Sleep hygiene” was completely disturbed, and – like a snowball – it was followed by disorganization and decline in working capacity.

It turns out that the atmosphere of the office, with its hubbub, coffee breaks and sudden requests to print something, set up something or help with colleagues’ personal affairs, cannot be compared with the distractions at home. Experienced telecommuters have been trying to curb them for years: they negotiate with loved ones about the daily routine, allocate a room, part of it or even a balcony for an office and build communication with contractors.

Photo: Dillon Shook.  Source: Unsplash.com
Photo: Dillon Shook. Source: Unsplash.com

It is difficult to achieve an ideal combination of these elements even in a couple of months, what can we say about a crisis situation, when children were also forced to study without leaving home. In such an environment, it was possible for a long time to forget about the real immersion in work.

What to do with it all

Most of the “universal” pluses of remote control turned out to be nothing more than myths. But even if working from home did not meet your expectations, it is unlikely that the situation will change radically – companies are in no hurry to return employees to their offices. Here are some tips on how you can improve the situation if remote control is firmly established in your life:

  • If you are a leader, try to form teams, taking into account the territorial distribution of employees. Avoid situations where repetitive processes are tied to people living in widely separated time zones.

  • Try to recreate your work environment at home. Think about how to improve it gradually, so as not to break yourself and smoothly transform your habits.

  • When scheduling online meetings, be punctual, even if you schedule calls outside of working hours – your colleagues may still have quite working hours. Earlier, driving to and from the office set the rhythm of work and rest, but long distance work is still not a reason to completely abandon the notorious work-life balance – and certainly not a reason to force others to adjust to your personal “rolling schedule”.

  • The fact that everything at home distracts from work is no secret. Sometimes even your own office or a dedicated place does not help. In that case, check out our article on boredom. Perhaps the little things (like the TV in another room) that you’re used to not paying attention to are actually the hardest hit to your productivity. If so, the situation is likely to be improved without any effort.

What else do we have on Habré:

  • Which T&D startups attract large investments in the crisis

  • Workplace behavior is increasingly a reason for dismissal

  • More and more people are fired for publications in social networks – we are discussing various situations

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