As we move into uncharted waters in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, companies are embracing – without much of a choice – 100-percent remote working for employees. Remote working for GHJ (GHJ) has become a large part of our company culture and a way for us to advocate and support employee work-life balance. However as this pandemic continues to develop and change with each passing day, I have reflected on my journey in being a 100-percent remote employee and its benefits to myself, my family and my firm, as well as some of the best practices I have developed over the years for working remotely.
The Move to Working Remotely
More than five years ago, my wife and I made the decision to move to Texas to be closer to her family. At my wife’s suggestion, I began to seriously research and develop ideas as to how I could continue to work for GHJ. At the time, GHJ’s employees were primarily in Southern California, and the concept of a full-time employee who lives and works remotely from over 1,500 miles away was a newer concept. That is not the case now for the firm as we have evolved to a fully dispersed workforce.
A once-unthinkable concept of working from home has become the norm in modern day, and now with COVID-19, many companies have had to embrace a 100-percent remote workforce very quickly. While working remotely might be new for you and your company, Vox sites that remote employees make up roughly 5.3 percent to nearly two-thirds (depending on how you measure it) of the U.S. workforce, a stark contrast to years prior. For many employees having the flexibility to work remotely has become a prerequisite to taking a job offer, with many employers sighting that it is important to offer staff flexibility and more options for balancing work and their personal lives.
For a while now, GHJ has firmly believed in this balance between work and employees’ personal lives is the key to winning the war on talent and integral for talent acquisition and retention. GHJ’s Managing Partner Tom Barry described it in further detail in his recent article in Entrepreneur Magazine: “It is time for companies to look at the structure of their jobs that potentially excludes talent by not accommodating all the demands on their schedules, like kids or untenable commutes, or excludes an older generation. It is time for companies to become introspective and understand if key elements, such as lack of diversity, flexibility and accommodation, are excluded from their culture and brand promise. As technology continues to transform the industry, flexible approaches that include non-traditional talent, remote workers and innovative work schedules are becoming mainstream to ensure growth and keep up with client demands.”
How to Make Working from Home Work for You
As many of you are working from home for the first time among the COVID-19 pandemic, I also wanted to share a few tips and best practices I have developed over the past few years.
Before you start your work day:
- Take a shower. It may sound obvious, but feeling fresh and ready for work is a helpful way to start out your day
- Start off healthy.
- Exercise. I suggest going for a run/jog/walk or do at-home yoga
- Eat breakfast or drink coffee/tea
- Message your colleagues and say “Good Morning.” Maintaining a level of social interaction is very important when working remotely.
Once you begin work:
- Attempt to have some general structure. Set a start time, lunchtime and time when you will end work for the day. Working from home for long periods of time can sometimes result in the work/life lines to get blurred. You may also wish to completely shut down your computer for the night, so you and your family now know that you are done for the day.
- Take a quick break every two hours, and get up and refocus. Stand up, take a walk, get a coffee refill to reset and focus on the rest of your tasks for the day.
- Try to stay focused and avoid distraction. I avoid having TV in the background and constantly checking the stock markets.
- Be task-based or hour-based and set goals for completions. Work hard to not constantly stopping tasks and starting tasks.
- Stay in constant contact with your team members, supervisors and those you supervise. Be sure to calendar meetings to discuss overall status. Also it is nice to simply be able to talk/interact with another person.
- When kids are in the house, kindly and consistently remind your whole family (significant other included) that you are working from home. Due to the massive school closures, many of you are working at home when kids are in the house at the same time. Trust me, I know it can be very challenging (especially if you have younger children). I would also suggest that you do not entirely prohibit your family from your home-office portion of the house. Remember that this is their home, and they should always feel comfortable in it.
- Talk to friends and neighbors (from a six-foot distance of course). Interacting with people in general is very important for your overall mental health and sanity. FaceTime is great!
- Connect with your family that are and are not living in your house.
- Be active
(exercise or similar)!
Although these times are very challenging, and working remotely can feel very isolating, it is important to remember some of the PROS (silver-linings)!
- No commute. Utilize this period to get through your workload.
- No dress code. Enjoy your t-shirts, shorts and other comfy clothes.
- Truly value the extra time you get to spend with your family, roommates or yourself. This too shall pass, and you might miss these days once you are back in the office.
- FLEXIBLE work-life balance. To the extent this works with your team and supervisor, if you are not a morning person, sleep in and work a little later. If you are, start early and end early.
Benefits to the Bottom Line
Today, more than five years after first approaching GHJ with the idea, I have continued to work from my home office in Texas and travel to Los Angeles regularly. I might not be able to see my colleagues and clients daily, but my efficiency, realization and billable hours are off the chart as my commute is 10 seconds down the hallway from my bedroom.
I am not alone in my apparent boost in productivity since working remotely. A nearly two-year Stanford study of a select group of employees showed a boost in productivity and effectiveness in working from home. The study showed employees are less distracted and more likely to work a full shift, versus being late to the office or leaving early multiple times a week.
Gallup research additionally showed that employees are 43-percent less likely to experience burnout when given a choice in how and when to complete their tasks. This results in increased productivity and a boost to the company’s bottom line.
Ultimately, working remotely has been a wonderful and successful experience – for both myself and GHJ.
The firm now has numerous remote workers in multiple states, and the successes continue to mount. Whether it be a pure remote-work situation or simply a “flexible work” environment, GHJ’s steadfast commitment to myself and the rest of the employees and our families is wonderful!
I appreciate my firm’s willingness to take a chance on me and to allow me to #BeMore for my family!