WFH:  Don’t Fight it – Embrace it!

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I knew it!!  All along I knew it just watching myself and my wife work from home for the last 2 years that we were putting in more time but I could never prove it.  There is an interesting article in The Atlantic with a misleading title –   This Is What Happens When There Are Too Many Meetings.  Essentially the point of the article is that we are working harder and longer while WFH (Working From Home -if you haven’t heard that acronym yet 😊)

The author makes a number of interesting points the first being that while working in the office, people typically have 2 peak work periods during the day – just before lunch and after lunch (no siesta for us).  WFH actually has three peak periods.  The last one being late in the evening while watching TV or listening to music when I sit there and respond to emails or do research etc.  Apparently so do many others (30 %) and Microsoft in their study calls it the “triple peak day”.  Giving it a name makes it official apparently.  People are working almost as much at 10 pm as they are in the morning.  Especially for parents because they may have spent time picking up kids or feeding them dinner etc. and are playing catch up.  The author calls it “matching productivity to inspiration”.

Sadly, Microsoft also found that WFH during the pandemic has also led to an increase in the amount of work – hence the title.  The workday has gone up by an hour and after hours work by another two.  Some interesting points emerge.  First, leisure and work are merging – watching the news during a Zoom meeting or answering emails during TV time.  There is no geographical separation between work and home anymore.  And Zoom is used for both work and family so even the technology is melding together (by the way, Zoom has quickly become a verb like Fedex). 

And then to the reason for the headline: The number of meetings has been rising steadily since the pandemic.  “People have 250 percent more meetings every day than they did before the pandemic,” says Mary Czerwinski, the research manager of the Human Understanding and Empathy group at Microsoft. “That means everything else—like coding and email and writing—is being pushed later.”  Just let that sync in.  The author postulates that we think of all work to be synchronous – everybody has to be present now at the same time.  When you think about it, that’s just not true yet managers continue to want to hold meetings all day – especially since they don’t see everyone all the time.  Most of our work is actually not done concurrently with others – you send an email or document, and someone responds when they can.

There are a number of adjustments that we as managers need to make and we need to make them quickly because people have made it quite clear the WFH or some hybrid version are here to stay or you can kiss your best employees goodbye and best of luck replacing them.  The article suggests having meeting free days during the week.  Another suggestion is recording meetings and letting employees play it back at their leisure.  Alumni of TMG may remember the module on effective meetings where the most important message was “The best meeting is the one that was never held”.  Make sure the meeting you’re calling is absolutely essential.  Have some discipline about the meetings once you decide to hold them.  Just pull out the material from that workshop and update it for the virtual world to make sure that your meetings are highly productive and engaging.

Bottom line – you MUST embrace WFH and optimize and maximize it and not fight it.  Why would you when you are getting so much more from your employees if you do it right.

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Dalip Raheja is President and CEO of The Mpower Group (TMG). Dalip has over 30 years of experience managing large organizations and change initiatives. He has worked across the spectrums of supply chain management, strategic sourcing, and management consulting.
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