What was once a sudden societal upheaval that radically changed the way we work and interact, remote working is nowadays part of our daily routine. But how has this change affected our company’s culture and people? In order to find answers, we sent a survey to our colleagues. Their responses confirmed some of our initial assumptions, but others were swept off the table. Let's dive in!
Overall we saw an increase in work-motivation amongst colleagues. Some feel more motivated because they don’t have to commute to the office anymore. Others are glad to work (very) flexible hours. And then there are those few who love sharing their keyboards with cats who are determined to sleep on it, preferably when their owners are typing.
Although the overall work-motivation increased there are also colleagues who expressed a general sense of loss. Many of us miss interacting in the same physical space. Especially whenever we feel demotivated we long for a form of comradery that is difficult to get while sitting behind a screen. We try our best to replicate our cherished company’s culture in a remote setting, but it’s still a work in progress.
With gyms closing down and team sports being banned, many colleagues found themselves at home with no way of getting proper exercise. Some even started missing their walk or bike ride to and from the office.
But with adversity comes strength. And in this particular case core-strength. Many colleagues ordered workout equipment, got in shape, and buffed up. If we keep this up we'll all be Instagram models by the end of this year.
Too much stress is never a good thing, especially in a situation such as the Lockdown. Hence we were happily surprised that a large part of our colleagues felt less stressed after working remotely for over a month. Several reasons that were mentioned included: better focus, efficient meetings, flexible working hours, and adapting to the situation as it is.
Yet there are a few colleagues who feel more stressed than before the Lockdown. Part of this was caused by [the limitations of] working from home, and an imbalance between work and personal time.
At the beginning of the Lockdown, we expected many colleagues to struggle in finding a healthy work-life balance. Yet, the opposite turned out to be true; a large majority of us expressed an improvement in their work-life balance. Nowadays we’re able to spend more [quality] time with our partners and children. Next to that we can focus on hobbies and develop new ones. And last but not least: we finally have time to take care of that one neglected room that we promised ourselves to fix up three years ago.
However, there are some of us who find it difficult to turn off their computers and ignore chat after working hours. Others are distracted by their partners and children. And then there are those who live by themselves and experience loneliness. This is especially felt during the moments we used to [physically] come together for a celebration or Friday afternoon drinks.
For most of us, our work-happiness rating remained about the same. But for many, it skyrocketed as they started enjoying the benefits of working remotely.
Only a few colleagues indicated their work-happiness rating decreased. The main reasons are a lack of challenge [in their day-to-day work] and experiencing problems in creating a healthy work-life balance.
We saw a huge gap in reported productivity between parents and non-parents. This affirmed our hypothesis that working from home while; 1. keeping your kids alive, 2. preventing them from accidentally burning down the house, and 3. taking over the role as teacher, is a pretty big responsibility for any working-parent.
Top 5 challenges of working remotely
Although much of the data shows positive effects of working remotely there are also plenty of challenges. From the answers in the survey, we filtered out a top 5 that our colleagues face on a daily basis.
No more quick & easy work-related interaction
At the office you could tap a colleague on the shoulder to ask a quick question. But when working from home you'll need to give them a call or send them a chat message. It seems like a minor inconvenience, but it’s experienced as a hurdle.
Distractions from kids & family
Children require attention, guidance, and [general] parenting. Sometimes, they require this at the most inconvenient of times (e.g. storming into a client's presentation). It’s tough and distracting. But do know that all of us, including our client whose presentation was interrupted, understand that these things happen in the current situation.
Flipping the on/off switch
At the office, colleagues urged us to go home at 5 PM. Others had to catch a bus or train to make it home on time. But when working from home it's tempting to continue after hours. It’s a nasty habit we all experience at times, and one we should try to keep in check.
Lack of hardware, workplace, internet-connection, etc
Working from your kitchen table for one week on a wooden stool is manageable. But after two months you’re about ready to trade your firstborn for a proper desk and a semi-decent office chair. And what about that slow internet connection? It’s already frustrating having to wait 5 minutes for Netflix to buffer. But what about dropping halfway out an important video conference because the WiFi connection just flatlined?
Missing social & informal contact with colleagues
No more chit-chat at the coffee corner. No more communal lunches. No more videogames during lunch breaks. No more bad-mouthing each other during those videogames. It’s small moments like these that colleagues miss dearly.
Top 3 positive aspects of working remotely
Besides the challenges, there are also 3 positive takeaways that can be filtered from the survey.
Before the Lockdown, we considered it of great importance for everybody to physically be in the office during the same hours. But working remotely has taught us that this is not necessarily always the best way of doing things for everybody. The main lesson to be learned here is: if working flexible hours makes you feel better, be more productive, and your team is okay with it, go for it!
No commute / public transport
Commuting to and from work has never been a problem for most of us. Nonetheless, it takes up quite a bit of time, money, and effort. Likewise, the public transport experience is not always the best. Or as one colleague put it eloquently: “I don’t miss riding the Corona-Express”.
The office environment can be distracting at times. Loud noises, colleagues chatting, last-minute requests, unexpected meetings, and so on. All of these bothersome aspects of the office environment have now either decreased drastically or disappeared entirely. A welcome experience for many of us.
The ideal workweek (after Lockdown)
Bygone are the days we organized video conferences from our kitchen tables while screaming kids were impatiently waiting to call their teachers. Instead, we find ourselves in cozy home-offices while the children are attending school on their personal laptop or tablet. Thus it comes as no surprise that many colleagues stated their intention to keep working from home at least one day a week once this whole “thing” has blown over.
But what about returning to the office? Are we still willing to do that? Many of us are looking forward to having Friday afternoon drinks again at the office bar [albeit without that horrendous carnival music...]. Others expressed their desire to humiliate their colleagues with some good ol' Mario Kart. There are even a few of us who are eager to write code challenges so they can personally witness colleagues wreck their brains in agony while trying to find the solution... whatever floats your boat!
After having been in Lockdown for over two months many of our assumptions about working from home have proven false. And, in turn, many perspectives have shifted. The major shift is the overall acceptance of working remotely. Before the Lockdown, most colleagues were skeptical about it, even if it was only one day a week. However, after working remotely for over a month an overwhelming 70% of us stated their intention to keep doing so for at least one day a week.
As remote working becomes part of our new way of working there are still many challenges to overcome. But within every challenge, you can find an opportunity if you look well enough. As a company we will adapt, improvise, and overcome. And as we do so, we will flourish in this changing society.