Preserving balance during the remote working era

 A guest post from: Chad Bennett, Chief Human Resources Officer, Wrike


Whilst remote working isn’t an entirely foreign concept for many organisations, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has transformed it from a business perk to a necessity. In recent months, employees across the globe have been forced to adapt to an entirely new way of working. For many, living rooms and bedrooms have become temporary office spaces, meetings have become virtual and the daily commute is a distant memory.


This mass shift towards working from home is likely to continue to play a significant role as businesses transition to the ‘next normal’ phase. In fact, multiple organisations have already agreed that they will be encouraging more remote work regularly once the pandemic passes. Twitter, for example, has given employees the option of working from home indefinitely, following its success during lockdown.


But, while many employees are taking advantage of the flexibility that their new virtual workplaces provide, others are struggling to strike the right balance and separate the personal from the professional. With everything taking place under one roof, it’s never been more difficult – or more important – to set boundaries and ensure a healthy work-life balance.


With the number of full-time, office-based employees expected to decline following the pandemic, businesses need to ensure that their employees are equipped to handle the new remote working era. Whilst its important to put the technical tools in place that ensures employees can continue to do the jobs they would usually do in the office, so too is educating individuals and implementing support systems to help them maintain a healthy balance and stay connected to the organisation and their co-workers.


Establishing healthy boundaries


Establishing a healthy work-life balance has a direct impact on employee satisfaction, performance and productivity. In fact, recent research found that 24 percent of full-time workers believe that having a better work-life balance would help them feel engaged and likely leading to better business results as more engaged employees are more productive employees.


For many, working from an office environment makes separating home life and professional life easier, while many employees are always connected with technology today at least the barriers are physical and noticeable, with a car journey or train ride often sitting between both spaces.  When employees log off for the evening and head home, they have that time to power off and transition to focus more on their home life. But, when logging on from home day after day, without a commute and with no change of scenery from the previous evening, finding the appropriate balance can become a challenge.


When executed properly, remote working can drastically improve employee health and wellbeing. A well-curated daily schedule of work and personal time can help to reduce pressure and burnout. Less travel allows for more personal time, and in many cases can allow for the needed time to plan out your day and/or week. Rather than logging on early or signing off late, employees could use the time to do something they enjoy, whether that’s exercising, spending more focused time with their families, or getting extra sleep. Given that 29 percent of employees recently reported feeling disengaged at work as a result of feeling exhausted, working from home could be the answer we’ve been searching for.


Empowering communication and collaboration


Whilst some organisations may not be accustomed to virtual workplaces, that doesn’t mean that they can’t be just as successful as physical ones. In order to maintain productivity, guarantee effectiveness and limit overtime – employees need to feel as though they are still able to communicate and collaborate with team members and colleagues effectively.


Even prior to the coronavirus pandemic, employees acknowledged that a key part of boosting productivity was the ability to work effectively from anywhere. Forty percent also recognised good collaboration as one of the top three reasons they were engaged at work, especially since most jobs today require the reliance on teammates to accomplish goals and objectives.


Effective collaboration is reliant on employees being able to access the technologies that will enable them to do their jobs effectively, regardless of where they are based. While working from home is not necessarily a new trend, historically many organisations have not had the right tools in place to support a remote network of employees. Companies must therefore be aware of the productivity challenges employees are likely to face and offer support to counteract this.


By providing workforces with technologies that can help with allocating assignments and deadlines, in addition to balancing workloads, employers can steer clear from a decentralised workplace and limit overtime – helping employees to maintain a work-life balance, even when working from home.


Leading from the top


The current health crisis has forced organisations to explore a remote employee culture that predominantly promotes health and wellbeing over bottom lines. In order to help employees to establish a healthy work-life balance, leadership and HR teams must lead by example.


Understanding how to maintain work-life balance is all about observing habits and forming new ones. Paying attention to what is and isn’t working is a good place to start and HR teams can help members of their workforce experiment with perfecting their system.  Each employee is different and leadership should be prepared to have their teams have a variety of different systems that work for them.


It’s also crucial that staff are encouraged to take breaks, use their annual leave allowance, and power down at the end of the day, just as they would when working from the office.


In its early months, we not have anticipated that 2020 would be the year that organisations went completely remote, yet there are so many advantages of doing so. Not only may we see increased levels of productivity but this new way of working also opens the door to access new talent that may have been untapped before due to location restrictions based on office locations. Transitioning to a new way of working may have presented some initial challenges, but as long as organisations can ensure strong lines of communication and collaboration and help employees to strike up a healthy work-life balance the remote working future looks bright.