The impact of remote working on work/life balance
Where before Covid, digital tools were merely a way of facilitating remote work, during the pandemic we have learned to use them as means to exchange information, brainstorm ideas and connect with one another. Two years ago, a day of virtual meetings would drain us. Today, our brain has learned to adapt. Not only has our endurance to virtual work increased, we, as human beings, have learned to interact remotely and qualitatively with each other. Maybe not to the extent of a real live contact, but we definitely understand better how digital relations are being built and maintained.
Past the point of work-life balance
The first weeks and maybe months of home working were a welcome change to the rat race we had all been living in for so long. We experienced a whole new way of life management and felt the positive results of the altered work rhythm. No commuting and executing home chores during our breaks led to more quality time. Until the scale tipped to the point where the lacking social contact isolated a lot of us and the advantages of home working became a nuisance. Close professional relationships were being diluted and the desperately sought work-life balance became unbalanced. Admittedly, we have entered the era of work-life integration. The question no longer is how we can make our work and private lives exist separately in the most balanced way. We find ourselves in a time where our professional and private lives both need to coexist and merge in the most satisfactory way.
Therefore, remote team management should be result based and no longer time based, as we were used to. Not everyone comes up with the most creative ideas during a group brainstorm. Not every person is at it’s best in a 9 o’clock meeting. If an employee is able to deliver a certain task in 6 hours where her colleague would need 8 hours, or if a creative gets inspired during a late evening walk after which he starts designing, why would we want to force these people into a rigid regime if the result is there.
Doesn’t the output matter over the work method?
Organizing the work day according to your needs, should be normal. This hyperindividualism will lead to a higher degree of efficiency, autonomy and quality. Edward L. Deci and Richard M. Ryan developed the self-determination theory on human motivation with autonomy, competence and connection being the fundamentals. Being able to work autonomously, using and expanding your competencies will lead to employee engagement. That is, if the individual flourishes in a flexible and coaching context. The number of people thriving under structure and control should still feel supported. Nevertheless, the third pillar - connection - is not to be neglected. The panoply of communication tools makes it so easy to stay in touch, at all times. Yet, there lie some pitfalls. Social Media penetrates work situations and boundaries are being stretched to the limit. A quick Messenger message in the evening, a Whats App video call during lunch break or an email ping on Sunday morning might cause unnecessary stress, doing more damage than good to the connection. As we say in Belgium about a strong beer: use with moderation. This also goes for all digital communication apps. It’s good to be a part of your employee’s life, not to disrupt it. Coming back to hyperindividualism: the key is communication. Talk to your employees. Ask them what makes them tick and under which circumstances they function at their best. In the end, both you and your co-workers will benefit from a flexible way of working and this hyperindividual approach might become your differentiator in the search for talent.