A Little Taste of Old Normal — the Benefits of a Virtual Commute

Through “virtual commuting” employees who are working remotely can block out time each day for certain activities to help avoid the burnout of constantly working from home

Photo: Good Faces

By Emil Sayegh

Virtual work is everywhere, and it is widely acknowledged that in some form, it is here to stay well past the end of the pandemic. The landscape of work is forever transformed and both employers as well as employees are still adjusting to it. While technology has helped make these changes possible, various human element examples such as water cooler talks, happy hours, and commutes are still missing. On the surface, the idea of eliminating in-office challenges such as commutes on busy freeways, public transportation, parking, and weather seem like advantages, but a heavy price is being paid in other ways. Workers report feelings of being disjointed, isolated, and the beginnings of “cabin fever” due to the introduction of work into their homes. And so, we have a new dynamic on our hands and people are coming up with novel ways and technologies to go about effectively working through the world of remote work.

https://www.reddit.com/r/ufc258livetvnow/

Enter the “fake commute” — a concept where clear definitions between home and work are set by ritual and virtual boundaries. This is an idea that is catching on across social media and across professional groups. The fake commute can take many forms, but it is a touchstone opportunity to turn work things on and turn those same work things off gradually at the end of the day.

Workers are implementing components such as:

  • Focused work periods
  • Focused communication periods
  • Morning walks
  • Yoga
  • Stretching routines
  • Time management

People want and need these virtual buffers as the line between home and work has become considerably thin.

Why Even Fake is Beneficial

Workers and the businesses they work for are finding out that the workplace today means that impromptu discussions, camaraderie, and brainstorming sessions are lost, and meeting new employees and several other scenarios are difficult to replace. Further, with hybrid and fully remote work a big part of the foreseeable future, employers should begin to recognize the potential for employee burnout and have questions about fostering the most efficient work conditions possible.

The fake commute is a welcome and natural development that helps us all. Technical solutions are doing all they can to recreate as much as possible, with collaborative video conferencing and other productivity-focused tools. Even Microsoft has announced that it will be bringing their technical support for virtual work bookends in one of their biggest frontline products.

A Virtual Commute

To help workers deal with burnout from working remotely, Microsoft’s Teams platform is introducing a feature it calls “Virtual Commute.” Microsoft’s answer to remote work problems is focused on fixing worker habits by improving productivity. The “Virtual Commute” feature presents a set of scheduled blocks of time that begins and ends the employee’s workday, where list-based work objectives are self-quantified and later self-reviewed. You also have the option to rate your day and push tasks ahead into your schedule.

The Push to Increasing Productivity

As we work through the best way to support remote work, organizations will welcome opportunities for enhanced engagement and any advantage that promises to secure worker productivity and well-being. For some employees, virtual commuting could prove to be a welcome productivity task that neatly helps them be more productive and reflect on the tasks of each day. Others may find relief from all-day attendance in a brisk walk or lunch somewhere away from their desks.

By all indications, whatever you think the ratio of remote work is today, it will continue to change. It turns out that remote work is an empowering channel that helped companies continue to operate through lockdowns and pandemic conditions. Some businesses will stay totally remote, while others will allow for flexibility in hybrid office scenarios and others will completely return to the office once conditions allow them to do so. As we creep up on a year of many professionals having to conduct business from home offices, Microsoft’s experiment is a welcome option that speaks to our continued adaptation to a remote workforce.

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