Nowadays more and more companies offer the possibility of Home Office (HO or Working from Home, WFH) to their employees. With this they can help the employees to have a more healthy work-life balance in an easier way which attract the talents to them.
As a first impression, we can believe that WFH is something that can only be beneficial for us. But this is definitely not the case.
The good type of WFH
Let’s say that you are working in a team, in a regular office environment and you are offered weekly 1-2 days of WFH. This is great!
On those 3 days, when you are in the office, you can meet your team members, your line manager, your work friends. You can build relationship with them, real trust, you can have real-life experiences with them. Also, when you are physically in the office, you can meet your stakeholders face to face, which helps you on the long run in your daily work. You can socialise with your colleagues, build a real team at your workplace. You can basically have the feeling of ‘belonging’, being with them at the same time at the same place – at least some days per week.
On those other 2 days of the week, when you are WFH, first of all you can save the time of travelling to the office. You can sleep more or do your errands during that time instead. Also, during the day, you might have less distraction from your colleagues who will not ask you to go with them for a coffee for example. However, at the same time you can have other types of distractions at your home, about which you might want to be very conscious not to make you less effective from the work perspective.
The tricky type of WFH
I deliberately don’t call it the ‘bad’ type of WFH, as all depends on the efforts we make in our own lives.
However, let’s imagine, that you work for a company in your town but actually you work in a virtual team. Your team mates are all around the country/continent or the globe, you have only a few contacts in the actual office of the company. Therefore, there is no real point in going physically to the office regularly, you can do your whole work from home, as much as you want.
And this is the tricky part. Working from home as a default setup sounds fantastic for the first sight. But it can make you extremely isolated on the long run. Belonging is one of the basic human needs and it suffers big time in this case.
Your virtual team can provide you some of this feeling, however, if you barely meet them in person, no matter how much you talk on the phone, Skype, videochat, it will never be the same. You will always feel the distance that is between yourselves. In addition to this, if you have no people you know in the actual office, it can also increase your isolation from the outer world and from real human contact.
The information technology offers many opportunities to keep in touch with people from all over the world, at any time. But in my opinion the virtual connections will never be able to replace the real human connections in one hundred percent. How much better it is, when you are in the same meeting room with someone or you go for a coffee break with them and you can look in the eyes, feel their real energy and share some real together-time – compared to working with someone whom you have never met in person. Right?
Constantly working from home and in a completely virtual team takes away the real human connection from you and your colleagues as well.
What can you do in this case then to yet decrease your feeling of being isolated from the people?
Here are some examples that come into my mind.
Some solution ideas:
1. Have regular team meetings/team building activities where you can meet in person. This can build the real bridge and help you to really get to know your team mates.
2. Go to the office when you have meetings with people from there. Make good use of these occasions for you own self as well!
3. Join sub-groups within the company. In big companies there are many of these groups where you have all the chance to meet new people. These can be organised around sports, charity, specific network groups, etc.
4. Attend the company events. It can either be a Christmas party, an informal summer evening gathering or anything else. Here you can also meet people from other departments, teams and socialise with them. To increase both your work and private network nothing is better than an informal event with you colleagues.
5. Be open! I believe that this is the most important of all. You can build relationships with your colleagues at any place and any time. Even in the office kitchen, while waiting for the water to boil, by the photocopy machine while trying to find out how it works. Options are limitless. It all depends on how open you are to talk to people, listen to them and build rapport on the long run.
As a closing thought: make good use of the virtual technology given opportunities but keep the real human connection in mind as much as you can!