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WFH or WFO or Hybrid – Which is Better?

Posted November 15, 2021 in News

Written by John Shea III, Xpanxion Technical Writer

Zoom Fatigue

Zoom fatigue?

Virtual meeting fatigue?

Missing non-verbal skills?

Do I really need my camera on?

Can’t I just listen?

Do I have to go to the office?

I’m more comfortable at home. How much work really gets done at home vs. what work that can be seen done at the office? But I miss the social interaction at the office. Three days in, two days home? Commute? Arggh! 

These are just some of the things rolling around in employees’ heads as the pandemic draws down and we try to go back to the new ‘new normal’ which for some was the old normal. 

Let’s define a few things. WFH-Work from Home, what we did before the pandemic occasionally became all the time during the pandemic. We got comfy working from our bed, in shorts, sweats, or our jammies. However, some of us had to juggle home schooling, day care, multiple users on the home network, barking dogs when deliveries were made, and (whispering) speaking in our low register so others also within listening distance would not have their conversations disturbed. We could multitask one job with the camera off but still be part of the meeting by listening in audio. Bonus points if you didn’t grow a beard or put on make-up for the video meeting. If you forgot, you could just turn the video off and listen. Problem was there were no non-verbal cues to pick up on during those Zoom meetings. If the camera was on, you had all those people seemingly staring at you when all they were doing was trying to listen attentively. For any discussion purposes, WFH includes Work from Anywhere (WFA), which can be your local café or your mountain retreat with good Wi-Fi or an internet connection as long as you have a secure VPN (virtual private network). 

WFO-new term for Work from Office and what work used to be with full-time, long hours, long commute, multiple face-to-face meetings, in person social interaction, get to work early so you can get work done before all the meetings and stay late to get more work done. Meals were from nearby restaurants if you got an actual lunch hour. CEOs are pushing employees to return to the old normal where they had greater control by direct observation of how you worked and what you worked on. Management by Walking is easier (and shorter) when everybody is co-located. 

Hybrid-A compromise now on the employment horizon as the pandemic dissipates. Three days in the office, two days at home or vice versa, depending on circumstances. Which three days? M, W, F? MTW, TWTh, WThF? Or some other permutation. Lug your laptop back and forth. This could be the new normal with health and safety protocols in place as the COVID variants wax and wane. 

What to do? What to do? What to do? 

Each one has its benefits. WFH has fewer interruptions, doesn’t have to deal with office politics, more time to focus, quieter and more comfortable, more family time, and less commuting (greener). 

WFO folks missed their colleagues and the water cooler chats, and some were just plain lonely at home. 

Workers from home often suffer from eye strain, watching their screen all day. Here’s a tip called the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes of screen time, you should look away at something at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. Regular screen breaks give your eyes some rest and help prevent eye strain. 

Many workers suffer from an exhaustive “Zoom fatigue,” going from one meeting to another, on camera, or not. No breaks, just grab something from the kitchen and gobble some Ramen noodles with the camera off, wipe your chin, and turn the camera back on and actively participate in the meeting. Rinse and repeat daily. This virtual meeting fatigue is real and is now being studied by psychologists and sociologists. 

Others miss the social interaction and camaraderie. Stewart (not his real name) said, “I live in a house all by myself. I need to get out and be with people. I know it’s risky with the pandemic, but when this is all over, I want to be back in the office, in a physical space, mingling with others in a pod or talking over the cubicle wall.” 

Think Zoom fatigue doesn’t exist? Here’s what Michelle (not her real name) said, “I have 6 meetings today and with little ones that makes for a really tough day for me. I wish meetings had 10 min buffer increments instead of like 1-2 and 2-3 it would be 1-1:50 and 2-2:50. We don't get the natural cadence of breaks as if we were in a real office space, going from meeting to meeting,” 

Two different points of view trying to find balance in the new ‘new normal.’ 

Here are some new virtual meeting suggestions (and these can be applied to the in-person ones as well):  

  • Have an agenda. 
  • Keep it short enough for the time allotted. 
  • Post it before the meeting (possibly in the email that sets up the meeting). 
  • Invite only those that really need to be there. The facilitator runs the meeting and keeps it on track. Either they take notes or assign someone to do that, share that responsibility. 
  • Start the meeting on time and keep to the agenda. If you need more time for the meeting, schedule a follow-up; don’t run over others’ meetings. If other topics come up, talk about those offline or set up a meeting to discuss just that topic. 
  • Send out the status update or the minutes of the meeting so all pertinent stakeholders know what was discussed, especially for those who cannot attend or got there late. 
  • Shorten the meeting time. Does every meeting need a full hour? If you finish early, give that time back to the attendees. 
  • Shorten the hour-long ones to fifty minutes and the half hour meetings to twenty-five minutes to give people a chance to grab some fresh coffee, a bio break for that consumed coffee, a chance to stretch your legs and get some fresh air, or just stretch your legs. You’ve been sitting for a while and will go back to sitting a while so take some time away from your connecting device.  
  • It’s nice to have the camera on, sometimes even polite to do so. You give visual cues to the presenter on how their message is perceived, that they have your full attention. If you need to multitask, turn off the video and mute your audio but make sure you listen to what’s going on so you don’t go “Huh?” if you missed something said. 

That’s meeting etiquette. Now for the hard part. 

Judge your value as an employee who would prefer to work from home rather than the office. According to public LinkedIn responses from all over, after the pandemic, 52% want to stay working from home, 32% would go hybrid, leaving the other 16% at the office. Other polls can vary, but most responders would prefer to work from home. Some companies have already made up their minds—Amazon says their employees can work from home indefinitely. PwC says the same. The situation is still undecided for some companies. It's very wishy-washy. But maybe the tide is turning back to remote as the pandemic ebbs and flows.  

Judge your company on what they value. Weigh the two. If not one, then the other. Will hybrid be enough to satisfy each? If not, then sharpen your resume and be prepared to take the risk to find a company that shares your own values, be they WFH, WFO, or Hybrid, because all three are probably here to stay. 


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