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dot.LA Column: Adjusting to the New Normal When Office Life Resumes

This column written by our CEO Badri Rajasekar was originally published in dot.LA here.

Last week, Facebook announced that they will allow employees to permanently work from home once the COVID-19 pandemic settles. The week before it was Twitter. As two of the largest social media companies pivot some of its workforce to remote, it’s time to re-evaluate what the future looks like, as we plan our adjustments for this “new normal.”

While many companies were exploring remote work prior to the pandemic, COVID-19 accelerated this transition. People around the world have swapped cubicles for kitchen tables, found new co-workers with their pets, opted for video conferencing over in-person meetings, and shortened their commutes from the bed to a makeshift desk. Despite the shaky beginning, many employees have changed how they view the work experience, and employers have recognized the need for continued flexibility.

To take a deeper look into how people feel about working from home, my team at Jamm conducted a survey that revealed 81 percent of respondents want to have the choice to work remotely going forward, even when stay-at-home orders are lifted. While the work-from-home experience has been more enjoyable than not for most, we learned three important takeaways.

Video has and will continue to be indispensable

Video conferencing has been an essential tool during the pandemic with 94 percent of respondents relying on video conferencing for communication, compared to 74 percent using Slack or Microsoft Teams. Moving forward, 83 percent of respondents will continue to use video communications to stay connected with colleagues if or when they return to the office. 

While work from home has been agreeable for most, respondents still feel that the experience has some downsides – 70 percent of respondents miss face-to-face interactions, 48 percent think working remotely makes it harder to collaborate, 35 percent feel lonely, and 43 percent feel the stress of having to be “always on.” When we were building Jamm as a remote team, we understood this problem first hand and believed that video could be a game changer. It’s the in-between meeting conversations over lunch or across desks that more closely mimic how we communicate and collaborate in real life, which can’t be replaced with Zoom happy hours.

Returning to work FOMO free

As some companies make the transition back into the office, employees will most likely have to alternate days working from home to avoid crowded office space. Fortunately, a majority of respondents (57 percent), felt they would not be missing out if they remained working remotely while others worked together in the office. 

Since these work-from-home protocols will be necessary for companies to comply with sustained social distancing, a lack of “FOMO” from employees is good news. With Zoom, Google, Jamm, and other video conferencing apps, employees are able to stay connected with their coworkers from around the world without having to travel. Video enables teams to quickly huddle to accomplish tasks across cities and timezones without missing out.

Employees need to know what’s next

With all of this in mind, companies will inevitably need to adjust to the new reality. Employers will need to communicate their new work-from-home policies as soon as possible to set boundaries and provide clarity to employees. It will also become crucial for managers to trust their employees when working remotely. While 65 percent of respondents said they won’t be one of the first people to return to the office, safety is still their top priority when it comes to entering the office again.

To continue working from home for an extended period of time, managers need to understand that results and morale are what’s important, not the number of heads in the office. In addition, flexibility is key. Not everyone will be comfortable with coming into contact with clients and coworkers, so letting teams swap in-person meetings for emails or video conferences when possible is the best alternative for social distancing purposes.

As remote work continues, companies will need to accommodate flexible schedules and distributed teams to meet the demand of our new reality. Video makes this possible by not only enabling teams to quickly connect and accomplish tasks, but also allowing colleagues to easily give context by sending video messages. The need of the hour is to enable more engaging modes of collaborating and to maintain social cohesion in this remote-work world. 

For the most part, teams have been able to make working from home work. Now it’s up to employers to take what they have learned over the past few months and implement changes for the long-term.

Note: These data points are based on a survey Jamm ran in May 2020 regarding remote work. To see the full results, you can check out the infographic here.