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VOL. 46 | NO. 3 | Friday, January 21, 2022

Surviving your employees’ shift to remote working

By Terri Schlichenmeyer

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At least the commute is better. That’s what you tell yourself every morning: 15 steps from bed to office is better than 15 miles. You’ve been working from home now for nearly two years and you’re waffling. Will it be like this forever and, if so, is that good?

Read “Out of Office” by Charlie Warzel and Anne Helen Petersen, and it could be...

Working from home, or living at work? That’s how the authors say that the current situation has been described to them, and that often means a lack of border between work time and off time. Add in children, constant spousal proximity, seclusion and a dozen other pandemic-related things, and it’s no wonder workers burn out.

“Whatever your isolating, claustrophobic setup was during the pandemic,” the authors say, “that is not what the future of work looks like.”

For “potential... change,” Warzel and Petersen note four concepts that will help.

For decades, employers have utilized flexibility through downsizing and the use of contractor-workers, often with the expectation that whoever survived the cuts would pick up the slack. It’s time now to turn the tables by instituting overall flexibility in your workplace because, if you don’t, “people are just going to quit.”

Be sure to offer it in a way that’s best achieved and easiest to measure, with boundaries and guardrails in place.

“Out of Office: The Big Problem and Bigger Promise of Working from Home”

By Charlie Warzel and Anne Helen Petersen

c.2021, Knopf

$27

272 pages

Find good management to shift the company culture to a flexible workplace. Learn to utilize technologies of the office, eliminate the fear of missing something, and consider having hybrid workplaces that offer space for teams or individuals to meet if they want or need to.

Encourage employees to become a part of a community on their off-time, so that they can “fill it with things that nourish” them.

And one other note: Stop short-term thinking and start looking for the widest picture possible.

“It sounds hokey,” the authors say,” but you have the power to significantly change people’s lives. What are you going to do with it?”

Though there is a final chapter inside this book titled “Letters to Workers,” don’t let that fool you. “Out of Office” is a book for CEOs and business owners.

Chances are, if you fall into one of those categories, you can tick off on your fingers all the benefits – and pitfalls – you know about offering flex-time to your employees on a permanent basis.

While the authors offer much largely unneeded background for many issues, their accompanying “concepts” are basically good answers to most concerns, especially when going back to the old way of working won’t... work.

And yet, because of all that background, finding the nuggets in the sand may take some effort, and some of the ideas might seem pretty radical.

Business owners who are determined to take advantage of – and survive in – today’s new way of working, though, will find plenty of takeaways inside this book, and it may help shift a few mindsets. “Out of Office” could, in fact, help you step outside your comfort zone.

Terri Schlichenmeyer’s reviews of business books are read in more than 260 publications in the U.S. and Canada.

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