WFH…Remote Working…Is It The Same?

Posted On 25 Aug 2021

WFH…Remote Working…Is It The Same?

25 Aug 2021
WFH, it's not for me.

Employer Resource, News & Events

WFH, it's not for me.

For the sake of clarity, we should distinguish why remote working and WFH are not the same. I have always been a fan and advocate of remote working, especially to secure talent. In fact, EST10 has had two employees working remotely for over 8 years and a third employee just recently. Jenny is in the UK, Xanthe Sydney and Olivia- somewhere in Queensland! We even had our lovely Jamie (you may recall- she is now at Google), work for us from the UK when she returned home this year. It works. I’ve written articles, produced short videos, and been interviewed by Sky News about remote working. It’s not a COVID thing–agile businesses have been operating this way, well before the pandemic. In a skills and talent tight country and where our latest unemployment figures are at 4.6% (and that’s with our lockdown!), I encourage you to take advantage of remote working as a strategy to secure talent for your business.
But it's not as easy as hiring and then leaving someone to it! Here are some of my tips:
  1. Communication. Over communicate! All our current remote employees at EST10 work part-time, making the challenge bar just a little higher and harder!  Respond to emails straight away–this ensures efficient communication and information flow and reduces drag time, especially with time zones. It sets the tone and expectation for all communication and demonstrates to your employee that what they have communicated, and their contribution is important and valuable. Have regular team video meetings/catch ups and at a time that works for all parties. We take it in turn for varying time zones. Our team Zooms are for team building, sharing of information and general fun. They will run for 30 to 45 mins and always have some plan and purpose so as not to feel like a waste of time or, even worse, just for the sake of it. They occur a minimum of once a quarter.
  2. Acknowledgement.  Be sure to acknowledge contributions, achievements, and ideas to the broader group and team. You might see the value and love the contributions, but acknowledgement and recognition play a critical role in ongoing communication flow. It can also encourage your team to reach out and communicate directly, increasing teamwork and engagement all around.
  3. Inclusion. Include in all group/team communication even if it’s a silly meme aimed specifically at an event that occurred in the office. It will help with the team culture and dynamics and your remote employee to feel a part of the greater team. Don’t forget to include them in all events and team activities. As an example, we have a step challenge occurring for August, and Jenny is participating despite being in the UK, and giving us a run for our money! Where possible, include in team presentations and Christmas parties etc. Pre COVID times, Jenny had been back to the Sydney office for team training and significant events and was due to be back last year for our 10-year birthday! 2022 Jenny!
Ongoing engagement, a feeling of belonging and a sense of purpose are critical for all employees–and when working remotely, even more so!
Now, WFH…
This is an entirely different ball game. First, consider the circumstances that bring us to WFH vs remote. Typically, remote working has been a solution, nutted out by both parties to secure a mutually agreeable working arrangement. It requires effort and commitment to make it work by both vested parties. WFH, in our current circumstances, is a situation thrown upon us that we need to find a way to make work. It is something that has come out of necessity and not necessarily by choice. Neither party can be totally prepared, nor has gone down the path of contemplation and then the realisation that this is what is desired and thus finding a solution to make it work.
I don’t know about you, but I find this time around compared to last year a little different. Yes, we have all the practices, policies, and guidelines in place to hastily move to a working from home arrangement. It’s even a novelty initially–perhaps you don’t have to wake up quite so early, no commute, less effort with what to wear, etc.
But was it what we really wanted?  WFH as a way of remote working will undoubtedly remain a part of our future workplace landscape. But let’s not be lulled into a false sense of, ‘all will be ok’. Successful WFH requires effort–on both sides.
Mental Health. This is everyone’s number one concern. Purely from a physical contact base; most of us have gone from 38 plus hours a week to zero. Video meetings don’t cut it for ongoing human interaction and will never substitute the human touch and warmth that physical closeness brings. We need some banter, laughs, jokes, etc. Yes, we can do so at the beginning of our online meetings, and in fact, some businesses advocate this model at the start of each meeting. But it is the poor cousin. Plus, if you are like me and on numerous zoom meetings a day, sometimes you just want to cut to the chase and leave the banter for the water cooler.
Family time in the office? Leisure time from the office? It doesn’t make sense, does it? Working from home? How much sense does that make? Unless we are aware of the boundaries and pitfalls? A significant amount of research shows adverse impacts upon workers. One recent survey found, 4 out of 5 workers found it hard to ‘shut off’ in the evenings. In addition, 45% say they feel less healthy mentally while working from home. In another survey, almost half (47%) of the participants indicated they were struggling with the ‘blurring’ of the boundary between work and home life. 41% found distractions at home to be a challenge, and 34% found it hard to stay motivated.
We all want to work from home, at times. Maybe a lot of us would like to continue working from home moving forward. I equate it to, ‘maybe we all want to continue eating Lindt chocolate each night while watching Netflix from bed’. But how good is it for us? If we choose this to be our path, and I feel a hybrid model will be the way forward, we should ensure the proper practices are in place to safeguard our precious mental health.
Before we touch on some practical solutions, allow me to indulge a little further in my thoughts of WFH as it stands right now.
Communication. ‘Can you hear me?’, ‘Is your camera on?’, ‘I think you are on mute’, ‘Is everyone here?’. Is this what our human greetings have come to? I thought we had evolved. Highbrow? Maybe not. Surely, we can do better. Was it not bad enough that our beautiful word prose was shortened and brutalised by text messaging and now this…’Can you hear me?’.
Promotions/advancements. How do we facilitate further career opportunities when visibility is blurred? Interaction is limited to showcase our human attributes- much of which gives you the edge for promotions and advancements. Consider how you will make yourself seen; values witnessed–all of which are oh so important.
Learning, development, onboarding. This follows closely behind mental health in order of importance for me. We can’t learn everything from a PowerPoint presentation, nor from a friendly presenter on Zoom or an online tutorial, book, or textbook. Observing, seeing, feeling, hearing real-life situations is far better. Some of what we learn is also not job specific; it’s about interaction, communication, and relationships–our human skills. The importance of L&D and onboarding have been driven home to me so sharply this time round. EST10 has three new starters–yes, we are one of the brave few who has kept hiring, despite the lockdowns. Training and securing engagement have been on my mind 24/7.
Security. When WFH, we need to be more vigilant in how and what we discuss. I am not even talking about the basics of conversations in private, shutting down your computer/laptop, privacy, data etc. I am referring to cyber security. 58% of employees reported discussing sensitive information on work video calls, and over 10% of employees had their video calls hacked while working remotely. The risks are real and increasingly so!
Practical solutions
Just because I am not a total fan of WFH, as it stands now, it’s not all bad! There are some wonderful benefits, one of which is that we are no longer pursuing the ‘hustle’. Spending less time chasing and instead appreciating life and family has been a big positive shift for most. So, here are some practical solutions to make WFH work and really work!
  • Should WFH be your future norm, understand the driver for your employee wanting to work from home–children, study, commute. As a manager, having understanding and awareness will help in building strategies to support and not compromise this need. Conversely, as the employee working in with the business, so it is not a one-way street, will ensure a proper partnership, goodwill and ongoing strong relationships based on trust, increasing the likelihood for success.
  • Ensure a good working environment–ample screens if needed, internet connections, chair, desk, access to all tools needed, a quiet space.
  • If on video calls–provide a co-branded backdrop for professionalism for employees. Not everyone will have a private space to work or want to share their bedroom/lounge etc. And fair enough too!
  • Encourage a routine and structure. i.e., morning meetings, regular updates, reports, accountability.
  • Clear work expectations, goals, and priorities.
  • Establish ways to measure success. Also, celebrate successes!
  • Regular check-ins–beyond work dialogue. Strong relationships will assist with productivity and ongoing engagement
The world will move on, with or without our permission, liking, or preferences. And this is not about being ‘bad’ or ‘good’. It just is. Polarities exist in every condition or affair, and that is the nature of life. Let’s embrace it with positivism, excitement, and a heightened responsibility towards ourselves and each other.
‘Everything’s got space between it, the planets, trees, your eyes. Your eyes get too close together, it’s a whole different world. You can lose perspective.’ – Mos Def
About the author
Roxanne Calder
Managing Director

As Founder and Managing Director at EST10, Roxanne has an all-encompassing role that includes building and growing the business, as well as actively recruiting and consulting.

After completing a Bachelor’s Degree at Monash University, Roxanne began her recruitment career with renowned recruiter Julia Ross. From there, Roxanne worked in HR and recruitment with a number of global players and boutique businesses throughout Australia, the UK, Singapore and Hong Kong for over 20 years. She has been responsible for managing large teams and projects, implementing RPO models, managing and assisting businesses to an IPO and assisting companies in setting up their recruitment teams and processes.

Following completion of her MBA at the Australian Graduate School of Management, Roxanne launched EST10 in July 2010. In doing so, she hoped to combine the flexibility and high touch service levels of boutique agencies with the structure and strategy afforded to larger firms. Roxanne believes in high-touch, high-care consulting and is always on the lookout for consultants that share this vision of recruitment.