What Your Home Office Does to Your Flexibility

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We all know staying glued to your computer screens can mess with your body, so here's your regular reminder to look away, roll your neck, stand up, and drink some water. But our physical health isn't the only thing we sacrifice by switching our entire working lives to a home office. Even with the best of intentions, remote work can interfere with our productivity.

Researchers in Norway have just completed an extensive study of "hidden threats" from the home office. This isn't just about distracting kids and endless Zoom fatigue, though those are both potent foes to getting your work done. Rather, we need to ensure we're communicating with each other clearly and explicitly about things that come naturally when we're face to face, even if it seems weird or exhausting.

"While working from a home office, or as a distributed team, provides significantly increased flexibility for the work situation," according to the research, "it could provide less flexibility in carrying out the work, both in terms of meeting colleagues, collaborating, and teaching." In other words, we tend not to want to bother people with small but necessary clarifications that would be easy in a pre-pandemic scenario. That can include key details about a project or even how long it should take.

The solution to this lack of flexibility is, paradoxically, structure — lots of it. That doesn't mean getting bogged down with the details, but learning better ways of delegating tasks and leaning on checklists could take a lot of pressure off everyone's shoulders.