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Project Management 101: Working Hard From Home – Benefits & Detriments

Working from home old office

One of the key factors in deciding the best workplace these days is work-life balance and despite many workplaces in Malaysia being capable of coming up with some concessions to have a good balance between work & life, they more often insist on a 9 am to 5 pm working timeline.

This was the case until the COVID19 pandemic decided to shake things up at the workplace with strict lockdowns & introduced the concept of work from home (WFH). Image source: Internet

Read these first:-

General Working from Home Benefit

I read interesting news recently, at a time when most organizations are going through the pre-COVID19 working arrangements:-

The organisational flexibility enabled by remote working has allowed many employees to reduce their travel time. The set-up has saved them, on average, 72 minutes per day, according to a recent study by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

To arrive at this estimate, European and North American researchers examined findings from two surveys of tens of thousands of workers from 27 countries.

They found that the widespread use of teleworking significantly altered their trips during the health crisis, especially those to and from work. For example, employees saved about two hours of commuting time per week by working from home, rather than from the office.

However, the results vary from country to country. The Chinese saved the most time in their daily lives by teleworking, with an average of 102 minutes saved.

This is almost twice the time saved by the Serbians (51 minutes) and the Americans (55 minutes). The French managed to save 62 minutes by not going to work during the health crisis, while in Singapore the average time saved was 94 minutes and in Malaysia 69 minutes.

So what did employees do with this ‘time saving’? Many used it to get ahead at work. Some 40 per cent of respondents used this time saving to do more work either for their main employer or for a side job. A third of them took advantage of it to indulge in various hobbies or to exercise, while 11 per cent devoted this time to their family.

There are numerous indications that companies have a lot to gain from teleworking, even if some are still reluctant to implement the practice in the long term with an ILO report calling it “a ‘win-win’ for both employers and employees.

(Source: Malay Mail)

Working from home definitely has its own benefits one of them is the huge saving of time & cost of travelling from home to the workplace. Imagine when a huge chuck of vehicles that suppose to be on the road had simply vanished.

I experienced this at the peak of the lockdown when no one was allowed to travel outside their district unless they are part of the essential services. Of course, I had the choice of working from home but since I am working in the essential service industry, I decided to drive one day just to enjoy the very rare traffic-free drive to the office.

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Pros & Cons Working from Home

Time-saving is not only the benefit of working from home, there are obviously others. However, since not all employers are open to the concept of working from home, there are some detriments as well. Some of the pros and cons of working from home are as follows:-

  • Pro: More flexibility to take care of appointments and errands.
  • Pro: Fewer interruptions from meetings and chitchat.
  • Pro: No commute time or expense.
  • Pro: More time spent with family.
  • Pro: You can often do your work when you’re most productive.
  • Pro: You can get more done.
  • Pro: You can save money on your work wardrobe.
  • Pro: The ability to live where you want to.
  • Con: No physical separation between work and leisure time.
  • Con: Easy to misread cues via electronic communications.
  • Con: You have to make the effort to get a change of scenery.
  • Con: Less in-person contact with co-workers.
  • Con: You are not on-site for in-office perks.
  • Con: You have to be more self-motivated.
  • Con: Some bosses may be biased against those who aren’t in the office.

(Source: US News)

Depending on the acceptance of working from home in your organization, it can be a matter of having more pros than cons or more cons than pros. It is a matter of setting the parameters of working from home so that productivity can be measured and one knows when to stop working when at home. Technology has made working from home more breezy and easy and as good as one is physically in the office.

WFH Working Chart

Generally, the response to the idea of working from home is gaining momentum, no thanks to the COVID19 pandemic but as the world recovers from the pandemic, most companies prefer to return back to the pre-COVID19 working arrangements. Image source: Statista

2023 WFH Statistics

Obviously, things have changed from pre-COVID19 to during COVID19 and post COVID19 when it comes to working from home.

  • There are now three times more remote jobs compared to 2020 – at the time of writing, remote jobs now make up more than 15% of the total opportunities in the U.S.
  • Remote work makes employees happier – according to research by Owl Labs and Global Workplace Analytics, 74% of employees feel happier when they work remotely.
  • The vast majority of remote employees would recommend remote work to others – according to Buffer, 97% of people recommend remote work to others. Coincidentally, 97% of remote employees want to continue working remotely until the end of their careers.
  • Remote work does not eliminate burnout – however, research by Monster says otherwise. 69% of remote employees are experiencing burnout, which is an alarming statistic, but an important one to learn from.
  • You could save up to $11,000 per employee per year by going partially remote – according to research conducted by Harvard and Stanford, the average business can save up to $11,000 per year just by switching to a hybrid model, and that’s not even considering a fully remote setup.
  • Remote work improves employee loyalty – according to FlexJobs, 79% of participants in one research study said they would be more loyal if an employer allowed for a more flexible setup.
  • Remote work is good for the environment – according to research by Spain’s Institut de Ciència i Tecnologia Ambientals, switching to a 4-day remote workweek could decrease overall CO2 emissions by 10%. In some cases, the pollution can be decreased by up to 80% when working from home compared to commuting to and from an office.
  • Employees take less sick leave when working remotely – a survey by OnePoll shows that employees won’t take a sick day “just” because they have a runny nose or a cough, which results in them working while sick. The same research states that 70% of employees have worked while ill during the pandemic.
  • Most companies don’t pay anything for their remote employees’ work-related expenses – in addition, the same research states that only around 10% of companies pay for their employees’ home internet bills.
  • Remote employees work longer – a study by Nature Human Behavior finds that remote employees work 10% longer than their office counterparts, or about 4 hours more weekly.
  • Hybrid is not the best default solution – research by TinyPulse finds that 80% of people leaders think that hybrid setups are exhausting and emotionally draining.

(Source: Strong DM)

Considering the pros and cons, most companies, especially in the technology industry, prefer a hybrid form of working from home where for some days, you work from home and for some days, you are working from the office. Different teams may work on alternate days occupying the same workplace and if it is required, there are additional places to get the team to meet up & work.

Personal Experience – Pros

I work from home for most of the days except for 2-3 days when I need to be in the office to settle any administrative work, have my face-to-face meetings and basically show my colleagues that I am still around. Personally, I feel that I gained more working from home than gaining detriments.

Firstly I am able to sleep longer as I don’t have to wake so early as 5 am to beat the morning traffic but instead can wake up an hour before work actually starts at 9 am. That easily means 3 hours of good sleep which is a positive move in personal health.

Next is that I can avoid the stress and cost of driving to & fro work which means an easy saving of 1.5 hours of commuting between home & work. There is saving of fuel, wear & tear and a reduction of risk of an accident or breakdown as well.

Working from home also provides flexibility in case I need to attend to any emergencies at home or if need to babysit my kids in case they are not feeling well. There are times when I even had done my grocery shopping early before the start of work. Overall, the work-life balance has improved tremendously.

Working from home for some means saving for meals as they now can eat meals at home but it is not a major saving as I still order food online most of the time as we hardly have time to cook except maybe at the weekends. But there are times, I can have healthy hot home-cooked food more regularly than when I work from the office.

In addition to extra time for sleep, I am able to move around more often than when I am working from the office and this reduces the duration of sitting down facing the laptop the whole day. I schedule some house chores so that I am forced to take breaks in between and still do something positive in the end.

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Personal Experience – Cons

Well, one cannot run away from some of the detriments of working from home and the key detriment is that we tend to work longer when we work at home. It is because we have the luxury of time and we feel that we can squeeze in a bit of work before calling it a day. There are times I had worked for an additional 3-4 hours because of this. We cannot do that if we are working from the office as we would clock out on time so that we can beat the evening rush hours.

The next detriment of working from home is the usual distractions. Despite telling the family that I am “at work & thus is not here”, they would disturb me with various distractions – from household chores, kids wanting help on their school work and the family watching the TV just when I am scheduled to have a concall.

One good thing that I prepped at home is installing a fibre optic internet connection and adding internet mesh for good connectivity. Yet still, I do face inconsistent internet connection but it is not as bad as the connection at the office where the wi-fi connection does disconnect from time to time. The worst times would be when we are having remote concalls and I get disconnected. Working from home means the electricity bills go up but tracking over time, I noticed that it does not really increase significantly.

Although I move around more often working from home, the workplace itself is not really ideal for working from home and it is my fault. Unlike others, I did not invest in a proper office at home with a proper desk & comfortable working chair and instead, I just use the huge dining table & dining chair which can get very uncomfortable after some time. Perhaps one day I may decide to renovate the room a the ground floor & buy office furniture from IKEA to have a proper office at home

And finally whilst some will feel the heat of lack of recognition by the management because they are “not seen” in the office, I feel that at this juncture of my life, I can afford to let others move up whilst I prepare the next few years towards retirement. So that is what I tell myself even though some of the bosses in the office prefer most of us to be in the office for ease of communication.

Final Say

In project management, it is said that one should be able to work from any time, any place and yet still be able to complete the projects on time & on budget. Working from home did disrupt some of the project activities as we are unable to meet up or collaborate face-to-face but thanks to technology, this gap has been reduced to some extent. Online tools these days provide real-time updates and follow-ups individually or as a team group clears the remaining shortcomings.

Not all industries can afford to have a work-from-home option and thus requires one to be onsite. However, if you are in the information technology industry, working from home is ideal. There are no implications of a reduction in productivity as the output of work remains consistent whether it is done in the office or at home. In fact, often those who are working to catch up on backlogs of work often apply to work from home so that they have more working hours in a day.

Of course, there also needs a discipline of sorts to ensure the working load does not take over the personal life as this is crucial too. One way to do it is to follow the working hours strictly even though working from home and there should not be any work on the weekends. Of course, this is difficult to do when there is an active project in progress and time is short to complete all the tasks.

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