A recent survey conducted among corporate leaders suggested that 82% of respondents plan to continue with a model of some form of remote work this year. Even industry giants like Facebook, Google, and Salesforce have adopted a remote work model for some time now, with Salesforce recently announcing that regular workday hours may even vary by choice, leaving employees to manage their own schedules. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated these work environment changes of course, but the shift in the way we work has been on the radar for some time now. After all, the rise in freelancers and independent consultants was already on an upward trajectory, and with the availability of technology that brings us closer together from thousands of miles apart, we’ve proved we can work from anywhere, at any time.

This change, however, still begs the question: while working on our own certainly has its benefits, are we losing a critical element of work-life that we didn’t fully consider?

The “work family” dynamic has changed

More autonomy, no commuting, a more flexible schedule, and perhaps fewer meetings are undeniably pros when it comes to a remote work model. But does this all outweigh the reduction in our daily moments of outside human interaction?  When workers have been asked how they feel about new working from home guidelines, nearly half in most studies cite loneliness to be the top detractor. Many miss the comradery they once shared with their colleagues. It was easy to have lunch and unwind with a workmate; now those moments need to be scheduled and might be far and few between. We may also have experienced the feeling of being “unseen” or overlooked at times. When an important project needs extra hands, are we on the shortlist to help, or do we become out of sight, out of mind in some instances? Those moments of networking and work bonding are certainly changing, and to try to adequately maintain them adds yet another job responsibility line item to our workdays.

A new job requirement for candidates could be their greater ability to network and stay connected

Do you find that the days are melding together and you are easily immersed in your solitude of work? Resist that and reach out! Maintain regular communication with co-workers, peers, and leadership as a top priority; it may be a skill that future employers are looking for. No longer can you rely on the natural flow of the day in the office to put you in touch with people; being proactive in your networking as a skill is key and is incumbent upon you for scheduling catch-ups, messaging others regularly, inquiring about any potential projects and offering help to others who need it.

Be available

A sure way to get your remote-work privileges revoked is when co-workers and managers are always sent to your voicemail! Being disciplined in our schedules is a given, but when someone calls, be present. Having messaging and chat apps readily available are important to show you are online. Allowing your schedule to be visible lets others know that you are not MIA, but are perhaps on another call at the moment. Consider using scheduling apps where co-workers can select times automatically to get on your schedule to avoid phone call tag.

To be successful at being visible when you work out of the office will require extra effort to keep yourself in the mix.

Remote work or a hybrid work model may not be for everyone

Only you will know what work capacity is right for you. That’s why when searching for job opportunities, it’s important to dig deep as to what the culture, the future plans and the expectations of a potential employer are to understand if you are a right fit. Similarly, for employers, it’s important to be transparent about how you envision your organization operating. Recently, Zillow CEO Rich Barton suggested the potential downfall of remote working models is a scenario where a worker “class” system might emerge: workers who come in the office are viewed as the “hard-workers”; those who stay home, may not be. Of course, there are numerous studies that would suggest otherwise, showing that productivity increases when employees have a more flexible schedule. But, perception is often reality and that’s why Barton suggests the organization must act accordingly to create an environment with a level playing field that drives success for all parties, “no matter where they sit.”

Can we really manage being unmanaged?

The short answer is yes. Just ask the millions of independent consultants who have created flourishing careers as the original remote workers. This great article from a 10-year “remote” worker veteran offers practical tips and a fun, fresh perspective for what it really takes to do it right. For consultants, a remote working model is nothing new; there’s just now been more workers invited to the party. In fact, independent consultants are a valuable resource for ideas and advice to newly minted remote workers who are trying to navigate this #futureofwork.

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What’s going to work for you? At Matlen Silver, we specialize in finding the right opportunities for all types of workers based on their skills and work preferences so that both their expectations and those of our clients are exceeded. Reach out to one of our recruiters to learn more about opportunities in this changing work landscape.