Cramped Homes and Closed Offices? Here's How to Support Your Workforce

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Darren Murph
09/29/2020

Remote work vs wfh

Half a year in, walls seem to be closing in on many who have been thrust into their homes and asked to continue operating. The early adrenaline of sudden work-from-home — the abrupt loss of a commute, the added time with family, the enjoyment of casual everydays — is starting to wane. 

As reality sets in, leaders have a lot on their minds. Core to building remote fluency and embracing a more flexible future is the topic of workplace and workspace, along with new ways to support an office where everyone has a different address. 

Forced WFH Isn’t Remote Work

To preface, it’s vital to level set on terminology. What we’re experiencing now is not a global remote work experiment; in fact, it is neither remote work nor an experiment. 

Being forced to work from home during a pandemic restricts all but a handful of remote work benefits. Losing the commute and making synchronous meetings more human are two perks which are felt, but the heart of remote work — the freedom to choose where you work, the ability to weave life into your work schedule, the opportunity to optimize your life for something other than proximity to an office — remains squashed.

READ: Culture Looks Different on a Remote Team - Here's How to Build It

Particularly for leaders who survey their workforce to understand their perspective on remote work, be intentional about highlighting this reality. Make a concerted effort to untangle "remote work" from "crisis-induced work-from-home." In asking someone if they would prefer to remain remote forever, for example, it's important to clarify that remote is fundamentally different than working from home while quarantined. Many workers may need assistance to visualize a remote future which is liberating as opposed to isolating.

Embracing the Third Space

Not every home is amenable to remote work. Quarters may be close, high-speed broadband may be unavailable, and there may be other family members there throughout the day. On the other end of the traditional spectrum, many offices are closed for the foreseeable future. Plus, there's no guarantee your workforce will be comfortable returning to a very different, very distanced future office.

The third space solves this dilemma, while also creating a more inclusive atmosphere. The most progressive firms will support reimbursement for residential coworking spaces such as Codi and Switchyards, as well as more conventional Regus and WeWork offerings. Forcing employees to choose between what may be two suboptimal selections will hamper long-term productivity and morale. 

Codi, for instance, enables employers to activate communal spaces in neighborhoods where their employees already live. This allows your workforce to still physically collaborate together safely if they choose, while ditching their commute and supporting a neighborhood that matters to them. 

Spotlighting the Importance of Community 

If nothing else, this forced work-from-home phenomenon has shed light on the importance of community and relationships. As months drag on, even the most seasoned remote workers are beginning to feel the sting of isolation and quarantine. While some are clamoring for a return to the office, there’s a superior alternative. It’s likely that those who eagerly await an office’s reopening are actually craving something else: human connection.

Third spaces enable community involvement and connection in a way that an office cannot. When an employee is empowered to connect with those who live nearby, regardless of whether they are colleagues, there’s an intangible boost of connection that fuels contentment, creativity, and overall satisfaction. 

Some may find that a mix of WFH, communal workspace, and in-office collaboration suits their style. These discussions aren’t zero-sum, and it’s important to not view options as us versus them. Leaders have an opportunity to support a more inclusive array of workspace options than before the pandemic, providing innovative ways to foster in-person engagements while reducing or repurposing costly office space.  

Photo Courtesy of Pexels

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