A Reflective Approach to Working from Home for Assignees

For the past two months now, COVID-19 has changed the way people work, but Adam Grant, professor of Management and Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, shared what he thinks will change from a mental and physical perspective: Some people will suffer from post-traumatic stress, while others will experience post-traumatic growth, he said in his interview with We Forum

Post-traumatic growth is when people realize their inner strength and deeper sense of gratitude. It will occur to you as you redesign your work and life to be more meaningful and motivating while keeping productivity in mind. 

Global mobility managers would do well to think this way for their assignees who came from other cities and countries. For leaders of their companies, it’s time to give them employees more control, and to trust them with managing their own schedules, he said. It’s time leaders also learn about their employees’ values, interests and motivations.  

Working from home can have its set of challenges aside from being isolated, but California Corporate Housing hopes it has afforded its guests more than just the essentials, as it’s known for designing and organizing every aspect of a guest’s preferences, lifestyle and needs. 

Of course, life is anything but normal even with all the amenities one can enjoy. Still, life is also a matter of perspective. “When you can’t imagine the future, you can actually rewind and think more about the past. You can recognize hardships that you’ve faced before. You can learn something from the lessons of your own resilience.” 

Grant shared some more powerful insights about how the pandemic will change us, not just in terms of how we work but how we might behave in a post-pandemic world.

Think JOMO, not FOMO

Grant prefers to think about this less in terms of FOMO and more in terms of what’s often called JOMO, which is the joy of missing out which could be as simple as experiencing the joy of staying put at home in their pajamas.. 

This is a practice that’s pretty useful for people. We have a lot of evidence that marking moments of joy can actually create those moments of joy because we’re more likely to notice them. We’re more likely to savour and share them. Being able to capture a few things that are really joyful about getting to stay home seems like a productive step.

Post-traumatic stress vs post-traumatic growth  

Yes, there is going to be that lingering post-traumatic stress for some and post-traumatic growth for others who Grant thinks have a heightened sense of personal strength in them. Some people are just innately positive human beings. 

Shift from brainstorming to brain-writing

He recommends a shift from brainstorming to brain-writing which would certainly delight introverts. If you’re familiar with brainstorming, it’s where everyone in a conference room talks over each other. Brain-writing, his terminology, is a process where everyone writes, submits and reviews these ideas. It allows everyone to still do their best, even without the benefit of proximity, as everyone knows their contributions are documented.   

Impose less control over people’s schedules and plans

Who can even control assignees when they’re not in front of them, anyway? This is the ideal time to be less controlling. Everyone is already juggling work-life as a worker, teacher (to their kids), provider and cleaner at home these days. If people are monitored too closely, that signals distrust. When people are allowed to make choices, then they start to feel a greater sense of loyalty and they reciprocate the trust that they’re shown. 

Is this a particularly challenging time for managers, and what advice would you have for them?

From work/life balance to work/life rhythm

It’s more like balancing work in a week, where Grant says he might have two days focused on work and two other days where he’s in family mode. He calls it the most realistic way to manage this crisis. He calls it work/life rhythm.

Who are givers, takers and matchers in the workplace?

These are 3 different styles of workplace interaction. Giving and taking are self-explanatory, the latter an unsavory trait that should be easy to spot in this pandemic. It’s those who are caught in the middle, thinking if they are being too selfish or too generous, that bears watching. 

They are those who say, I’ll do something for you if you do something for me”. Grant thinks that most people operate like “matchers,” because it’s their core value and they’re afraid of the risks of over-correcting on either side. 

Resilient over distractions and procrastinations

The pandemic will expose the easily distracted and procrastinator. After all, many of us have treated our homes as a break from work, our time with family, our place for unwinding and recharging. Suddenly, the home is where we have to work as well. 

Grant doesn’t know if resilience is possible when it comes to interruptions. “The problem is less that they’re a source of hardship; it’s more that they’re distracting and it’s hard to get back into the task. Probably one of the best things we can do is try to find a sense of self-compassion.” 

This is hard for those who have worked in an office setting for decades but for those who have worked remotely for years, it’s not a problem. It’s their time to shine.

Embracing flexibility

It’s not going to be hard to imagine working from home anymore for those who used to come to the office everyday. On the upside, workers will think why they even need to come to work when their company has equipped their home or corporate apartments with all the things they need, from standing desks to big monitors and computers.  

How to learn from this experience

Grant says there’s a whole group of organizational psychologists, as well as sociologists and management professors, who are going to spend the next five, 10 years studying the effects of this pandemic in different places. 

People are going to learn something about what happens to people’s creativity and connection when they can’t interact face-to-face with their colleagues.

Ultimately, learning from an experience like this will come from reflection. As people come out of this crisis and start coming back to work, everyone will want to know how to feel their way through this pandemic. Stepping out of our homes when safety is almost guaranteed, all of us will be curious to know how things will work out for our lives.

“Last I checked, experiments are the best way to learn,” Grant said.