This is part one of Nicole Pedersen-McKinnon’s strategy to making working from home WORK for you. Read part two: The expert's tips to working from home, tomorrow.
I am roughly seven years ahead of the great-resignation-and-relocation curve. That’s how long I was working from home before the pandemic thrust us all, en masse, into a huge employment experiment.
Pretty much everyone now knows there are a lot of advantages… working in your activewear/pyjamas/kids’ art smock while you dye your hair on column deadline (shhh).
And my favourite: stunning lunchtime runs.
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There sure is a sense that you are in control of your own life and time.
Cutting out the commute wins back serious time, too.
But it’s very possible you have surrendered it swiftly in extra hours.
Working on your own turf doesn’t always mean on your own terms, particularly if you work for a d*ckhead boss.
Or, worse, if that ‘d*ckhead’ is yourself.
Though you may no longer have to wear marathon in-the-office hours like a badge of honour, if that was a thing in your industry, it’s possible there now seems too much to do to switch off to your employer and turn on Netflix.
But one of the positive changes, besides all knowing how to avoid Zoom/video embarrassment, is that we’ve been able to stop pretending we don’t have personal lives.
Let me share…
The way it ‘worked’ pre-COVID
In the halcyon days before COVID had hit our consciousness, while ‘working from home’ I took a call from the federal government’s head of financial literacy for Australia. Literally for the whole country.
I was, in fact, at Woolworths.
He was phoning to ask – no less – whether I would MC a special Parliamentary breakfast to update our MPs on the nation’s financial literacy progress, at Canberra Parliament House, where I would introduce the head of the Australian Government Financial Literacy Board, the gorgeous Paul Clitheroe, and the then-chairman of the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC).
Oh, and the Federal finance minister and the governor of the Reserve Bank.
Me: “I’ve just stepped away from my desk but this sounds like an invaluable initiative.”
The supermarket’s shift supervisor: “Price check aisle five!”
Beep. Beep. Beep.
As the phone call ended, I mercifully managed to catch the tipping trolley that was about to land on my four-year-old as she executed acrobatics off it to win back my attention.
Sound – in some ways – familiar?
But let’s fast forward to the dramatic change in 2020, in the mass, snap lockdown and deep into homeschooling…
The way working changed for the better
Another personal example illustrates the new-and-very-different normal.
In lockdown, I called up the communications department of a bank that was being – very – bad and put on my I’m-a-hard-nosed journalist hat.
I was, in reality, wearing a running visor.
“What do you say to accusations of XYZ. I’ll need a response by two o’clock to include it in my expose,” I said.
Then, because there was no mistaking it: “Sorry, I can’t hear you over my children – we are on a lunchtime bike ride.”
And the press officer’s response?
“I’ll get that to you swiftly. Just as soon as we get back from the park.”
No pretence anymore. Just acceptance.
And it was instantly equalising and humanising in an uncomfortable, imbalanced interaction.
The sudden freedom to be ‘you’ has also, in many cases, promoted shock productivity results.
For example, a Stanford University study involving a 16,000-person travel agency call centre has found a more convenient and comfortable working environment delivered a 13 per cent immediate increase on performance, with fewer breaks and sick days.
Over the long term, the performance lift was 22 per cent.
But experts say that our surprising new efficiency has come at a new potential personal cost…
How to make working-from-home keep working
Workplace relations expert and author of Negotiate Your Worth Sam Trattles thinks the cost of working from home has been human connection.
I’d attest to that. It can be lonely, right?
And that speaks to job satisfaction at the almost-three-year point for most – and continuing to make the more-independent experience enjoyable.
Even more crucial, though, is that exact connection elicits future workplace wins, including promotions and pay rises.
A Forbes magazine study on the pandemic working conditions found: “The most significant factor that impacts both satisfaction in working from home and engagement, is the extent to which people feel they have a secure positive connection with their supervisor.”
Of respondents who reported a “strong positive connection”, 90 per cent were highly engaged with the new environment. Of those who “strongly disagreed”, only 42 per cent were.
I’d love to hear your own experiences of working from home. Do you enjoy it? Is your company intending to let you keep doing it?
Much like for some after homeschooling, many workers don’t ever want to go back to the premises.
Read Part 2 of this column – “Making work from home still work – for everyone” – tomorrow.
Because it’s very possible that, almost three years in and as the COVID years fade as if a dream, you need to change a few things to keep working from home sustainable and valuable – and to even to be permitted.