Friday Faves is our weekly blog series highlighting a few select pieces from the REG team’s reading lists. You can catch up on past Friday Faves on the archive

The hidden bias of working from home

Anne says: Working from home (during a pandemic) can create unintended bias. This article reports on a study completed by Steelcase, the office furniture design company, in December 2020 across 1,800 people in the US, France and Germany.

The findings are probably not surprising, but an important reminder that context and working conditions will create inequalities and challenges. The findings grouped workspaces into four types and then reviewed how each of these impacted performance.

  1. Home office
    A dedicated room, probably set up prior to the pandemic. Considered a luxury and easily activated as the prime workspace during lockdowns.

  2. Work Zone
    An area in another space, extra items of furniture were added to both divide and improve functionality.

  3. Multipurpose area
    Existing areas that were seconded for working from home – typically the kitchen or dining room table. This space combines personal and work areas and the nature of this space will change over time.

  4. Temporary set-up
    Similar in many ways to the multipurpose area, except the work items are removed when not in use. No sense of permanency and again, shared spaces with others.

Which of these space types do you recognise?

The key finding was:

“There’s a direct correlation between people’s home working conditions and their wellbeing and stress levels, which, in turn, impacts their performance.”

They divided the space type findings into the “haves” and “have-nots” – and as expected, the “haves” performed better in their dedicated workspaces. And here’s where the biases and challenges come in. The “have-nots” have higher incidents of stress and well-being issues. And, typically it was gender-based – women were most likely to be working in the multipurpose or temporary set-ups.

“The disadvantages they faced before the pandemic have only been exacerbated during an extended time working from home.”

The article does provide some answers and strategies – intentional organisational design to enable people to improve their setups. But, this alone will not improve their productivity. A strategy that considers work from home conditions and how engagement can be blended with hybrid models will require an understanding of each person’s context. This will not be one-size-fits-all. Not everyone will have the ability to set up a dedicated room or isolate themselves from others during lockdowns. However, as plans are being initiated for different ways of working, the four types of workspaces provides a useful framework and reminder of the challenges some people experience.

PS. If you haven’t come across the research projects from Steelcase before, it’s worth exploring.

Read: https://www.steelcase.com/eu-en/research/articles/topics/working-from-home/hidden-bias-working-home/

7 ways emotional intelligence helps remote workers connect to their workplace

Jakkii says: this article starts with the line, “It’s still not entirely clear what our workplaces will look like post COVID-19.” And, really, of course it isn’t – we’re still in the midst of the pandemic (although not so much if you’re in the UK, where ‘post-pandemic’ apparently means today, now that “Freedom Day” has been and gone). Uncertainty remains, the pandemic marches on, we go in and out of lockdown, we go in and out of the office and WFH, we change on a whim and we find it hard to keep up.

Where does it all end? Who knows. As one member of our Remote Work Meetup said this morning, maybe all this uncertainty and going in and out of lockdown and constant change actually is the new normal. Who knows. One thing that does seem fairly clear, though, is that we are going to continue to have to remote work in some form or another for the foreseeable future, whether by choice or not, whether planned or not, and whether it’s all-in or not or hybrid or not.

So, while remote, how can we make sure we’re feeling connected rather than isolated? This article suggests we can look to emotional intelligence, offering 7 ways it can help.

  1. Communicate frequently

  2. Proactively update leaders

  3. Show you’re listening

  4. Keep looking professional

  5. Check in and make casual conversation

  6. Get back to people promptly

  7. Look for opportunities to connect

Even without going to the article and reading in more detail, it seems fairly clear to me how these could each be helpful. They encourage you to be intentional and proactive, and to actively engage with your colleagues and your work. Rather than sit back and wait for the feeling of connection to start, take action to make and keep yourself feeling connected to others. Some of these may feel harder for new starters, especially ones with less experience in the workplace as a whole and with remote work in particular. We should take care to help them connect by modelling desired behaviours, making ourselves approachable and available, and ensuring we reach out to them.

We have the tools at our disposal now for connection, collaboration and engagement – we just need to work on our behaviours to ensure we’re engaged and effective, connected rather than isolated, and build and maintain team social cohesion, all from wherever we might be working each day.

Read: https://www.fastcompany.com/90657084/7-ways-emotional-intelligence-helps-remote-workers-connect-to-their-workplace

Around the house

Work from home facade

Jakkii says: Hope everyone is livin’ la vida lockdown, wherever you’re locked down around Australia or elsewhere. While you’re clinging to your last shred of sanity, trying not to kill your family and buying elastic-waisted pants online, here are a few ways to keep yourself occupied – besides, of course, staring out the window and contemplating the meaning of existence in a world where you can’t go outside.

Stay safe, and hang in there. You’ve got this.

Friday Fives

Hybrid workplace and the future of work

Remote work and the digital workplace

Communication, collaboration, engagement, and culture

Community management, moderation and misinformation

Privacy and data

Big Tech, tech and regulation

Social media

Bonus: So this is how TikTok knows so much about you

Extras

This is interesting: The rise of must-read TV

Things that make you go hmmm: Shades of Big Tobacco: How (and why) Juul bought an entire issue of a scientific journal

Space: What does it take to do a spacewalk? Skill, courage, and being able to wear a men’s size medium

Podcast: The IT Pro Podcast: Why digital accessibility is good for business

Friday playlist: Friday Funday


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