By Peter Cohan
Photo Credit: Getty Images
What is success? In these dark days, it is surprising that the answer in my mind is the same as it was years ago. As I wrote in 2015, success is controlling how you spend your time. I came to this realization when I started my own consulting firm back in 1994. That's when I saw that I could do the work I loved without other people controlling how, when, and where I did it.
Simply put, taking control of your time is a crucial precondition for success. How much you can grow your business once you have that control largely depends on luck, skill, and perseverance.
And surprisingly for many people who are working at home, that feeling of success -- or at least greater happiness -- is higher than it was before the pandemic. Sadly, working from home can also limit people's control of how they spend their time. Here are four things people love and hate about working from home and what leaders should do about them.
1. People like taking the time for a real lunch.
When people are at home, bosses and colleagues can't watch what they are doing all the time. As long as people join scheduled videoconferences and complete high-quality work on time, working from home gives them more freedom to schedule their time.
I can relate to this because I am now teaching in a classroom two days a week. Those are the days that I gobble a sandwich in my office while looking at my computer screen as I prepare for my next classes. On the other days when I work from home, I can schedule my time to go running before lunch and eat a regular meal in my kitchen afterward.
Business leaders should give people working from home the flexibility to schedule meetings in a way that lets them control how they spend their day. That will surely make them feel more successful -- thus boosting their happiness and productivity.
2. People miss shaking hands and attending networking events.
Obviously, people are social creatures and the pandemic is denying them close physical interactions with others. I appreciate the opportunity to see students and some colleagues during the two days I am on campus each week.
However, keeping six feet away from people and wearing masks take away some of the benefits of being in the same space. So does the ambient fear -- mitigated somewhat by weekly testing and timely infection statistics -- that such hybrid learning boosts people's chances of catching Covid-19.
For people who are naturally very social, lack of physical contact with others creates a sense of loss.
As Marianne Gooch, an executive speech consultant, told The Wall Street Journal, "What I miss the most is touch--shaking a hand, or people that I know really well, giving business hugs, or just seeing someone if I go to a networking event. Nothing sparks creativity like somebody coming up with a good idea in a meeting."
3. Workers like that their managers now share their same scheduling challenges.
Since Zoom meetings are a pale substitute for pre-pandemic in-person interaction, there is nothing that business leaders can do to help people like Gooch. However, when managers and their people are both working from home, business leaders are less inclined to ignore workers' family obligations.
Some workers notice and appreciate the change. As Brandi Jeter Riley, a data annotation manager, told the Journal, "There were times when [managers] would set meetings and make a change really quick around 8 or 5, and that's the time we go to preschool or pick up from afterschool. Now that everybody is home and they're there with their kids also, they really recognize this is what working from home is."
Business leaders who are taking care of children or parents should have little difficulty appreciating and responding to such needs.
4. Workers who've moved in with their family lose control of their work schedules.
If you're a young worker who has moved into your parents' suburban home during the pandemic, you will experience the flip side of WFH's increased flexibility.
Ly Nguyen, a Seattle software engineer, has less flexibility than before the pandemic when she worked in California. There she arrived at the office at 10, left at 5 to exercise, and toiled for a few more hours after dinner. In Seattle, Nguyen finishes work at 6, according to the Journal.
Sadly for such workers, the added safety and lower expenses of living at home come with a loss of control over their schedule. Beyond being aware of such challenges facing such workers, there is not much that business leaders can do to give them the flexibility they've lost.