WFH—Where is Your Workspace?

Did you know WFH stands for work from home? WFH is when a company employee skips the office and decides to complete their tasks from the comfort of their house or apartment. Usually, this is temporary, perhaps a day when the employee needs to wait for a delivery at home, can’t find a babysitter, or simply wants to concentrate on a deeper level than can be done at a loud and busy office.

What Is the Difference between WFH and Remote Work?

On the contrary, remote work is usually when a company employee works from home on a permanent or near-permanent basis. Their daily workspace is often a dedicated area, such as a home office or fixed spot in the living room. A remote employee may visit the company’s office if they have one but they likely won’t have a dedicated desk or office there.

A remote-OK or remote-friendly company empowers its employees to work remotely if they choose to, except when they’re required at office meetings and events.

What is Hybrid Work?

Hybrid is where employees get a day or two a week when they can work from home, and they work in the office on the other days. These days may be fixed each week, such as Tuesday and Thursday or could vary depending on the individual’s weekly schedule.

An article on March 25 from Fox Business states Elon Musk sent a memo to his staff at Twitter stating that “office is not optional” and that if an employee was within driving distance from the office, they needed to show up in person or consider their “resignation accepted.” The article says that according to the Wall Street Journal, a Labor Department report this week found that 72.5% of businesses said their employees teleworked rarely or not at all last year. That figure was an increase from 60.1% in 2021. The survey showed about 21 million more workers on-site, full time in 2022 compared to the year before, and 2023 seems to again be trending toward in-office or hybrid.

Despite the number of in-office employees trending up, the workforce and how people work has changed dramatically since Covid emerged in the first quarter of 2020. People are often surprised when I share with them that I worked from my home address for over ten years up until 2015. During Covid, although fully equipped to work from home, I chose to work from an off-site office (as I have since), securing a corporate office.

Arc, an online hiring platform for senior developers in the tech industry, offers a remote work glossary for the remote worker. The table of contents is

You can find other terms, including gig economy, single source of truth, and workation. Another term in the glossary I hope all of you in the construction industry find as endearing as I do is brick-and-mortar. Brick-and-mortar is what keeps us all employed.

Often the discussion comes up with candidates wanting fully remote or, at minimum, hybrid work environments. My question that always follows is, Why? It’s met with a myriad of responses. Whenever those reasons are to abscond from something they would not be allowed to do if a supervisor were present, then remote or hybrid work may not be suited for them.

Maintaining Work-Life Separation While Working from Home

When I worked from my home address, we planned in advance. We purchased a home with dedicated office space. We also chose to keep the business boutique as we planned and hired staff that was fine with working out of my home office daily. We implemented policy around such conditions, and my young family at the time had restrictions from the office space.

It was not easy to work from home; it required discipline and structure. Looking back, the logistics of what we thought would be better for the family fluctuated with time. The biggest challenge was work-life separation as, despite having the dedicated space, emotionally, it was a step away. The staff coming daily and my outside meetings and events helped me to be disciplined with getting dressed for success, even on the days when loungewear, no make-up, and bedhead were my first thoughts. Now, with life as an empty nester, working from home seems like it would be peaceful and more productive than the office, yet the ten-minute commute each way was a choice I made when selecting an office. Many candidates do not realize if they plan, they can also manage their commute distances.

How to Determine If Working from Home Is Right for You

What questions can you ask yourself when it comes to what work environment suits you best?

  • What am I looking to accomplish by working from home? What goal do I want to achieve?
  • Is my working from home in the company’s best interest for the job I was hired to do?
  • How does my working from home change the interaction with others who need to communicate with me to do their jobs?
  • Do I have a dedicated, productive working space to work from home?
  • Do I see myself happily working full-time from my dedicated home office space?
  • Can I manage distractions from family, pets, and visitors?
  • Am I willing to risk that it might not work out for my employer or me in the long run?
  • Can I accomplish my goal in another way that might be more beneficial overall?

Productivity Problems

We had an employee who chose to relocate out of commuting distance from our office and asked if we would keep them on as a remote employee. The original agreement was that the employee would maintain the same schedule as in the office. Our office team had to make many accommodations to serve this individual, including shipping items to them and assisting with administrative and printing, to prepare for their role that they would have normally done themselves as part of their job responsibilities and part of the collaborative team.

As this individual settled more into the home environment, their discipline waned with time. Ultimately the relationship was burdened and did not work overtime. We learned as a company that remote does not work for our business structure, and even when a teammate is out, a piece of us is missing with them. Short term for business events and personal time off, we can make work. Maybe because we know it is equally covered for everyone.

Maintaining Engagement with Your Team

Another industry instance we had was a candidate who worked for one of the top 100 companies on a multi-year project that they were allowed to go remote with during Covid. When all the employees were called back, this worker decided not to go. They kept them during the project but notified them it was back on site for the next assignment, or it was “resignation accepted,” to quote Elon Musk. This employee insisted that the employer was wrong and that they could do their project engineering job just as effectively from home as opposed to on-site with their team.

They failed to see the company was keeping them through the existing project because of the historical knowledge they had from previously being on-site and knowing their team members and the process. This outweighed the parts of their job they could not do effectively at home. The new project was all new, and they wanted someone 100% engaged with the project and the team and doing the full job. There is a myriad of other reasons this candidate should not want to be fully remote as a construction project engineer. One to consider is the opportunity to develop constructability and soft skills to pave the way for upward mobility in their career.

Creating Solutions That Work for All Parties

Sometimes people think it is all or nothing. The challenge is that not only is your place of business ever evolving in the construction industry your life is going through cycles. Happy-medium solutions can work for you and the employer when both parties are involved with the planning and the solution and understand the commitment and the risk, all while remaining flexible with time.

Do you need sound career advice to help navigate your career and establish a work-life balance? We are always available to help.

Whether in-office, hybrid, or remote, always be present when on the job.

To Your Home and Office Success,

Suzanne Breistol


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