Different Ways to Work From Home (+ Pros & Cons)

Thursday, March 19, 2020
Oh my freaking goodness, guys. It is March of 2020. The world has pretty much been, for lack of a better word, plagued with tragedy after tragedy, drama after drama. With Malaysia on a colloquially deemed 'lockdown', or more accurately known as a period under a "Restricted Movement Order", businesses have found themselves sending their staff to Work From Home during this period. 


I'm sure we all have seen the memes on working from home which looks more like a holiday with a laptop in front of you than actual work. What was interesting to me in managing the team I work with is the way in which we would carry out work from home. Before deciding on what we're currently doing, I put some thought into different ways that people could work from home. 


Different Ways to Work from Home (Pros and Cons) 


Without further ado, here we go: 


1. Task based 

This is the most 'flexible' way of working from home, where you are assigned certain tasks to achieve by end day or end week and you use your own discretion to figure out when or how you wish to get them done. This is very suitable for sales companies, which may need to make a number of phone calls or send out a number of emails in a day. It is the model in which freelancers carry out their work from home and it is outcome focused. 

However, some issues with this are that unless you have extremely clear independent goals, it can be difficult to structure your day to achieve what needs to get done. For instance, if your role typically involves revision or input from your team members, you might experience some complications or needless waiting around as different members are working at different times. In addition, less disciplined team members can affect your own productivity and you may find yourself being frustrated with another's schedule. 

Another downside of this is that if your team is new to working from home, it may be difficult to anticipate or understand how much time is required to complete a task. Although having clear time frames are important, if achievements are defined by 'how much got done in a day', it may not encourage employees to think more deeply about the task they're completing and expectations may not always be met if someone comes across a hurdle they struggle to solve on their own. 

Often, task based working from home styles are not time bound, and you may find those on a task based routine difficult to contact on an ad-hoc basis as they may not always be on when you need them. This could also mean that as an employee, your boss may contact you at any time (whether super early or late in the evening) and you may not get time to 'switch-off' in the day as your home is now effectively your office. 

2. Time based 


This is meant to emulate the work office time structure of working. You 'start work' at your designated time, by being completely available at your designated work hours. You stick to a fixed lunch schedule and you also 'clock out' at a particular time. Your colleagues are able to contact you at any time during the 'work day' and you meet your usual work obligations in the normal way - except at home. 

Meetings may be requested through video or phone call and as you're meant to be 'working', you will be expected to meet those obligations the same way you would on any other office day. The 'downside' of this method is that it does take away that flexibility of working from home that people normally expect. You should not be taking time away from your work to watch TV or relax, or do the laundry or fulfill other household obligations. However, at the end of your work day, your boss and colleagues are unlikely to make demands of you and you are mentally better able to segregate your day into 'work' and 'home time'. In addition, you save a lot of time without having to commute! (or wear pants)

This was the way I chose for our team to work. It makes it easier to see what's going on and we utilise team management tools such as Trello to optimise our efficiency. In this way, every team member is aware of what the other is doing and it's so neat and clear that I'm inclined to continue using these sort of task management tools even when we're back in the office. In addition, as we work alongside those in healthcare who are still working in this time, it makes it easier to contact those who are in the office because we operate within the same working hours. 



3. Meeting centered 


One of the most popular ways I've seen on social media now for working from home are those which are centered around teleconferences. A particular time is set for all team members to log on, dial in, and communicate with each other over Skype, Zoom or whatever else they've chosen. These online conferences are meant to work the way a meeting would, but sometimes for smaller companies, or in different teams, they're used as an online 'monitoring' mechanism to ensure staff are all invested in working and are on their computers.

One downside I envision is that in efforts to digitally recreate an office environment, everyone is connected on ONE chat room, fostering distraction. Although it is a good way to keep that sense of solidarity among a team that could feel isolated and lonely, it can also be a big drag on some staff's limited Internet access or productivity and is the kind of communication medium that favours extroverts. Rather, meetings should remain a tool in the work day and all of us could use this time working from home to consider how we could function more effectively with fewer meetings, as opposed to recreating all the meetings online, bringing along its inefficiencies. 

4. Free for all / On Call 


It is interesting to me that quite a number of companies have decided that their employees are to work from home, without sharing with them a plan of how to do so. Staff are expected to simply be available IF there's something for them to do and find themselves checking their phones frequently just in case their boss gives them a call. 

This method reminds me of when doctors are on call at the hospital. They are alert, on standby and are prepared for any sort of work that may come and are compensated for their availability. A person adopting this method does not give specific tasks in advance but instead may randomly call you up to get something done. This is also a 'flexible' way of working, but in my view, it does not maximise the resources at your disposal, could result in some anxiety by staff as they're in the dark on whether or not they have a busy day ahead and puts a lot of pressure on the immediate manager to achieve undefined goals. 


Conclusion


In reality, organisations adopt a variety of work from home methods, some of which are hybrids of the above. Different functions require different ways of dealing with them but I'm happy to see that many employers are using this time to explore the different and modern ways in which online tools can help improve the flexibility and productivity of a regular work day. 

If I have left out a type of work day that you think belongs on this list, please feel free to leave a comment! The opinions I shared above are just what I think would work for my team, but as we have only been working from home for a total of 2 days, I think it still remains to be seen whether we would change our mind moving forward in favour of another way.

Till next time! 

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