Figuring out the whole working from home thing
As the world becomes more and more connected by virtue of technology, the popularity of remote work has soared. A 2019 report by FlexJobs and Global Workplace Analytics found that approximately 4.7 million Americans (3.4 percent of the population) now work remotely or from home. And between 2005 and 2017, there was a 159 percent increase in telecommuting jobs nationwide.
While the upsides—flexible hours, no commute!— are many, remote work presents its own unique set of challenges. How do employees maintain motivation and work-life balance while working from home?
“Keeping a schedule is everything,” says John Rampton, founder and CEO of the productivity startup, Calendar. “There’s no one necessarily telling you to get out of your pajamas, keep your hands off those donuts, and get off the couch and start exercising. A schedule holds you more accountable because you have to put a window of time between work to focus on wellness.”
Prioritizing health at home
When launching Calndar in 2017, Rampton’s cost-saving strategy was to recruit talent from around the world to work remotely. Though the company now has an office in Draper, more than 70 percent of employees still telecommute, some from Utah and others from different states and countries. Team members receive a monthly stipend to support their health goals and encourage each other’s progress with a bit of friendly competition.
According to Buffer’s 2019 State of Remote Work report, which surveyed over 2,000 telecommuters around the world, 40 percent of employees named a flexible schedule as the primary benefit of working remotely. When identifying struggles, 22 percent responded with unplugging after work, followed by loneliness, and a lack of communication or collaboration.
Losing track of time and overworking is easy to do when spending most of your day at home, says Mark Fulton. Fulton lives in St. George and works remotely full-time as an IT manager for a Michigan-based company. He emphasizes the importance of a designated workspace where most distractions can be eliminated with the closing of a door.
“At the end of the day, I try to ensure I’ve hit all the important items and follow-ups, then get out of the home office space entirely, even if some of my other hobbies are computer-based,” Fulton says.
Away from work, Fulton keeps active by walking in nature, bike riding, and playing tennis. He recommends investing in a smart watch with activity reminders to help you stay on track even when stuck inside.
“Side twists or wall squats for a few minutes a couple times each day really make a difference when sitting so often. I have a stretching routine I follow each morning before I sit down to work on anything,” Fulton says. “I use a good wireless headset, so when I’m not presenting something from my desktop I can stand up and pace as much as possible.”
“Just as having a specific work plan or agenda is important, the same must be true with the attention we give to exercise and nutrition,” says Dr. Brad Crump, D.C., health services manager at Red Mountain Resort in southwest Utah. “Determine what works best for you, i.e. morning or evening for movement and meal planning? And then sticking to it.”
Managing an office at home
To combat boredom, Dr. Crump recommends taking frequent short breaks, using video chat as opposed to email whenever possible to connect with coworkers, and listening to music or podcasts at a low volume to replicate the background noise of a traditional office setting.
As the prevalence of remote work continues to grow worldwide, the coronavirus outbreak, which Time magazine labeled in February the “world’s largest work-from-home experiment,” has forced businesses in many sectors to venture abruptly into telecommuting amidst a chaotic and ever-changing global landscape.
In mid-March, the Park City-based health food company, Kodiak Cakes relocated their entire office staff of 86 to remote work arrangements within days. People and culture manager, Blair Carlin says it’s difficult to predict the long-term effects of this sudden shift. For the time being, her company’s priority is supporting every employee and keeping the team unified and connected as they navigate this new world.
“We’ve always been very proactive with our culture and flexible with work situations,” she says. “However, now that we’re remote, we need to look at things through a different lens.”
“Together, we can all get through this and continue to apply the lessons we’ve learned,” adds Rampton. “We’ll also come out of it with more knowledge of how to effectively operate a remote company and team.”