Why are you less efficient when working from home?

Why are you less efficient when working from home? THNK.innovation

July 1, 2020 by David Hauser

So, it took a pandemic to make us all realise that we can work from home. Did we really need such a tough lesson?

While COVID-19 and social distancing have forced many of us to work from the privacy of our home offices (or our dining tables), they’ve also given rise to a lot of debate about the benefits of remote working. Of course, it will be great for pollution, for our overstretched public transport networks, and for mums and dads who want to build on the ‘lockdown links’ they’ve developed with their children.

But what are the implications for a world in which creativity and productivity are going to be at a premium? How can bosses and team leaders learn from our ‘forced experiment’ of lockdown working? And how can we optimise our efficiency with only our self-motivation to drive us?

While Zoom, Teams and Google Meet have undoubtedly helped us stay connected – and surprised many of us by creating even closer relationships with our colleagues – there have been warning signs that remote working can also reduce our efficiency without careful discipline. If more organisations are going to be embracing remote and flexible working, it’s clear that we need to get back to some important basics.

Work-life balancing

For many of us, space constraints mean it’s simply unreasonable to expect the luxury of a dedicated ‘home office’ or an extra room to convert into one. If we’ve always had a strict separation of our private and work lives, having the two suddenly thrown together can be quite jarring – and unproductive.

Then there are all the added challenges of the COVID lockdown – having to be stand-in teachers for the kids, sharing your computer, worrying what your next pay check will look like – let alone what the world will look like when this is all over.

The increase in the number of people working from home seems to have been accompanied by a rush of studies telling us what many of us have long known – that you can be more productive at home, as long as you take regular breaks, follow a schedule, and avoid your social media notifications!

Missing something deeper

But what if your lack of motivation is not just due to your latest LinkedIn post or a missing piece of your child’s homework – but from something missing inside you? What if you’ve actually fallen out of love with your job?

When we emerge from our COVID shells, and start going back to work, I’m guessing that a good many people are going to have changed attitudes towards work. Many of us will want to do more work remotely, or negotiate more flexible schedules, to spend more time with our families. Some of us, perhaps, will have had a cathartic realisation that we could be doing something more meaningful, more genuine with our lives.

Of course, in the recession or depression we’ll find ourselves in, money is going to be more important than ever. I remember as a child, my siblings and me always had the aspiration to attend university. It wasn’t just the best thing you could do; our mum and dad had worked their entire lives to make sure we could.

It wasn’t without resistance that I followed their wishes. Being good at maths and science, it was easy for me to fall into an engineering degree when I graduated from high school. With my talents, I had every chance of becoming quite good at it, and engineers after all are always in high demand in Germany. And they’re paid pretty well, too.

For the first five years, everything went as advertised. I rose quickly through the engineering ranks of my first employer, getting assigned the lead role of some of the more exciting projects. Competitors and recruiters took notice of me too.

Then after five years, things started to change. I became more and more unsatisfied with my work, even more with the structures and politics of my organisation. I felt disempowered and frustrated to a point where I finally resigned.

The challenge of motivation

If I was still in that job now, I’d definitely be struggling to stay motivated working from home. It would be far too easy to find distractions and excuses to get side-tracked from work. This lack of control will most certainly flow both ways – being extremely difficult for managers and team leaders as well.

The changes forced onto us by recent events are not going to go away anytime soon. And it will be up to each of us to find sustainable solutions to increase our productivity – employees, managers and team leaders alike. It will require us to come up with new creative ideas and an increased level of trust on both sides to compensate for our loss of control.

The successful leaders of the future will be those who embrace flexibility and give employees the freedom to find their working ‘comfort zones’. As Dr Adam Grant stated in a recent interview with the World Economic Forum: “This is not an experiment that any of us opted into, but as long as we’re stuck with it, as a leader, it’s an opportunity to say: ‘If I impose less control over people’s schedules and plans, that’s going to teach me whether I can trust them or not’.”

If you’re struggling to stay motivated and get your work done remotely or looking for a way to keep your team engaged and collaborating online, please feel free to get in touch. We have lots of out-of-the-box ideas and tech-based solutions to overcome the challenges that you may be facing in this new era of working.

THNK.innovation and The THNK Club are applying design thinking and other innovation strategies to help small businesses, teams and individuals identify new solutions that combine agile ways of working with a structured approach to creativity. For more information, send us an email to: info@THNKinn.com.au

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