How to Normalize Working from Home

Written by Diana Lavery, Director of Marketing

For so long, we’ve tried to replicate our previous in-office environments in our actual homes, apartments or wherever we’ve set up shop under the roof where we pay bills. The original goal was to make the transition from “office life” to “working-from-home life” as invisible as possible — No change in anything whatsoever.

In March 2020, we wore button-down shirts, used fake backgrounds to hide our couches and put on makeup to mask the bedhead, but the reality was – we were still wearing our pajama bottoms behind all the smoke and mirrors. What’s the point in masking our new reality an entire year later? We now know working from home might not be going away for many, so let’s embrace it!

Lights, Camera, Action!

With Zoom, Teams, Skype and more, video chatting is the new norm. In the beginning of quarantine, camera etiquette was still being figured out. Should I have my camera on? What if my significant other walks behind me? Oh jeez, what if my dog makes an appearance? (Side note: dogs have and will ALWAYS be a plus!)

Keeping your camera on during calls does a TON for employee morale, culture and engagement. We’ve now normalized seeing our coworkers through a screen, but in the beginning, it was more than just weird. Having digital face-to-face communication with our coworkers makes employees feel less isolated and lonely. Many of us originally felt like we were on our own island, but seeing our coworkers’ faces brings comfort and normality, just like popping by a coworker’s desk on our way to the restroom back in the good ‘ole days.

Disguising with Backgrounds

I’ve seen some really sharp corporate background images used on video calls, but I can’t say I’m in agreement with them. One of my favorite things when video chatting is seeing everyone’s personal environments and little things poking out in the background — Pelotons and all! It’s so easy to spark up a conversation about someone’s wedding picture, a fuzzy blanket or decorative vase. Peeking into the lives of our coworkers gives us more to talk about than “what you did this weekend” – it helps us create connections that go deeper than the surface.

Create Connection Points through Chat Channels

Chat platforms make it super simple to create specific groups that your employees can join to create points of connection with coworkers and others they might not work directly with on a regular basis. Favorite recipes, pets of the office, books of the month and guilty pleasure TV shows are just a few of the channels our clients have for their organizations. “Chats at the watercooler” are nonexistent now, so chat channels are a great replacement, especially for those more introverted employees who had a harder time sparking up conversation in person. By organizing chat channels, you give your employees the opportunity to form bonds and find similarities they might not have known existed.

Blocking off Breaks on Your Calendar

Taking a break from spreadsheets and balance sheets is necessary, and giving your employees that break is super important. Our clients in completely remote organizations tell us that they’re finding their employees are spending more time in their workspaces and working longer hours than if they were commuting to the office. It’s incredibly easy to get sucked into emails and chats pinging and video calls ringing, so encouraging your employees to take mental and physical breaks from their screens is more imperative now than ever.

Looking Ahead

We’ve learned a lot about making remote life work these past 13 months. While some of us will never return to an office, we’ve created our own individual work environments that are more than close to home. We’ve learned that saving time on a non-existent commute allows us to have breakfast with our families, and lunch breaks now mean going on quick walks with our neighbors. Happy hours now take place with drinks from our kitchens, and afternoon pick-me-ups mean brewing another pot in the Mr. Coffee. We’ve learned mental health takes a front seat because burnout in our PJs is real.

Here’s to the end of 2021 looking a little different than the beginning of 2020!