How to deal with the good and bad effects of remote work

The Nice Wait. That is what business observers have been calling the current period of uncertainty as workers who had been trying ahead to going again into the workplace have gone again to ready for employers to resume their canceled back-to-office plans. Whereas canceling these plans was a smart precaution, it’s, sadly, including to some of the unfavorable effects that just about two years of working remotely has had on many workers’ psychological states. Worker morale is low, burnout continues to be an issue, and persons are nonetheless quitting their jobs in report numbers.

In fact, no chief needs to have their staff undergo from low morale and vitality, particularly because it’s extensively understood that this negatively impacts job efficiency and productiveness. Being away from coworkers, and the social assist {that a} office neighborhood can supply, for thus lengthy is a large half of the trigger for low worker morale. However there have additionally been some good effects due to a lot time away from the workplace. Understanding how this era has had each good and bad effects on workers will allow leaders to take steps to maximize the useful effects of the good whereas minimizing the unfavorable effects of the bad. In actual fact, the bad can be utilized for useful effects as properly.

Anticipated challenges, surprising advantages

Spending a lot time at dwelling has allowed many individuals to uncover new interests and new passions. Many additionally discovered themselves wanting to learn new skills, and some of them could have been lucky sufficient to start doing so. This sort of newfound self-awareness and readability could be of super worth at work if employers can faucet into it—for instance, by working carefully with workers to develop or change their present roles to capitalize on new pursuits or abilities.

On the draw back, depriving individuals of the necessary social connections and assist they used to get at work has additionally contributed to a lot of the low morale, low motivation, low engagement, and burnout that we’ve been seeing. The most typical assumption about burnout is that it’s attributable to overwork or poor work/life stability. That’s positively half of it. However not having the ability to see their colleagues in individual for thus lengthy, and the resulting isolation and loneliness, has additionally been a significant trigger of burnout and low morale. However what this additionally means is that when colleagues ultimately do get again collectively, there can be magic. 

One other outcome of working from house is that it’s led many workers to understand what wasn’t working for them. In actual fact, that is half of the cause for the Nice Resignation. Employees are leaving as a result of they’ve concluded that their jobs can’t present them with what they want anymore, whether or not that’s extra flexibility, a change in working circumstances, or totally different roles and duties.

This looks like a “bad” impact, but it surely’s solely unfavorable on the floor. Hidden inside is a chance. Not solely are there methods to forestall staff from leaving, however in the course of, you may as well enhance your group on a number of ranges. For instance, if an worker is wanting a change, this might be an opportunity to discover micro-growth alternatives for that worker. As an alternative of a “my means or the freeway” situation, leaders and workers can work collectively to discover options. 

Harnessing the surge in inventive vitality

Fortuitously, working collectively to discover options can occur on a company-wide scale. What’s extra, each the good and bad effects of working remotely for thus lengthy can be utilized in constructive methods to enhance the firm. The secret is the aforementioned readability and self-awareness that workers have gained, whether or not that’s the “good” readability of new pursuits and abilities or the “bad” readability of realizing what isn’t working for them anymore. And there’s no higher means to achieve insights than by taking benefit of one thing that may occur whenever you deliver your workers again collectively, now or in the future. 

When individuals collect after being away from one another for a very long time, there’s a pure surge of inventive vitality. That is the “magic” that can lead to a treasure trove of new concepts. Nevertheless it wants to be actively tapped. Precisely how can differ relying on the firm and whether or not individuals have already returned to the bodily office or not. Listed here are some concepts primarily based on my expertise working with organizations.   

First, for organizations which have already returned to the office, absolutely or partially, or are planning to achieve this quickly, there’s a golden however restricted window of alternative proper now. The vitality created by individuals coming again collectively will ultimately degree off as soon as workers adapt to being again in the workplace. As an alternative of losing this window of alternative with, say, boring conferences that would simply be achieved over Zoom, harvest that non permanent spike of vitality with inventive brainstorming and ideation workshops.

Masking the wall with Publish-it notes

One of my favorite workshops I facilitate is one the place I’ve workers brainstorm and anonymously jot down work-related concepts and opinions on Publish-it notes, utilizing a separate observe for every thought. I ask them to embrace any and all concepts for a way to make the firm higher. These can embrace concepts about the firm’s services or products, but in addition contains concepts for a way to enhance the office itself through insurance policies, buildings, office tradition, COVID-related points, something. We stick these on the wall and group them into classes.

All through all of it, I reassure workers that it is a protected house since they gained’t share their trustworthy concepts in the event that they’re nervous about getting disciplined for saying the fallacious factor. I additionally remind leaders that they are going to be finest positioned to actually enhance their group if they will welcome even the concepts and opinions that appear crucial or unfavorable. Combining the “good” and “bad” readability that workers have gained with the surge of inventive vitality individuals have when coming again collectively can be super. With the proper of workshop facilitator, you should have extra concepts than you already know what to do with.   

Should you’re one of the leaders who canceled your return-to-office plans and don’t know whenever you’ll reinstate them, you don’t have to wait to take benefit of the type of vitality I’m speaking about. You possibly can create related alternatives in the brief time period by bringing in small teams of individuals for one-shot thought periods. Make these optionally available and pressure-free in order that solely those that genuinely need to are available in will achieve this, and of course, be utterly transparent and ultra-communicative about all the things you’ll do to shield their well being and security. Whereas these smaller, one-shot periods could not end in the type of explosive inventive vitality you would possibly see in a company-wide return to the workplace, you’ll nonetheless have the option to faucet into helpful concepts. Plus, these periods would have the additional advantage of injecting a bit of morale into your workers to assist them get by means of the the rest of the Nice Wait.     

Navigating the unsure and the unknown

Whether or not you’ve gotten already introduced your workforce again into the workplace, are in the course of of doing so, or are inviting small teams of workers in for one-shot brainstorming periods, one other necessary level is to navigate what’s and can be okay in phrases of non-verbal communication and conduct. There’s a vast, unsure spectrum of what persons are at the moment snug with in phrases of private house, handshakes, hugs, or fist-bumping. Don’t make informal assumptions about what individuals can be okay with. Once more, frequent and transparent communication can be key.

There are additionally some unknowns that nobody is aware of the full reply to at the second. For instance, what about absolutely remote workers? Will they be unavoidably excluded from the magic of in-person workplace reunions? Or are there methods to get them swept up in that tidal wave of inventive vitality as properly? And looking out additional past, simply how will leaders handle all the ins-and-out of working and successfully communicating in a hybrid environment?

What is evident, nevertheless, is that in the end many workers will return to their places of work, and that may present leaders with a possibility to take each the good and the bad of this era and flip all of it into good. And the extra good is created general, the extra all workers—in-person, remote, and hybrid—and their organizations can profit. 


Dustin York, PhD is an affiliate professor of communication at Maryville University.