Many IT workers and other business professionals began working from home when companies went into “lockdown” mode when COVID-19 struck in 2020. Many people have returned to work after that. Others accustomed to remote work and maintaining a better work-life balance don’t want to return to the office.
There are more opportunities for remote work in the IT departments. In highly competitive IT job markets, remote work options were necessary. Organizations that want to retain and attract IT talent have offered remote work in other areas of the country.
There are pros and cons to work from home.
IT staff members assigned to projects can focus on their work if they get quiet time away from the office. Remote work can be less effective when a project team meeting is called.
Up to 85% of human communication can be non-verbal. Few of us who have managed IT projects and project meetings will underestimate the power of a user’s smile (or frown) during a requirements definition meeting or the tell-tale signs of meeting exhaustion.
Online video meetings don’t provide the same level of interaction as in-person gatherings.
“Regular face-to-face interaction, nonverbal communication is quite natural, and each of us naturally makes and interprets gestures and nonverbal cues subconsciously,” noted Stanford Professor Jeremy Bailenson, in a Stanford News article. “But in video chats, we have to work harder
to send and receive signals…If you want to show someone that you are agreeing with them, you have to do an exaggerated nod or put your thumbs up. That adds cognitive load as you’re using mental calories in order to communicate.”
What IT Can Do Now
In many respects, the balance between work at the office and work at home hasn’t changed significantly for IT. What has
changed are people’s expectations of being able to work more from home because of work deployment changes during the pandemic.
Is it possible that IT leaders need to adjust based on this?
There are some things to consider.
1. Employees want work-life balance
The importance of work-life balance for employees was being discovered by researchers at firms.
The desire for work-life balance has not waned. It’s incumbent on IT leaders to create work environments that help employees achieve work-life balance, and it’s likely that at least some opportunity for working remotely fits into this.
2. Explain the rules for working from home and working from the office
When my staff first moved to a remote work concept, there were equity questions that some staff members raised because they felt that if some people in IT could work from home almost all of the time, everyone should have the same opportunity.
Some IT jobs are task-oriented and can be done alone, but other jobs require interaction with people to accomplish the work.
Management, business/systems analysts, trainers, and other people oriented jobs in IT required continuous in-person interactions with others. Depending on the role in IT they were performing, staff members needed to know what the in-office expectations were for the positions they filled.
That is still the case.
3. Provide remote work options
Although there are people oriented IT jobs, this doesn’t mean that accommodations can’t be made for people to work from home.
According to FlexJobs, telecommuting leads to fewer interruptions, less office politics, a quieter noise level, and less efficient meetings. A huge benefit of working from home for both employees and employers is the fact that remote workers have more time and fewer distraction, which leads to increased productivity.
4. Ensure employee engagement
In my IT remote work strategy, we had a system developer who worked from home and who we would see occasionally in the office. The developer’s work was good, but there were questions about how some of the work integrated with other systems and project work, and even who this “mystery developer” was.
It was good practice for staff members who worked remotely to work on site at least once per month.
What to Read Next:
Leadership skills are developed for the virtual workplace.
InformationWeek did a survey on what IT pros make.
Remote work jobs are still growing.