The number of salaried employees working from home has never been higher. Google has announced it will let employees work from home until the end of the year. The same is true for most of Facebook’s workforce. If it’s possible to allow employees to work from home, many of the big tech giants are doing it, as are a number of other white-collar organizations, including Capital One.
Many of our colleagues in the HR community are doing it as well. Often, we’re the bridge builders between workforce and workplace — whether we’re on the recruiting or the management side of things. Our roles often involve ensuring employees are able to work productively, safely and if possible, enjoyably. But the question is: Are we able to do that ourselves?
So we reached out to get some intel on how our colleagues in HR are coping with working from home (WFH). HR practitioners have a unique perspective. What we learned is that working from home for this cohort is a mixed bag. For those already used to working remotely, this moment in time of working from home is an entirely different experience. Factor in the additional disruptions — a full house under orders to stay put, new responsibilities that reflect the full impact of the pandemic, and the disembodiment of virtual connection — and some are less enthusiastic. Yet for others, this change presents opportunities to pivot to roles that better meet pressing needs, recalibrate a career that has been racing at high speed and spend more time with the kids.
The bottom line: we’re finding ingenious ways to sustain ourselves, we’re finding the silver linings and we’re even finding meaning in today’s realities with regard to implications for the future.
Here’s what some of our colleagues had to say about working remotely — whether from their headquarters in the basement, attic, kitchen, dining room, living room or back deck:
Slower Pace, Longer Days
“I am not rushing as much as I used to,” said Rachel Weeks, the marketing leader, team builder and brand amplifier for Reward Gateway. “I was always rushing to work, rushing to the next meeting, rushing to get home, rushing to get kids to activities. While I am starting earlier and ending later, I am taking time during the day for a little self-care and not worrying that I am supposed to be someplace else.”
“There's definitely a balance of benefits and challenges,” noted Mary Sweeney, an online career counselor at Boise State University. “Benefits: a much more flexible schedule, more productive because of fewer distractions, and my dog is my coworker. Challenges: finding a routine, missing coworker conversation and a lack of face-to-face connection with the campus, students and staff.”
Confronting COVID-19’s Impact
“I work for an essential services employer that supplies products to hospitals,” said Daryl Grayer, PHR, an HR manager for Shaw Industries. “The experience is rough as I try to parent and school our four-year-old and work simultaneously; [there’s] a lot of push-pull with my time. Also, my responsibilities at work right now mostly consist of COVID-19 tracking/tracing and unemployment claims filing and follow-up.”
Too Much Isolation
“Honestly, I detest WFH! Totally not my cup of tea at all!” said Teresa Bustamante, an executive sourcer and recruiter. “I miss the camaraderie of a team and workplace relationships.”
Chad Fife, Vice President of Marketing at Talview, concurred: “Office life has a great flow to it, and I miss the unexpected conversations that bring teams closer.” He also notes that, “I think remote work requires more discipline for some, while for others it's a joy to work ‘when creativity strikes.’ I'm a little of both.”
More Time With the Kids
Fife added that he appreciates “that I can talk to my teenage kids or take a mental break for 30 minutes in the afternoon and still have time to work a little later.” Others also relayed their thoughts on spending more time with their children — for better or worse. Kristen Harcourt, an executive coach and professional speaker, had already been working at home before COVID-19, but, “Working remotely during this pandemic has been a huge adjustment! In this new version, I have my 7- and 10-year-old at home who need a lot of assistance with their schoolwork, as well as mental, physical and emotional support. I go from working with clients to working with my kids throughout the day, so there is no transition time.”
Flexing to New Realities
Many spoke about the need to manage their expectations, and as Harcourt put it — “ have a lot of compassion and grace with myself and others.” But in some cases, the adjustments we’re making extend beyond our own attitudes and behaviors, to our business models. As Ken Byler, owner of Higher Ground Consulting Group, explained, “[I] used the time to pivot my consulting practice business model to more virtual delivery of coaching and learning.” He’s also gone through a website redesign and rebranding, and has begun to offer “complimentary coaching for clients as needed.”
And, he’s just one example of people being flexible enough to seize the moment and better accommodate the changes — not just now, but going forward. “I have always felt remote working is the future of work and the COVID-19 pandemic has really emphasized that,” said consultant Valerie Martinelli.
Given that we’re still grappling with the effects of COVID-19, remote work — where possible — isn’t going away. One factor in getting early hires or new hires more comfortable with the arrangement may be to team them up with WFH veterans, such as the HR pros we talked to. As I see it, mentoring to boost the skills and best behaviors for remote working may begin trending — very soon.