While much has been made about the joys of working from home since the COVID-19 pandemic started, not everyone is on board. A recent Kaspersky study found that a full one third of employees surveyed aren’t comfortable with a work from home (WFH) arrangement. Reasons for disliking the WFH model vary from not having a good workspace to not being self-directed to too many disruptions from others in the house.
Just as employers had to quickly find ways to provide remote work options in 2020, they now must figure out if, when, and how to integrate those options into the post-pandemic work landscape. That includes improving WFH conditions and processes, but also figuring out what working from the office looks like now and paying attention to employees who say they don’t want to work from home.
While the situation is now more complex, it’s also an opportunity for employers to best meet the needs of all employees, perhaps better than before the pandemic. For companies that want to offer a full range of options to workers, we explore here several practical ways to meet employees who don’t want to work from home.
Recognize a Range of Needs
The popularity of WFH arrangements is largely due to a sense of greater work-life balance that people working from home enjoy. With no commute, some have more time to do things that make them feel better, such as exercising or cooking healthy meals. Others get to spend more time with family members or pets. These shifts from the traditional office arrangement are preferable for many.
Others, for a variety of reasons, don’t want to spend more time at home. Some experience isolation, which can be uncomfortable on its own or even aggravate existing mental health issues such as depression. Others may not have a good physical space or the financial resources to set up a home office, or there may be too many distractions for them to stay focused. Still, others simply don’t feel as productive when working alone.
There’s no one right way for people to feel about remote work. The key for employers is to recognize the range of needs people have and how working from home fits into them.
While you shouldn’t doubt team members who tell you they dislike working from home, consider that some dislike it for a specific reason, and it may be something you can help with. If your company is moving toward a WFH-only arrangement, interview resistant staff to find out if some of the following solutions could help:
- Better equipment. Those who are unable to create a comfortable workspace due to financial limitations may suffer from physical pain after sitting in a non-ergonomic configuration for hours at a time. Think about providing or paying for any equipment they may need.
- Cover moving expenses. Some workers simply may not have the space to create an appropriate home office. Covering coworking expenses may help them resolve this challenge.
- Mental health services. Others may find the isolation of working from home too much to bear. If existing mental health issues are the problem, you can help by offering robust mental health benefits.
- Get-togethers at the office. Team members who don’t like working from home may simply need occasional interactions with their colleagues. Schedule some meetings at the office with time afterward for socializing, or plan some fun afternoon or evening events.
Use a Hybrid Approach
Having to shift your thinking from the everyone-at-the-office approach before the pandemic to fully remote teams during it, you may find it cumbersome to now consider what could be in between. A hybrid approach offers the best of both worlds, providing a number of possibilities:
- A smaller centralized office where workers choose “shifts” and work from home the remainder of the time
- A primarily WFH approach in which team members gather at the office only for meetings or to see clients
- A primarily work-from-the-office approach in which employees can choose to work from home any time
The following video further describes hybrid working:
Using a hybrid approach may be the perfect solution because it allows you to create many different working models for people with varying needs. Team members can work where they feel most comfortable, while you don’t lose the flexibility of working from home or the formality, when needed, of working at the office.
Know When It’s Time to Part Ways
If a fully WFH model is where your company needs to go, that’s okay. Businesses change their policies all the time, and not all of them are a good fit for every employee. If it turns out that some employees just can’t adapt to the new model, create a plan to set them up for success.
For example, assuming they’re otherwise an asset to your organization, allow them to keep their job as long as they need and use company resources to find new employment. Write them a glowing recommendation letter and let them know they’re welcome back if they change their mind.
The Next Normal
The pandemic changed the way we work for good. We now know that remote work on a large scale is not only feasible but in some ways preferable, especially for those who had to make considerable sacrifices to work at an office. Yet not everyone feels that way. Some people thrive around others or simply don’t have a good spot to set up a desk, computer, and camera.
Fortunately, companies have the option of being creative in how people work. Many have found the best approach to be a hybrid solution in which employees can have much more flexibility and choice around how they perform their work.