Working from Home- Before, After, and During COVID-19

by May 6, 2020Blog, Professional Development, Team 30 Lines

For many of us, working out of our living rooms has been unchartered territory, but at 30 Lines we have been doing this for a while.  “Normal” work environments are being redefined and the way that we connect, work, and relate to one another is changing daily. Adapting to the rapid changes in human connection and efficiency through flexibility in the workplace will be essential in moving forward. As employers, we have our own perspective on how and how Work from Home (WFH) should be implemented and why it’s important. In this piece, our Digital Marketing Account Manager, Chelsea Caslow, shares how and why it is important to her.

How and why 30 Lines was working from home before the pandemic

When I was looking to start a new chapter in my career, what drew me to 30 Lines was the trust that the company projected through its flexible workplace policies. Understanding that everyone on the team works differently was a unique approach at the time. Knowing that some thrive in an office environment, others at the coffee shop, or in the comfort of their home attracted me to the opportunity. But, above all else, 30 Lines values time. Some of my best work is completed after evening bed-time stories. By encouraging the team to take the time they need for personal care, travel, family, or illness illustrates that my employer cares about my priorities and values me. 

As a team member, I found that 30 Lines was great about communicating the importance of these elements when it came to Working From Home:

Trust

Trust is a big deal.  When your employer knows that you will produce high-quality work no matter your location, you feel trusted and respected.  In an effort to preserve this trust,  I have found that it is a two-way street; employees will make an additional effort to be communicative and thorough just as much as their employer. Offering remote work as a benefit shows the team that there is respect for their ability to manage time and tasks. When an employer respects a team member’s responsibilities outside of the workplace, they feel you value the things that they value.  It can be tempting to micro-manage tasks when your team is remote, but this leads to a frustrating experience for employees. Instead, set up regular check-ins and leverage tools to keep communication fluid. Trust is built on communication. Lack of communication is the seed that blossoms into a lack of trust.

Balance

In recent years, people have thrown Work-Life Balance to the wayside in favor of other terms such as Work-Life Integration, or Work-Life Harmony. For me, I believe in having a balance between the two. And as a busy professional with two young children, work-life balance isn’t a perk. It is a requirement.   I know I am not alone; working parents throughout the country are feeling this today more than ever.  As governments begin to slowly lift restrictions and people return to the workplace, it is important to be mindful that many of your employees are still acting as parents and teachers while still balancing a full workload.  Due to school closures and limited options for childcare,  it may not be feasible for working parents to physically be in the office every day. And it’s worth mentioning this is not a small segment of the working community.  In 2019 according to the US Bureau of labor statistics, 91.3 percent of American families had at least one employed parent and among married couples 64.2 percent had both parents employed. 

 It is important to keep this in mind while we navigate the pandemic as well as when we are not.  Once the world returns to normal in-office practices, consider allowing the opportunity for remote work and increased flexibility. This perk will be invaluable to working parents like myself. 

It’s also important for employers to empathize and acknowledge this struggle for balance. For example, if your working parent has to duck out for a soccer game, ask them to report back on goals scored.  These moments matter to your employees and because your employees matter to you, these moments are worth a high level of flexibility and support.  

Output

COVID-19 has created a dramatic disruption to workplaces globally.  The workforce has shifted and adapted while the expectations for output and contribution have in many cases remained steady.  Remote-enabled teams have been able to continue work despite changes to their physical workplace.  Although we have been on the brink of the 4th industrial revolution for years, COVID-19 may be the tipping point for many employers.  Unlike preceding revolutions, the fourth industrial revolution is about historical unconventional connectivity and intelligence and the recent pandemic has accelerated that.  Great work is not often measured by hours contributed or the physical space in which a project was completed.  The recent disturbance to traditional in-office workflow is the perfect opportunity to evaluate your staff on their actual output and quality of work from a remote location.  

A Transparent Look Into Our Remote Work Policy

When I started at 30 Lines, the team was strongly encouraged to work from home one day a week.  The approach was simple; put it on the team calendar, communicate with your team, be available and online, and make sure that your supervisor knows when you intend to work remotely.  From an employee perspective, this is reasonable, simple, easily communicated, and highly visible to my team.

I have found that communication and set-up are requirements for success.  Responsiveness is not an option, it is required.  Our team is expected to be online and available to answer questions during normal business hours.  In an effort to be fair to my team and my clients, setting up a dedicated workspace was critical.  The environment must be quiet and non-disruptive for success.  Make sure you have the right tools in your remote workspace.  Personally, I attempt to replicate the office with a strong wifi connection, my laptop, a second screen, and great coffee.

Once the 30 Lines team became comfortable with this policy I noticed that many of us, myself included, were actually more productive when working from home.  Not only was I cutting out my daily commute, I was able to have focused, uninterrupted time to tackle my daily tasks.

As a result of the high level of attentiveness, productivity, and respect for the policy, we adjusted to an unlimited remote work policy prior to COVID-19.  Team members began working from cool places like Austin, Cleveland, Seattle, and Chicago. Our team has been able to enjoy their adventures and still smash deadlines. Remote work is the perk I cherish the most.  I am able to be present when my family needs me, I save money by not commuting, I can work outside, or comfortably travel.  Before shelter in place orders, several 30 Lines employees worked remotely full time. Our team is empowered to make big life moves if the time is right.   Additionally, we are able to hire from the world’s best talent pool.  30 Lines is based in Columbus, OH but by not requiring in-office work, our company doors are open to the most talented prospects in the world.

What happens when someone is misusing WFH?

It’s evident to see when WFH is not being used properly by a team member. They’re unavailable, the quality of work is not standard, and deadlines aren’t being hit. In the rare case when this happens, our leadership team reacts to this in the same way that they would if the team member was misusing any benefit through recalibrating expectations and assuring the team member is aware of them. 30 Lines expects the highest level of communication in and out of the office, and working from home does not allow for any exceptions.  As a team member, I appreciate this expectation as it ensures that the team is constantly working collaboratively and respectfully and we are all held to the same standard. 

How can you implement WFH as your team begins to return to the office?

Begin by being understanding.  As governments start to lift restrictions and the professional workforce moves back to in-office work, be aware that this may be uncomfortable for your team. Going from quarantine to a group setting of any kind will be unsettling and distressing.  This is the perfect opportunity to announce a newly established WFH policy that can work for your team in the long term.  Regardless of how your team returns, regardless of pace, they should feel supported.  Your company’s flexibility will be crucial at this time.  Reiterate the trust that has been built over this difficult period, remind your team that you value balancing this transition, and continue to expect consistent and quality output.

Working remotely should be designed to meet the specific needs of your company.  Carve out best practices around times that require the team to be in office as well those that do not.  When attending meetings determine when to utilize video conferencing versus a  phone call.  Create “rules” or ways to indicate that you intend to implement work from home and check-in policies.  Determine when or if it makes sense for your team to leverage this perk and be thorough when laying out the expectations that you have for your team when working from home.  Most importantly, communicate your intentions about remote work transparently.  

If you’re an employer, I encourage you to embrace this opportunity and adjust your benefits to include remote work benefits.  Your team members will thank you and their work will show it. I believe that remote empowerment and connectivity is the way of the future.  It is pertinent that the movers and shakers of modern industry adopt remote work practices for the long haul.  

If your organization is trying to figure out how to transition to remote work and would like to learn more about how 30 Lines has empowered our team to work remotely, drop us a line.  

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