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WFH Can Be Enjoyable... With the Right Tech


A woman working comfortably from home
Image: franz12 -
As I’ve bemoaned in previous WorkSpace Connect posts, working from home (WFH) hasn’t been easy for me; my chief complaint still is the blurring of the work/personal line. While I still would like to return to the office one day, I acknowledge that might be a way’s away and have adjusted to — and daresay come to enjoy — WFH.
And it appears, I’m not alone, as evident by several recent surveys that show a gradual acceptance from in-office workers. Out of a 100-point score, remote workers had a Workforce Happiness Index of 75, while their in-office counterparts registered slightly lower at 71, according to a recent CNBC| SurveyMonkey Workforce Survey. Similarly, WFH workers were more satisfied with their job (57% vs. 50%) and felt their contributions mattered more (54% vs. 48%), the study reported.
Echoes of these sentiments are seen in a recent survey by workplace company JDP. When asked if their bosses trust them WFH, 49% said “yes, totally,” and another 43% said, “yes, for the most part.” A majority of remote workers also responded positively to whether they are taking advantage of the freedom that WFH provides (54% responded to “yes, a little bit,” and 32% to “yes, quite a bit”).
The survey touched on the downside of WFH too. Distractions were aplenty; 54% said there are more distractions at home, compared to 29% that said the office had more distractions. And of the people working longer hours from home, 49% said it was because it was hard to separate the boundary between work and home life — my lingering WFH gripe.
While these surveys don’t necessarily paint WFH in the best colors possible, they do seem to show a shift towards WFH being just as good, if not better than, its in-office counterpart — not the productivity death knell that so many predicted. What both surveys don’t really answer is how to solve the persistent WFH issues, the distractions, the lack of proper technology, and the isolation.
In a recent post, my colleague Beth Schultz discussed how noise-canceling technology eliminates the usual suspects from video meetings (dogs barking, vacuum cleaners, etc.). But that seems to solve only a portion of the remaining WFH issues. What about the workers who simply grabbed their laptops, thinking they’d only be away from the office for a couple of weeks, and four months later, they now realize their current setup isn’t enough? For that, technology providers like Zoom, Microsoft, Crestron, and many others are trying to fill the tech gap that WFH caused with solutions designed for the home office.
This week, Zoom announced its line of at-home devices, Zoom for Home, launching first with a $600 tablet from DTEN. These all-in-one collaboration devices feature video meeting, calling, calendar, and whiteboarding capabilities, Jeff Smith, head of Zoom Rooms, disclosed in a briefing on the release. The idea behind Zoom for Home is to enable WFH workers where they are via a single device, Smith said. The idea is simple enough.
While it’s yet to be seen if employers will flock en masse to these solutions, there’s a potential case to be made. At the onset of WFH, I left my monitor, keyboard, mouse, docking station, and all the jumbled cords and chargers at the office. Doing a quick Amazon estimate, this equipment roughly costs $250 — an investment that is currently not utilized. And I know that I’m not alone in this tech abandonment experience. So, instead of having a similar setup shipped to a home office or having employees schedule a time to pick up their stuff — both prohibitive in their unique ways — an organization can leverage a solution like Zoom for Home to equip their staff.
There is also a setup issue for workers retrieving equipment or having equipment shipped to them. Employees, who will have varying degrees of tech knowhow, are left to set up WFH stations, calling IT only when all else fails. With a solution like Zoom for Home, IT orders and manages these devices remotely, giving IT more control over the process, Smith said. Unlike the traditional monitor, mouse, keyboard setup, this device is considered a “flex device” and designed to easily be converted into an in-office environment, thus doing away with the unused tech issue, Smith explained.
Speech technologies and all-in-one collaboration devices can help create a better WFH environment. But there is still the other issue of many workers feeling disconnected and isolated from other coworkers and their supervisors. For that, supervisors might consider any number of means to make employees feel less alone. Everything from virtual birthday parties to bring-your-dog(s)-to-work days have been tried, and there are countless other ways to connect. HR departments most definitely will have ideas for connecting employees, along with the resource for those that might have experienced mental health concerns during the COVID-19 lockdown. And the bedrock that makes all this possible? It’s, but of course, technology.