Written by: Chayton Allen
Working from home has been a huge culture shift within the workplace in a rather quick fashion within the year 2020. This has accelerated digital transformation and attitudes towards virtual implementation across multiple organizations. This change however does not only change the physical location of workers but it also changes their routines. Employees have been in this rigid routine for decades, wake up, commute to work, work, commute home, eat, watch TV, sleep, and restart. Most industries did not have work from home capabilities in the past, and if they did it was not at the level of mass adoption it is currently.
Now, after most companies have solved the work from home equation, next is how do corporations intertwine work culture into the office? How do organizations build a culture in the workplace if employees are working from home? Remote working is now a long term change that has limited interactions between coworkers. Companies need to keep employees engaged and involved outside of their work in a healthy way. Human interaction in the office has to be a topic that companies look at very closely in this newly implemented work from home environment.
Watercooler talk is used to refer to an informal conversation or socializing among office workers that takes place in a communal area where a water dispenser is located. A watercooler may be an outdated term more set in a traditional office, now it’s probably a coffee machine in the modern-day office. No matter what the communal place we all converse with coworkers about subjects that are outside of work. Coworkers talk about things like family, hobbies, weekend plans, and even weekly plans.
Only if you count going to the fridge and talking to someone in the house can there be considered watercooler talk at home. How can companies help in encouraging watercooler talk virtually? There are a few ways to do this without completely derailing a meeting. At the beginning of each virtual meeting don’t talk shop right away, spend 10 minutes talking about anything but work. Questions about their plans for the weekend, or what they did last weekend, maybe even about the game last night. If the details of work need to be told quickly, ask how a coworker’s day is going first before jumping right into the nitty-gritty. This provides a quick introduction to the discussion of work. Virtual watercooler talk is the way organizations can try to keep light-hearted and informal conversations alive, even in a work from home environment.
Prior to working from home, our brains had solid signals about starting work and finishing work. For starting work the signal would’ve been a commute to work, this is where you start getting into the mindset of working. The signal for finishing work is turning off a computer at the end of the day or walking out the door of the workplace. Depending on the industry, that finishing work signal will be different. When working from home, we don’t have clear signals for our brain to differentiate work from home. Workers need to have solid signals where their brain can separate work from home to maintain a proper balance.
In this work from home environment that is very difficult, when working from homework signals aren’t as clear. Don’t sit in pajamas all day and work from your bed, that is a horrible way for your brain to separate work life from home life. Instead, try and find an area that has been solely dedicated to working, it could be an office, a table, garage, anywhere where you can set it apart from the rest of the house. Try and make a designated working area that is only for work, this will help keep work life and home life separate. Organizations need to be pushing for this kind of behavior in the virtual workplace. This company oversight for employees will make sure that work life and home life don’t become blended into one big mess.
Although it may seem like working from home would allow you to have more of a home life it has done just the opposite.
Disproportionate work-life balance
Working hours have evolved from 8 hours/5 days a week. We are connected through our smartphones and watches and even when we shut off the computer we aren’t unplugged completely. When working from home these lines can become even more unclear. Starting earlier and ending later is something common when working from home. Factor in that there is no commute to work or from work, along with flexible working hours, and 8 hours can turn into 10 hours very easily.
Although it may seem like working from home would allow you to have more of a home life it has done just the opposite. Employees need to keep work separate as much as possible and not have it consume their home life. Employees can avoid burnout by clearly defining a schedule for work hours and for home life hours. Set clear boundaries between your work hours and personal time, and communicate these boundaries with others in your home.
Routines for workers have changed since the beginning of March 2020. Working from home has reached mass adoption and currently has accelerated digital transformation. However, with digital transformation and isolation organizations have to try and keep work culture alive and healthy. Work culture in a virtual office needs to be a topic that companies look at very closely, it is a riddle that needs to be solved and quickly. Working from home although it has its benefits has also taken away some of the great things people loved about going to the office. It is important not only for H.R but for employees to be part of a great work culture environment even if it is now virtual.