Navigating The Work-From-Home Culture

While work-from-home options have been with us for some time, the past few years have brought the discussion front and center for every company, large or small. Even now, the echoes of our abrupt paradigm shift to a predominately remote workforce are still with us. How does it apply to your company today?

remote work transition

As with every cloud, there is a silver lining. Chances are, the necessities of working in a virtual world drove the creation of workflows and technology that enabled your business functions to continue in the chaos. Here at Grapevine, we have been working virtually (partial or fully remote) for over a decade. There are definite pros and cons, depending on your business model. Even now, many companies are struggling with the question of “what now?” Do you continue with a largely remote workforce, or do you come back to your brick and mortar roots? Here are some insights from our own experience and work with a variety of clients from across industries.

Think of the current period as a clean slate, an opportunity to weigh pros and cons of remote vs. on-site business operations. Examine your business efficiencies and bottom line, allowing for any ramp up time to convert workers and operations to a remote configuration. What works better for your company? What suffers? What is essentially a neutral? Dig down to the specific positions and their role within the company. Some may lend themselves easily to remote work. Others, especially more customer-facing or collaborative, may be more challenged.

It’s also important to look at what’s changed in your business set up. Do you still maintain office space? If not, what will it take for you to re-establish a physical presence? Generally speaking, virtual operations don’t carry the costs or overhead, so it will be important to weigh these carefully.

Then consider your employees. You may think you have a clear picture, but the perspective from their vantage point will likely provide insight you may find extremely helpful.  A great beginning point here is to ask for their thoughts and perspective on what they think is working, what isn’t working, and why. 

Also, bear in mind that not all employees come with the same skill sets or motivations. While remote work may actually increase efficiency and productivity for some, others may find it more challenging and demotivating. How do you want to address this? One possibility is to have a range of options for employees from fully remote to spending some days onsite to fully onsite. This can be by position, or seniority, or could be offered as an option subject to certain performance provisions.

There are no “right” or “wrong” answers here, but given our remote capabilities, this is an opportunity to affirmatively weigh company and worker needs to arrive at operational solutions that make sense given all the variables. And of course, nothing is set in stone. It is perfectly understandable to try something and subsequently decide it doesn’t work as you anticipated. The keys are internal communication, transparency, and accountability.

If you are using a full or partial remote workforce solution, here are some tips that will help it be as successful as possible:

  • Set guidelines and expectations around the workday in writing. This should include expected availability during the day and being present for specified meeting times.
  • Help your employees assess their own at-home capabilities. What tools should they have? What should their workspace look like?
  • If you have a highly collaborative work environment, build in time for interaction. At some companies, teams set up a virtual “coffee time” – a dedicated time for people to video chat and catch up on their day.
  • Give some helpful tips on separating work from home. Too many of us fall into the trap of multi-tasking across work and home tasks. Urge your people to refrain from folding laundry on their work time, and, conversely, not to stay glued to their email after work hours are over. Having dedicated work hours away from the many distractions of home helps when it’s time to leave work at the end of the day. You’ll all get more done with much less stress.
  • Don’t consider commuting time as part of your expected work hours. Your employees will appreciate the flexibility to attend to home or personal needs during this time.

Above all, stress to your people that your business is a joint venture, and the only constant will be working together to reassess and change as needed. If the past few years taught us nothing else, they reinforced our ability to adapt and pivot to meet an unexpected reality. If we can survive and thrive through such a demanding time, we can be confident when it comes to employing all we’ve learned to take on future challenges. 

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Melissa Albano-Davis
Principal at Grapevine Marketing, LLC

With experience in traditional, digital, and experiential marketing, Melissa founded Grapevine Marketing in 2009 to help businesses convert their marketing and advertising activities into trackable sales opportunities and reduce advertising budget waste by focusing on high return-on-investment programs. She is certified by Google, Hubspot, and Constant Contact, and speaks on the topics of inbound marketing, social media, SEO, and lead generation to business and nonprofit audiences. Melissa writes a monthly series for the New Hampshire Business Review on Inbound Marketing topics and is a member of the Boston Women's Leadership Council and the TechWomen | TechGirls initiative.