For those who have spent the past 18-or-so months working remotely, the transition out of the home and back into the workplace may be (or has already been) a challenge. It’s not necessarily a concern about working longer hours — if anything, it may cut down on the amount of time we spend working — but more about losing the autonomy remote employees have gained during the pandemic.
“When somebody’s not always looking at you, you have choices about how things get done,” Dr. Arvind Malhotra, professor of strategy and entrepreneurship at the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School, recently told the BBC Worklife, noting that “small things” like being able to take a quick afternoon walk or 10 minutes to load the dishwasher can make a big difference.
So how can we hold onto at least some of the independence we acquired while working remotely and bring it back into the office? Malhotra shared additional insights on how we can accomplish this with writer Kate Morgan in an article for BBC Worklife.
The sooner you bring it up with your manager, the better
While some employers announce policy changes — like being able to work remotely one day a week — prior to employees returning to the office, many others expect people to come back and pretend like it’s 2019 and the whole pandemic situation never happened.
Either way, figure out which (feasible) aspects of remote work you’d most like to retain and discuss it with your manager — the sooner the better. (Ideally before you go back to the office.)
“I think if you give up location and time autonomy, and you come into the office, you need to talk to your supervisor and bargain for flexibility on what you want to work on,” Malhotra told the BBC. “If you come in, and do your job the way you’re told it needs to be done, maybe there’s also some more creative, innovative work where you can have more autonomy.”
Maintain control “on the micro-task level”
OK, so maybe you weren’t able to negotiate a pajama-inclusive office dress code or the ability to work remotely permanently, but according to Malhotra, there are other ways to hold on to your autonomy — specifically on what he calls the “micro-task level.”
Whether or not people realised it, this is likely what they were doing while working form home. “We blocked out certain times to do what we needed to do, and gave ourselves space and time to think,” he told the BBC. “I think practicing that habit has to come back to the office with us. There are autonomies you can take back in your nine-to-five.”
This can include things like avoiding scheduling back-to-back meetings (when possible), or blocking out a few minutes on your calendar during times of the day when you know you could use a quick break to recharge. No, it’s not going to be the same as working from your home office, but at least you’ll feel like you have some degree of control over your day.