Working From Home, Skeptics See the Light

In an NBC News/Wall Street Journal Poll published on April 19, 2020 seventy-seven percent of the respondents felt that the coronavirus has changed their life  in a “very major” or “fairly major “ way  versus only twenty-six percent responding that way in the previous month’s survey. One of the life-changing elements the poll measured was the impact of job-related changes driven by the coronavirus. The top-rated impact named by almost one-third of the respondents was, “My workplace has moved to telework or work from home situation.”

Numerous articles have approached this massive shift of work from an office environment to an at-home setting with advice on overcoming the negative aspects. For example, Forbes’ Tracy Brower provides advice on navigating this new terrain with insights on how to avoid at-home distractions and how to minimize exhaustion driven by the multiple points of family friction in working from a spare bedroom or basement “office.”

But surprisingly, many older executive, professional and managerial people who have previously never considered working from home as a viable alternative for their organizations are now becoming supporters, or at least partial advocates.

Most of the mid-to-upper-management professionals with at least 20 years’ work-experience responding  in an informal poll by MRINetwork recruiters and talent advisors had good things to say about the lessons they are learning as they have their first extended — although not voluntary — taste of working from home.

Most of the comments focused on the relative ease of adopting new communication technologies like Zoom. “I never had patience wrestling with video conferencing technology in the past. Now that I am forced to sink or swim, I found the tools to be easy, intuitive, and effective,” noted a banking executive. Others saw lifestyle improvements that didn’t come at a cost to efficiency: “I have commuted from Connecticut to Manhattan virtually every day of my working career and viewed that investment in time and expense as the price to pay to be an effective leader in creating and maintaining a thriving office environment,” commented a senior communications manager. “But I’m finding virtually no negative impact on team productivity in the enforced stay-at-home atmosphere. I thought I needed that daily face-to-face time with subordinates to drive results — not true!”

Over thirty percent of these seasoned managers surveyed indicated an openness to reconsidering long held and somewhat negative views on working from home. The consensus of MRINetwork talent advisors is an expectation of increased deployment of telecommuting-friendly office environments as their clients return to a “new normal” post coronavirus.

Patrick Convery, MRI’s Sr. Marketing Manager, recommends three essential steps for any senior manager to take as they bring their new enthusiasm for telecommuting into the post-virus workplace:

1. Continue to explore new tools. Look at products like Zoom as an appetizer. Empower your IT team to source, test and deploy the best of a floodgate of new user-intuitive solutions that will offer improved connectivity. You emerged as a confident video user, now push the envelope to incorporate the best of the best.

2. Don’t change your standards. Whether working at home or in an office cubicle, your team should be held to the same standards. Work hard, stay focused, deliver what you promise, leverage your teammates to drive results. These two worlds can co-exist

3. Put those “free hours” to work. If you work from home twice a week, you could easily generate 4 to 8 new hours uncluttered with the hassles of commuting. Don’t use them to sleepin or to enjoy that glass of wine at 5pm. Respond to your emails at 5:30 am or pm orconsider a conference call with colleagues or your team at 7:30 am when everyone is up, dressed and focused on-line versus driving down a crowded freeway.

Although the coronavirus will eventually pass, practices such as widespread working from home are likely to linger and prove effective. Think back to the 1990s when companies relaxed their dress codes to attract IT professionals and never went back to their old standards. Telecommuting is quite likely to follow the same pattern.