2020 has seen a dramatic increase in the number of people working from home.
And while the trend has certainly already been on the rise, there’s nothing like a pandemic to make working from home (or WFH, as we now love to call the practice) the new normal.
However, most businesses do envision a time (hopefully in the near future) when their employees will return to their offices full time and be able to interact safely and without social distancing measures in place.
When that day finally comes, it would be a shame if we missed our chance to revolutionize the workplace.
Let us examine some of the lessons we have learned and re-learned during lockdown, self-isolation, and working from home, that we can certainly implement once we return to the office:
Flexibility Is a Double-Edged Sword
One of the facets of working from home that is often hailed as its best feature is the potential for flexibility it offers.
And you can certainly organize your day any way you like when you don’t have to be straitjacketed into the 9-to-5. You can work when you are most productive – and if that happens to be late in the evening, you’ll love working from the peace of your home.
On the other hand – there is a clear downfall embedded in the option of flexibility: it also allows us to slack off. And we sometimes need to do proper battle with ourselves to sit down at the computer, as opposed to in front of the TV.
Once we return to the office, the benefits need to be taken into consideration – and employees should be allowed to work when they work best (whether that be at 5 AM or in the dead of night). Night owls have had to struggle to adapt to what the modern workforce has deemed the best time to work – now is the time to change that.
However, going back to the office will also provide the structure some of us need to get the job done. Perhaps working in the shifts that best suit each individual will be the solution? Or a WFH-WFO hybrid?
Distractions Can Be Eliminated
Another thing we learn fairly quickly when working from home is that distractions can be eliminated if we try hard enough.
And although the nature of these disruptions is varied at home and the office (kids, pets, and Netflix as opposed to social media, the news, coworkers, and the snack bar) – we can still resist.
For starters, limiting our own access to certain websites while we are at work can be of huge help. I use OffTime on my phone to keep me from checking my Instagram while I’m writing. It took me a surprisingly long time to get used to not reaching for it, even when I was certain I was super focused and productive.
Another great way to eliminate distractions is to rely on the Pomodoro technique. Personally, I’m not too fond of the 25-minute interval, so I do 35 minutes on, 10 minutes off, and you can tailor it to work for you. A great app to go with this on/off mindset is Kanban Flow. You will need some time to get used to it, so don’t give in to the initial frustration.
A Change of Scenery Is Always Welcome
While working from home during Covid has meant just that – working from your actual home, it has made us realize how important a change of space is for productivity and creativity.
At home, we can tackle the issue of boredom and sameness by moving from one area of our home to another. And while setting up a dedicated office space is certainly a great way to improve our output – sometimes we just need to move.
Personally, I tend to write at my desk, but then I move to the kitchen for my afternoon calls and meetings.
The same principle should be applied to the office. You don’t have to spend the entire day chained to your seat (neither should you). I’m not advocating for doing nothing – just moving around to boost your creative flow.
Maybe you would prefer to get some work done in the conference room? Maybe you can switch desks with a coworker every now and again? Maybe the company can come up with a way of facilitating different uses for different spaces?
The Tools You Use Matter
This was by far the most difficult lesson for me to learn. Let me explain why.
Our company has a set of tools they want us to use for all kinds of things: time tracking, video calls, project management, etc. However, I don’t actually like all of these tools, and it has taken me an age to figure out a way to become more organized with the tools I do enjoy.
I do still track everything I need to with the company tools – but I also have a personal set that is great for my personal productivity. I’ve already mentioned a couple, but let me add a few more recommendations:
For keeping track of anything and everything, I use Notion. My love of the app was actually sparked by this article – and then I also read this one, and I was sold. I highly recommend you read both in case you are unsure about the best way to tackle everything (and I do mean everything) with the app.
For video, chat, and everything else along the communication lines, I’ve defected from Zoom and moved to Lark. I find it’s a better interface, and it helps me be more cheerful in meetings.
I realized I also needed a PDF editor and tested out about a dozen online versions. I finally settled for PDFChef, as it’s less cumbersome, easier to use, and does not make my PDFs wonky.
And for my email, I use Boomerang – and it has made my daily inbox purge a lot less stressful. I handle 4 accounts (3 for work, 1 for personal), so I definitely needed something to help manage them all without causing me to send the wrong email to the wrong person from the wrong account at the wrong time.
Do We Need a Meeting for That?
Finally, working from home has certainly shown us that we don’t need to have a meeting for everything. And when I think of all the hours I’ve spent in meetings that could have been avoided and what I could have done with said time, I shudder.
Instead of the superfluous office meeting, we can brainstorm on our own, at our own pace, and at our own leisure. After all, who can ever be creative in a meeting?
We can then compile all the ideas that have been written down by each individual person and discuss them after everyone has had time to consider them.
This not only saves time – it will also set the stage for better results, as personal time for consideration is always more effective than a forced meeting when your mind is not really into the task at hand.
To Wrap It Up
The future of work is still a bit uncertain. Will we embrace working from home as the new normal, will we split our time between the office and our homes, or will we go back to the office full time, albeit at a different pace and with some more manageable expectations?
The future holds the key to that puzzle – but until the future becomes now, I hope you are enjoying your work today, whether you are tackling it from an office space or from the comfort of your favorite set of pajamas.
DepositPhotos – office working