Fear is an unsettling feeling even when we are forewarned of what might be coming. By definition it is “a distressing emotion brought on by impending danger, pain, etc. Fear is to feel apprehension and uneasiness.” You feel it beginning in the pit of your stomach, then up to your heart, and finally your head.
It is an instinctive reaction imbedded in our DNA that speaks to self-preservation. This is where so many of us are at today. Suffice to say that most of us are now experiencing varying degrees of fear.
With this pandemic, we are truly living in uncharted times. This is not your “run of the mill on cable tv” localized catastrophe that engenders fear for those who are affected.
Nope not this time. This one is global in scale and scope and strikes fear in all of us because it is existential in nature. More than anything else, it boils down to fear of the unknown. As it currently sits, we don’t even know what we don’t know. What is happening and what is coming next is omnipresent in our hearts and minds.
Beyond self and family concerns, one of the things we fear the most is what will happen to our jobs and how will this affect our livelihood. None of us know for sure, but at some level the government (federal, state, and local) will address the highest-level economic impact on our society.
But we don’t know how fast that relief will come nor in what form and whether it will reach us. Regardless of what the government programs become, this does not speak directly to our individual situations or ameliorate our personal concerns.
The Benefits of Working from Home
As you read this, our work lives have been turned upside down and inside out. For the most part, offices sit empty, and many of us are now working from home (perhaps for the first time) in government mandated shutdowns. For those of us who are not used to working from home, there are obviously some concerns, and in some cases we might have fears.
Let’s begin with the time-tested upsides to working at home. The following are the top ten most common benefits that most will encounter and for the most part are self-explanatory:
- Better work/life balance
- Spend less time in commuting
- Increased productivity
- Create your own workflow
- Avoid office distractions and interruptions
- Ability to prioritize projects and maintain project momentum
- Cost savings for you and your company
- Increased comfort being in your own environment
- Increased job satisfaction
- Increased personal happiness
The Fears Of Working From Home
As certainly as there are positives to working at home, the flip side also exists. This is where fear (founded and unfounded) rears its ugly head and it may not be as obvious as the benefits. If we identify it, then it loses some of its power over us, and allows us to find ways to overcome it. The following are the top ten most common fears of working from home.
- A lack of will power and self-motivation
- Problems in sticking to a routine
- Boredom and having a lack of energy
- Lack of resources to do the job
- Reduced response time being physically out of the loop
- Lack of face-to-face social interactions
- Lack of expertise in virtual connectivity and collaboration
- No set time to “clock out”
- Reduced career advancement
- Being out of sight, out of mind
Take each of these concerns and ask yourself if they apply to you. The first three need careful consideration. If a person has little will power and ability for self-motivation, problems in sticking to a routine, and gets bored easily, then working from home is probably not the best idea. If you thrive on face-to-face social interactions, feel inspired by seeing others working, and stay on track best if others see you, then working at the traditional office is probably the way to go. But before you make that decision take another look at the benefits and ask yourself if you can or should change. This becomes a personal decision.
Addressing Working From Home Fears
The remaining concerns in the list can be addressed with a bit of forethought and planning. Let’s take a cursory look at each one.
Regarding resources, this can be the fun part. Find a space that is yours and dedicate it as your home office. This now becomes your work environment so design it to fit you.
Being physically out of the loop means you can’t just drop in on a colleague who sits nearby, but you can still do that virtually, as needed. The net result is increased productivity.
Lack of face-to-face social interaction can be addressed by planning to attend and participate in key office events on site.
The lack of expertise with all the virtual meeting sites (i.e. Skype, Teams, Go to Meeting, Zoom, WebEx) is simply a matter becoming familiar with them. They are not intimidating to use.
The issue about no set time to “clock out” is real. Most of us end up spending more focused time on our jobs working from home than from a traditional office. Each of us has to figure out our own work/life balance. Some days will be longer, but some days can and should be shorter.
The fear of reduced career advancement can be mitigated by taking advantage of certifications and online learning that will bolster your resume making you more valuable as an employee. Communicating your efforts in professional development is one way to keep in the spotlight.
Being out site and out of mind only applies if you let it. By using the power of email, virtual meetings, and attending live company events will ensure you continue to be seen and heard.
At this point many of us don’t have a choice of where to work from. We are on a lockdown that may last for several weeks so we have to remain at home and find a way to make it work. I understand the need for physical distancing, but point out the need for increased social interactions both personal and professional. As the pandemic stranglehold lessens we will return to some semblance of normalcy. The interesting point here is that some of us who were forced to work from home might actually like it and our companies might as well.
Keep in mind that this does not have to be either or. It’s important for you and your company to choose the environment you’ll be most successful in. In many cases it is becoming a combination approach. Just as mobile devices have come to rule our lives with anytime, anywhere, and on any device connectivity, this has freed up the workforce to take advantage of that flexibility. What was once confined to a brick and mortar office has now expanded into a new paradigm. Working from home may be temporary for you or it may become permanent or a combination of home and office, but rest assured that the benefits of working from home can be real and the fears addressed and assuaged.