As the pandemic stretches on, some companies are souring on remote work. Maybe that’s because they’re not doing it right.
White-collar offices that have carried over the same conventions from the physical office have realized they don’t work well, executives and researchers say.
Companies that have changed the ways they work have had more success — and in some cases, discovered new routines that they want to continue when they return to offices. These companies have a few things in common:
They have fewer meetings that are long or large or back-to-back. They designate meeting-free time for focused work; offer flexible work hours; and find ways for colleagues to socialize when they’re not seeing one another in person.
“There’s a natural pull, even in these times, not to figure out how to operate in this new world but how to replicate the old world in the new conditions,” said Leslie Perlow, a professor of leadership at Harvard Business School. “The longer this goes on, my optimism increases because I think people are being forced to figure out innovative ways.”
In a sense, remote work during a pandemic is not actual remote work. It’s made much harder by the circumstances of the crisis, including the lack of child care, anxiety about getting sick or losing a job and the inability to work in person even if it’s desirable.
Still, employees are generally very satisfied with how it’s going. In surveys, most say that even when it’s safe for offices to reopen, they want to return only part of the time and continue working at home several days