Working from home can enhance work-life harmony

We are at the cusp of another festive season - Lunar New Year. Like celebrating Christmas or other festivals, the lead up can certainly be a scramble, with many jobs to do, and we have to finish our work commitments too.

Many of us wish we could be working flexibly in the period prior to and following the festivities. But how can we convince our boss to trust us with work from home (or other location) option?

And most importantly how we make sure that running errands won’t distract us from delivering results for our colleagues, clients and the boss.

The main mistake employees make is not recognising and appreciating the concerns of their managers. Managers who are not used to working with such arrangements are worried about various things that could go wrong. This is instinctive as these managers are moving away from their comfort zone.

We have also been incorrectly emphasising a simplistic form of flexible working arrangements where employees work from home most of the time and not come into the office. This is not entirely accurate and appropriate, especially prior to the holidays. Flexible working arrangements include ‘flexi-place’, ‘flexi-time’ and other permutations. As such employees should ask themselves “what do I really need to achieve” before approaching your employer.

The following questions will guide your thinking:

  • What do I really need?
  • Do I really need to work from home 80% of the time, or do I just need minor adjustments and added flexibility in my work schedule and location?
  • What sort of concerns would my manager have about members of the team working remotely?
  • How do we allay our manager’s concerns?
  • What are the successful outcomes that we need to achieve through this period of remote and flexible working?

The challenge is to make sure that both sides are aware of each other’s expectations. It must be clear for both employee and employer what are the respective roles and responsibilities, how they will communicate and how the work will be evaluated. Adopting a flexible working arrangement should not have a negative impact on your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).

Now both of you have agreed on a flexible work arrangement. But what happens when you can’t focus fully on either work or home activities? The usual complain is an inability to structure home working space either physically or mentally. Employees feel they need to be present in front of the computer constantly, which eventually can lead to delaying attention to taking a break for a meal or the chores that were planned to be completed. Without a doubt, this mentality would decrease productivity at both ends – work and home – which is obviously not the intended result of having a flexi-work arrangement!

There are some adjustments that should be considered in order to optimise productivity and retain sanity. Setting up a dedicated “work” area and a separate home “play” area is critical. Work remains at the work station and not amongst a pile of laundry. In a common standard working day, we start at 8.30am, take lunch between 12 and 1, and finish at 5.30pm.  This is exactly how it should be at home as well! We still need to eat, and have a mental refresh or coffee break when needed.

Organisations such as the NTUC Women’s Development Secretariat (NTUC WDS) in Singapore are drawing up supporting guidelines as part of the Family-Friendly Labour Movement in regards to flexi-work arrangements. They are providing case studies that demonstrate companies already successful in implementing flexi-work arrangements, which include working from home as one of the options.

The Singapore Government’s Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) is also supporting this by showing how harnessing the right types of technology can help. There are indeed many technology solutions that enable collaboration among the teams, wherever and whenever. Many organisations have already invested in some form of collaboration solutions.  This includes video and audio conferencing, sharing calendars in programmes like Outlook, instant messaging and even simply the use of mobile phones. Talk to the IT folks to get an idea of what’s available and how you can leverage technology to work flexibly.

The workplace of the future is changing before our very eyes. With the advent of mobile consumer technology, we are now using multiple mediums, platforms to communicate for leisure and also work. The Internet and the “Bring Your Own Device” movement has revolutionised how people consume and transact data and information today. It therefore means that no longer are we required to sit in front of a computer or at our desks for eight hours a day. In fact studies have shown that people are more productive when they have variety in their day and happiest when they are creative at work. Technology is the great enabler to overcome barriers to productivity so that we as a company can arrive at a workflow most suited for the company and drive greater productivity gains.

By: Tan Wei Leng, Head of Marketing, South East Asia, Polycom

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