Shifting Beliefs About Working From Home

The pandemic is changing long-held beliefs about work, and specifically beliefs about working from home. In an informal survey of knowledge workers conducted in early May, we found that 42% of respondents had shifted their opinion around whether people who work from home are as productive as those in the office. This is likely reinforced by their own performance; almost half of the respondents (48%) reported that their own productivity was at 100% or higher than it was before the office shut down.

The Covid-19 disruption has become a laboratory for employers and employees to test their assumptions about productivity, relationship-building, and results in a remote-work environment.

Here are some of the beliefs that likely underpin the current model of office work:

  • High-quality collaboration is only possible when we’re in the same room together
  • Productivity is a constant over the hours of 9 to 5, so we should all work those hours
  • I can’t trust my employees to do their work without supervision

Operating from those beliefs makes it nearly impossible to embrace a more flexible model of work.

On the other hand, if you believe that employees are intrinsically motivated, resourceful, and committed, where and when they work matters very little, other than matching up their collaborative hours with those of close teammates.

As data and anecdotes from the last several months pour in, many organizations are replacing those rigid, outdated beliefs with new ones. And with new beliefs, come new possibilities.

Many forward-thinking technology companies including Slack, Twitter, and Box have announced that working remotely will become their new normal. While some could argue that the work of these firms is fundamentally different from other kinds of knowledge work, we would contend that they are operating from a different set of beliefs about how to harness the energy and engagement of their employees.

The benefits of a flexible work model are numerous. It gives organizations access to a much more diverse talent pool than typically found in one metropolitan area. It lowers the travel and commute tax on employees, creating more opportunities to forge work-life balance. And most importantly, it enables employees to design a way of working that matches their individual best.

Before rushing back to the office and the feeling of normalcy it provides, take a moment to reconsider your assumptions about work. While some team members may be eagerly anticipating their return, others may have discovered a new and better way of working. We recommend convening a conversation with the team about the good and bad of a remote working model and what that means long-term for how you might choose to operate.

There are lessons to be learned in the experiment of the current moment. Don’t miss this opportunity to take a fresh look at how your team works and perhaps even shift some of your own beliefs.