So Now You're Working At Home (Part 2)
Posted by Charlie Recksieck
and Laura Goodsell
How It Changes Your Life, Your Business & Society
Difference Between Working-At-Home and Telecommuniting
So far we’ve been using the terms somewhat interchangeably. But for the record, "telecommuting" is when you do have a job for a company at a central location, but your job can still be done at home. "Working at home" is more for freelancers, subcontractors, small business owners and contractors who have no central office and do all of their work out of their house (or a Starbucks).
Now that’s out of the way, on with the article ...
How This Affects You & Your Work
For starters, the time saved is going to be incredible. Not only will you eliminate your commuting hours but lots of other subtle time savings add up: no office chit-chat, less time spent on personal and professional appearance, commute-within-a-commute going to lunch. This isn't scientific but we predict that by Noon or 1ph working at home, you will produce the same amount of work in 4-5 hours that takes 8 hours in the workplace. (Your mileage may vary, we would LOVE to hear your experience.)
Financially, you are going to save on gas, car wear-and-tear, dry cleaning expenses and lunches. We broke this down in a previous telecommuting blog post but your savings should be somewhere between $2000-4000 over the course of a full year of home-sourced work vs. going into the office.
Folks no longer commuting normally also feel a decrease in stress. This New York Times article features some amazing statistics and observations about the psychological value of breaking out of the commute. That said, dealing with a global pandemic puts that stress back on - and more. But at least the commute won’t be the problem.
Working at home provides great freedom in your work-life balance ... and you’re gonna need that flexibility to get through the coronavirus and precautions. But it may take a while to settle into good time-management practices (see Part 1).
It's possible that you might have some trouble getting necessary answers from coworkers or clients working remotely. You'll have to perhaps schedule mini meetings or appointments for things you would have normally just yelled over a cubicle wall at work. Oh, did we mention, no more cubicles?
How This Affects Your Company
Supervision gets tougher when workers are not in the same room. This is (or is not) a problem to the extent that your work is quantifiable. If your work can be objectively measured, then there should be no problem supervising your work remotely. But if your work is more abstract - like strategic marketing, public relations or (ironically) managing employees, then it can be harder to have your supervisor trust you.
Bosses' approaches can frequently vary. Personally, I've anecdotally observed that managers who are the most suspicious of employees are the ones who would themselves goof off, given the chance.
Good supervisors (and employees) operate best when there is a lot of trust, but also in situations where manager and worker have both set concrete goals for what's expected that day, that week and over the long haul.
Also, employers may notice that they can save money with telecommuters. Studies have shown that companies save $11,000 a year just for each employee who works from home even half-time. Those savings might not be apparent in March 2020 but if social distancing continues to be the norm, companies are going to sit up and take notice.
How COVID-19 Social Distancing May Affect Us Longterm
When it comes to what long-term societal and workplace changes are going to happen in 2020 as a result of developments in how civilization deals with COVID-19, predicting things on a big-picture level could be foolhardy while things are rapidly evolving by-the-hour.
That said, a likely result will be that once employers have been forced to trust their employees and get better at setting expectations, they will see positive results. Over time, it's likely that corporate suspicions that "while the cat's away, the mice will play" will be up ended, leading to more permanent flexibility for workers.
Conferences have been cancelled or indefinitely postponed in 2020. Some of these are being replaced by virtual conferences. Our suspicion is that these new versions of conferences will succeed surprisingly well - meaning that the conference and corporate travel industries may take a hit, but both new online conferences with thrive, along with employee education.
If this all leads to less commuting, it could go a long way towards reducing global fuel consumption and the $100 billion in U.S. wasted fuel and time costs of commuters.
Lastly, without getting too philosophical, even though the pandemic likely will get worse before it gets better, it hopefully brings us all closer. And it does seem like a real byproduct of this experience is that we all continue to realize and remember more often how we are all interconnected. That can’t be a bad thing.
OK, that's all of the home-sourced knowledge we can think of to offload to you.
As far as working goes: set goals and communicate clearly with colleagues and you should be fine. On a more human level, stay safe and healthy!
Again, let us know how you're doing at home - or send us some other tips we have missed.