Over the last year, millions of children have started showing up to work with their parents every day. Overnight, as businesses shifted more and more of their staff to a remote work environment, employees had to quickly adapt to new settings in which to complete their work. While some people have the luxury of a dedicated home office, many don’t. I’ve participated in countless Zoom calls in the last 12 months where the background behind the corporate professional I was speaking with was a messy kitchen or a bedroom with a pile of laundry in the corner. On one call, my host turned on his video – covered in sweat and panting heavily – having just completed, as he told me, some “killer reps” on the workout equipment that was in full view of his camera. For the first 15 minutes of our meeting, he would periodically wipe the sweat off his forehead. And, I’m sure we’ve all had some variation of this one: the gentleman I was speaking with was wearing a pressed dress shirt and a tie with a professional-looking bookshelf behind him. It was a nice change from some of the less formal calls described above. During our call, someone knocked at his door, and he got up, revealing that he was only wearing boxers on his bottom half. Yes, the world is a different place than it was just 12 short months ago. What I most often see, however, is children crashing the Zoom calls. The person on the other end is often horrified and reminds their child that “Mommy’s at work.” In reality, I think it’s hilarious. It’s a fun break from the serious conversation, and it’s never an extended interruption. These are interruptions that your office staff did not have a year ago.
How can you keep your people engaged with all of these home-based interruptions? Despite these interruptions, multiple surveys reveal that more than 55% of all employees (the US only) prefer to continue working remote post-pandemic. People wanting to stay home may create significant issues. For example, if I want to stay home, but my office forces me to be recalled to the office five days a week, the first thing I’m doing this evening is putting out my résumé. The working from home paradigm is forever changed.
To ensure a successful work from home arrangement, the flow of information and communication needs to be even better than it was when everyone was in the office. To keep your remote people engaged, make sure that all communication channels are open. Make sure they have access to everything they need and know where to get help. Process clarity and verification are even more critical in a remote environment. Think back to January 2020. You just finished the weekly company meeting: everyone is standing up, leaving the room, and heading back to their desks. The communication between the time the session is over and returning to their stations is sometimes critical. Zoom has removed this opportunity. When the meeting is over, it’s over. Instead of a discussion on the way to the break room, you head to your kitchen. There, your six-year-old insists you help them finish a puzzle. Thirty minutes later, it’s time for lunch, and the distractions pile up.
Working from home with kids (and other things!) underfoot is a new reality for a lot of us. Give thought to how you can grab your people’s attention, so they stay focused on meeting their goals. They need all the help they can get to deliver for you.