Pre-pandemic, if a company offered a work-from-home (WFH) perk, it was likely very limited in scope; employees could work just a few days from home per month. As recent studies have shown, this extremely limited WFH option no longer passes muster with either employees or candidates. A recent study found that 50% of Canadian employees “say working mostly/entirely remote is their ideal scenario”, with the “ability to work remotely and flexible work hours are now more important to office workers than workplace culture, development/growth opportunities and in-office perks.”
Even proponents of WFH could not have anticipated the many benefits of working from home. Statistics Canada revealed that 90% of employees working from home reported being at least as, if not more, productive as they were in the office. Not only that, but research also shows that if employees work from home just half the time (2-3 days a week), their employers save an average of $11,000 annually per employee. Another benefit of working from home? “Remote workers could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 54 tons annually”.
Of course, with the boundary between work and home blurring, Statistics Canada also found that 35% of new teleworkers reported working longer hours. Additionally, studies have found that 66% of employees are consistently worried about their productivity and scared of losing their jobs, with 60% of employees surveyed saying that they feel guilty taking any breaks while working from home, even if it’s for something essential such as lunch or checking on their kids.
All this to say, your employees need to know that implementing a guilt-free work from home policy is not just a priority for your organization, but it’s actually integrated into your policies and encouraged all the way from executive to intern.
Consider offering a transitionary period of a month or longer between working from home and returning to the office—whether you’re returning full time or opting for a hybrid model.
Many organizations experienced whiplash in early 2020 when transitioning from in-person to remote work overnight. The transition back into the office doesn’t have to be like that.
Giving employees a bit of leeway allows them to figure out the best commute, get a better sense of the office layout, settle into new morning routines, etc..
As much as it’s important to many leaders to have in-person collaboration, it shouldn’t come at the expense of employees and their wellbeing. Of course, employees should also use their best judgement about working from home or taking a day off if they’re under the weather and try to be mindful of their coworkers by continuing to practice good hygiene and social distancing when possible.
More than just procedures are changing; leaders need to also change their mindset.
Whether your organization is planning on continuing to work remotely full-time or part-time, having an agile mindset is crucial. If we’ve learned anything from the past 2+ years, it’s that permanence is an illusion—everything can change overnight. Being able to adapt quickly and affording your employees the same sense of flexibility is essential.
One of the hardest mindset shifts has been on the ideal of productivity. If we weren’t sure of it before, we now know that sitting at a desk for 8 hours a day isn’t realistic for many jobs. Many of the people who have thrived while working from home have done so because they have the flexibility to step away from their work to clear their head whenever they need to. Whether that means taking care of a household task that’s nagging at them or going for a walk to re-centre, remote work has given employees the freedom to take more control over their own schedules.
Guilt-free work from home means encouraging employees to focus more on their output, rather than the amount of time spent working. Research shows that in an 8-hour workday, most employees are only productively working for less than three hours (2 hours and 53 minutes)—so it’s important to emphasize how much gets done in those productive hours, rather than how many hours are spent trying to be productive.
Of course, it’s impossible to create a truly guilt-free work from home experience if not everyone in the workplace is on the same page.
It’s crucial that all leaders within your organization agree on employee expectations. If you have managers who are in the office every single day, even in a hybrid workplace, these managers may be implicitly setting a standard that their direct reports feel obligated to follow.
It’s important to make your work-from-home policies clear and available to all employees. Setting clear expectations for employers, managers, and executives alike will ensure that everyone can work from home guilt-free, if they so choose. Additionally, leaders should check in with everyone to make sure that they’re following policies and that everyone is on the same page.
Creating a guilt-free work from home environment is really about creating a guilt-free company culture that emphasizes the importance of work-life integration. Now more than ever, employees are really in the driver's seat as the ones who define what their work-life looks like.