What is work from home? | The Ultimate Guide to Working From Home

• Digital Workplace,Remote Work

Over 88 percent[1] of organizations globally either made it mandatory or encouraged their employees to work from home in 2020 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

While work from home became incredibly popular throughout the year due to restricted lockdowns in several parts of the world, it wasn’t a new concept that organizations had to suddenly embrace – it has been around for a long time. Over 52 percent[2] of employees around the world work remotely at least once every week and 68 percent work from home once a month.

As things are slowly going back to normal, it has become more clear than ever that work from home is here to stay. After all, it is beneficial to both organizations and employees alike.

Organizations get to save on infrastructure costs and hire from a global pool of talent, and employees get to have a better work-life balance with a more flexible schedule.

Whatever the reasons are for going remote, if your company is planning to create a work from home policy, it needs to be defined and tailored according to your organizational needs as well as employee requirements. In this article, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about working from home.

What is work from home?

Working from home means employees can set up their workspace in their homes and manage their entire work right from inside their houses, without the need to necessarily go to the office.

Employees work remotely by using a dedicated laptop/PC connected to the internet and business applications to collaborate and communicate with their team members. While some employees work primarily from their homes, others work occasionally from home and travel to their office half of the time.

The COVID-19 pandemic has definitely increased the number of people working from home, but the truth is, the work from home trend was already on the rise in the last decade. The number of employees who work from home has increased by 173 percent from 2005 to 2018. In fact, it was predicted that by 2025 the majority of the workforce will end up going remote. The pandemic has only made the work from home trend the new norm, five years too early.

The major challenges of working from home for employers

1. Remote collaboration

Collaboration is one of the biggest work from home challenges for companies as employees no longer work from the same physical office space.

Whether you have a small doubt or need to organize a team-wide meeting, everything has to be scheduled in advance to ensure availability – all of which can end up taking a big chunk of the employees’ time and take them away from their core responsibilities.

2. Employees working from different locations and time zones

Allowing employees to work from home means organizations can recruit talented professionals from anywhere in the world, with no location limitations. But the big downside of this perk is that companies end up with a completely distributed workforce with employees working from different locations and time zones.

Forcing all of the employees to be available at the same time is not an ideal or a long term solution either since many would end up working through the night. But allowing remote employees to set their own schedule according to what works best for them, means you end up with employees that all work at different times of the day.

Collaborating with team members, finding the right time to schedule weekly team meetings or even 1:1 meetings can become incredibly challenging.

3. Building and maintaining trust

When employees don’t have face-to-face interactions, there are some obvious trust issues that can arise because of it. 52 percent of remote employees feel they are often left out of big decisions and their team is less trustful of them when they are working from home.

Even managers find it difficult to trust employees working from home since they can’t see remote employees working right in front of them, unlike physical offices. But it’s important to remember that trust is a two-way street. Continuous mistrust from team members can often end up demotivating employees and making them feel left out.

The major challenges of working from home for employees

1. Working too much

While managers often assume that employees don’t work as efficiently from home as they do from an office, the actual ground reality is completely different.

With no excessive breaks or long commutes to the office, remote employees are 20-25 percent more productive than their office counterparts. But the lack of breaks with prolonged work is what makes remote employees more susceptible to burnout.

After all, when you have to manage both your work life and personal life inside the same house, it can be difficult to create boundaries which can often lead to exhaustion, overwork, and a decrease in productivity.

2. Loneliness

With no informal social interactions with colleagues, employees can feel isolated and even develop communication issues with the rest of the team. After all, if you don’t feel close to your team members, you will hesitate to even reach out to them to ask a simple question.

For employees that have been forced to work from home for a long period of time or are permanently remote, the social isolation problem, when not addressed properly, can get further aggravated and lead to burnouts, decreased efficiency, and increased intention to leave.

3. A lack of community

When you only have face-to-face interactions with your team members on weekly or monthly video calls only, it can be rather challenging to create a sense of camaraderie and bonding within the team.

Video conferencing is a good way to stay connected with your coworkers, but the problems arise when there isn’t any room left for social interactions.

The big benefits of work from home for both employers and employees

1. Cost savings

When there are fewer employees coming to the office than usual, organizations need fewer equipment, desks, and space to accommodate them which will directly lead to lowered infrastructure and rental costs. In fact, it’s possible for organizations to save up to $2000 for every employee[3] that works from home simply by saving up on the office space and infrastructure.

For employees too, working from home can lead to a lot of cost savings. No morning commute means no extra costs to travel to the office every day. Also, employees no longer need to pay high rents just to stay close to their offices.

2. Flexible schedule and more freedom

When employees work from home, they get the freedom to create their own schedule, according to their productivity levels and personal commitments. They can work in the early mornings or through the nights if that’s when they feel most productive.

When it comes to working from home, people focus more on getting their work done and meeting deadlines instead of being fixated on the total number of hours they spend working in front of their screens.

3. Hire and retain global talent

Retaining talent becomes easier when companies offer work from home perks. For 83 percent of employees, the ability to work from home is a big deciding factor when they consider a new job offer. Over 73 percent of employees are willing to quit their current jobs if they are offered a new job in an organization that allows them to work from home – even if the salary stays the same.

For companies, that means, allowing employees to work from home can make it easier for them to hire and retain top talent without any kind of location limitations.

4. Better work-life balance

When employees work from home, they no longer have to spend hours driving in the traffic every day, chatting with coworkers near the watercooler, or organizing dinner parties with team members which directly saves them a lot of time that they can in turn use to spend with their friends, family, or just to do things that they like. With more downtime, enough rest, and better work-life balance, employees are able to better focus on the work which leads to higher efficiency and productivity.

5. Positive employee experience

With more flexibility, no everyday bumper to bumper commute traffic, and better work-life balance, work from home ends up improving the overall employee experience within the organization. This in turn creates a company culture of high performance where employees want to perform at their best and continuously improve at work.

6. Increase in productivity

When employees get the freedom to create their own work schedule and workspace, they feel more positive and productive. Moreover, with no excessive breaks or disruptions from coworkers, work from home employees end up being more productive than their in-office counterparts as well.

In fact, over 77 percent of employees agree that they are more productive when they work from home.

The best practice for managing work from home

1.Maintain trust among employees

Trust is the foundation of successful remote work. When employees don’t feel like they are trusted within the organization, it can eventually affect their work. As a result, before you even start implementing a work from home strategy for employees, make sure you list down the guidelines of what is expected of them and what they can expect from their team managers. More importantly, it’s essential to avoid micromanaging employees. It’s best to give them some breathing space.

2. Define communication guidelines

The only thing worse than remote employees feeling lonely and isolated, is them feeling overwhelmed with all the messages and calls coming their way. While it is important to streamline communication with the team when working from home, it is just as important to set clear communication guidelines.

Here are a few ways you can set up work from home communication guidelines for your team:

  • Keep a common team calendar marking everyone’s time zones and working hours so that it’s easier to schedule team meetings and 1:1 discussions
  • Decide on the maximum number of hours that employees can take to reply back to messages so they don’t feel pressured to reply immediately
  • Share the main communication tools used within the company and their main purpose
  • Limit the number of emails and opt for messaging tools instead
  • Create separate communication channels for formal and informal communication

3. Avoid distractions

Employees should create a separate workspace in the house to stay focused on their work throughout the entire day so they can maintain consistent efficiency. Moreover, they should avoid online distractions as well and limit time spent on emails, social media platforms, and websites that are completely unrelated to work. Organizations can help with that by providing employees with a unified platform for project management, task management, and communication so employees don’t have to go back and forth between applications which can eventually distract them from their work.

4. Recognize and appreciate good work

Working from home, all alone, without meeting or seeing your coworkers can feel rather isolating, which makes constant validation and recognition more important than ever. Remember that recognition doesn’t always have to cost something, just sending a simple ‘good work’ message to your colleagues can sometimes be enough to boost their morale and encourage them to work harder.

☛ Check Out: 15 Tips to Make Work From Home Better!

Essential work from home tools to get you through

1. Collaboration and communication tools

Effective communication tools should have features like instant messaging, video calling, voice calling, and support for private and public communication channels to make it easier for employees to collaborate while working from home.

2. Project management tools

The right project management tool will make it easier for distributed teams to streamline project work and tasks while maintaining complete transparency. It helps reduce constant back and forth emails and ensures everyone is always on the same page.

3. Cloud storage tools

You need centralized cloud storage that allows employees to access and search for the latest version of the files that they need to manage their work, from any location or device. The cloud storage that you choose should be reliable, affordable, secure, and follow all the necessary industry compliances.

4. Screen sharing and recording tools

Screen sharing applications help employees understand each other’s perspectives and the issues that they are facing by providing them with the right context. It can also help support teams in providing your customers with better and faster resolutions.

5. Digital workplace platform

Instead of using dozens of digital tools that can only make remote employees more overwhelmed and confused, you can introduce a digital workplace platform in your organization to help employees collaborate, communicate, and manage their way without having to switch constantly between applications.

The digital workplace is a unified platform that gives employees access to the complete set of digital tools they need to effectively manage all of their work responsibilities. An ideal digital workplace like Kissflow offers project management, case management, task management, cloud storage, public and private communication channels, and all the other features that work from home employees need to streamline their work and easily collaborate with remote team members.

Work from home is the future

Work from home is truly the future of work and it is here to stay. Even though there are some challenges to it, the pros of working from home easily outweigh the cons.

Of course, incorporating a work from home strategy for the first time can be difficult, but it’s not impossible. With a strong company culture and the right tools by your side, you can successfully implement a work from home strategy in your organization that aligns with your long-term business goals and your employees’ requirements as well.

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