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Opinion: Why working from home works – my story

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It was 4:30 a.m. on a Monday in September 2009. Springfield country skies showed brilliant stars as I headed to my mom’s house for internet access. We had moved to Springfield over the weekend, and I had to work on a massive project with an equally overwhelming deadline. There was no internet yet in the new home.

No one on my project knew or cared where I was – just that the work was done on time and under budget. Pretty sure I was too busy to unpack even the smallest thing in my house, which we bought strategically because the downstairs featured two bedrooms that worked well as offices. Small children could wage tantrums upstairs while the nonsupervisory parent worked downstairs.

Even at that point, I was a four-year work-from-home veteran. That status shift began just before I became a mom. For variety, I’ve recently added an office at the Efactory coworking space. I’m a self-regulated hybrid worker now.

Prevalence
COVID-19 placed many of us into the remote worker category, and job seekers still overwhelmingly prefer it. A Forbes article from June entitled, “Remote Work Statistics and Trends in 2023,” states that 13% of full-time employees are fully remote and 28% of us enjoy hybrid options. I say enjoy because the article also states that 98% of workers like to work remotely at least some of the time and 16% of companies are fully remote.

Not surprisingly, technology is the leading industry for employing remote workers.

Business publications highlight when offices for major companies call their workers back into full-time office work. The practice has an acronym – RTO – for return to office. There’s some controversy to it, as some workers have moved away from the central office since they became remote workers. Remote work felt like a permanent possibility to them.

Benefits, drawbacks and advice
This work-from-home paradigm shift, affectionately called WFH, that arrived by necessity with the pandemic has changed work. From my experience, fully remote workers can miss connection, collaboration, and a feeling of work/life balance and separation. Also, that commute, turns out, can help separate the segments of the day, and it can be productive learning or decompression time for some.

Remote work broadens the physical and digital workspaces, making an organization’s workplace more difficult to secure for cybersecurity and information technology professionals. Then, you add worker devices and corporate policy into the mix. Another new acronym – BYOD, for bring your own device – is now a regular workplace policy. Suddenly, the worker’s device requires company asset tracking and management – at least from a patching and update perspective.

Management concerns of “is work really getting done?” can be offset with clear communication and proof of productive thinking and work product rendered by remote workers.

For individual remote-based workers, the perks can be difficult to realize with a clear conscience, at least initially.

In the first few weeks of the pandemic, I developed a few tips that I believe remain good advice:

  • Cook well, since you’re home. Weekday turkeys are possible. A bit of prep work, hours of unattended turkey roasting and an amazing dinner sits before the family. Add a side and a salad. All other sorts of weekday roasts are possible as well.
  • Your (former) commute time is now you time. Use it on a personal project or exercise. In St. Louis, my commute time totaled 1.5 hours a day. Work from home shortened that to under 50 steps each way.
  • Simple chores and personal thoughts aren’t multitasking. Combine that laundry with a work break and something personal to assess. Pacing works, too.
  • Focus on results. Remote work should be about results and not hours with the rear in a chair. Also, remind yourself to move. See the previous point about pacing. A walk’s a great break, too.
  • And the warning – monitor that internet piddling. It can be easy to lose track of time. By all means, take breaks, but you might want to use a timer.
  • After you say hello, turn off the camera. Your personal energy and attention increase when you can turn off the “artificial on” that a webcam can impose in a meeting session. Long online meetings can drain energy. Voice-only meetings with or without screen share can open collaboration.

Future
For many positions, work throughput and output are the deliverables, and everything else is peripheral. These positions favor remote work.

In tech, at least, WFH remains a very real and intentional thing. Job postings on LinkedIn tagged with the remote location frequently boast 1,000 or more applicants.

I recently reviewed a job description for a sales engineer in the U.S. working for a London-based organization. The benefits are built for a remote team, including equipping that home or co-working office.

Remote indeed.

Heather Noggle is owner of Codistac LLC. She can be reached at hnoggle@codistac.com.

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