Working from Home Isn’t Bad For Productivity or Culture

By Caleigh Farrell, Senior Director, Client Strategy

zoom vide conference screenshot of colleagues

It is an undeniable fact that we’re living through a period of great uncertainty. It is as difficult to plan for the future as it is to navigate our day-to-day existence (grocery shopping, visiting loved ones, keeping kids entertained at home [thank you, Disney+]). 

But after nearly two months of working from home, there is one thing of which I’m certain: a remote workforce isn’t bad for productivity or culture if you take the right steps to cultivate and empower your team. After a few weeks, it seems we’ve hit our stride. Here are the steps we’ve taken to bring productivity and culture online: 

Communicate. And then communicate again. 

In the beginning, we overlooked the amount of communication that happens in the moments between meetings–a quick team debrief to discuss what we heard from a client, mapping roles and responsibilities, or simply gut checking our work with colleagues around us.

Yes, Zoom fatigue is real but we have found we operated better as a team when we began formalizing the informal: scheduling 15 minutes for an internal regroup after an external meeting; increasing frequency of personal and professional check-ins across our teams: leveraging Zoom, email, G-chat, text, Facetime, and phone calls to stay connected

This practice has also helped us overcome an unintentional distance bias within our team. You tend to better communicate and prioritize communication with the people closest to you–a hard reality to navigate when we have some team members who are always remote (or remote from our head office). In many ways, we’re working better together than ever before. 

Trust the team 

Productivity has never been Public’s Achilles heel and yet Publicans feel their productivity climbing without office distractions, corroborating a pre-outbreak study by Global Web Index that found remote workers more likely to report higher levels of job satisfaction, sense of culture, collaboration, communication, and productivity. 

Sure, this could partly be attributed to fewer coffee bar chats, but I suspect it has more to do with the fact that we trust one another to behave like adults and deliver. Permissioning flexible ways of working (in both time and space) has allowed our team to meet their own personal needs while addressing the needs of the work. 

By trusting that we’re all in this together, working towards a shared goal, we’re better able to support mums and dads during nap times or online-learning or give people the space to use their time in the most suitable way for them (earlier or later hours). This time has allowed us to live our values in a very real, very tangible way.  

Let life in

Our work is our home and our home is our work (Tik Tok cred: Joshua Long). The blurry line that once separated life and work is gone. The two sit squarely on top of one another. Rather than pretending this isn’t our reality, we’ve found that embracing it has brought us closer together. We’re connecting to one another in a more personal, more human way; seeing into each other’s homes and–in many cases–meeting partners, children, dogs, plants for the first time.

Because there’s no longer a “work” and “home” version of ourselves we’re bringing a more three-dimensionalized image of who we are to the table. This vulnerability and openness is elevating team connection to a whole new level.

Develop routines alone and together 

Creating consistency in our days alone and weeks together has helped us navigate the realities of working from home. Our team members have found comfort in simple actions that mark boundaries between day and night, work and home. Whether that’s been creating a home office, protecting the ‘commute’ (time to yourself at the end of the workday), or dimming the lights in the evening, we’re all finding that some structure supports efficiency and mental well-being.  

Having predictable team meetings has been key to maintaining a sense of normality to our weeks – they’re also a helpful reminder of what day it is. At Public we’ve protected our Monday all-team status and introduced a Thursday social meeting. These recurring invites are both purposeful (meetings to update the team, meetings to connect outside of the work) and have been central to bringing our ‘connected culture online’. 

Maintaining, and even increasing, productivity and culture has ultimately come down to communication, trust, humanness, and consistency. 

We’ve learned a lot in our almost two months at home but I think one of the most striking insights has been a decrease in our team’s stress levels in the absence of the ‘daily grind’. Experts believe we’ve gotten a glimpse into the future of work. The question is, what are we going to do with this knowledge?