WFH: Manage the Work, Not the People

Some surprising results from a poll of remote workers

Just 19% of respondents want to go back to the office. iStock
Headshot of Shelly Palmer

The New York Times did a wonderful set of articles last week titled OOO. The articles cover the spectrum of issues we are all facing working from home (WFH). Some of the writings were based on a survey of 1,123 remote workers. And because of the polling methodology, the results were unsurprising, so much so that I decided to do our own poll so we could compare responses. The results of our poll were surprising, to say the least.

Before we dive into your responses, a short disclaimer: This is not a rigorous scientific study. These responses are from our readers who tend to be very smart, employed, mostly married, Gen Xers or boomers and who live in or near big cities. The responses are not in any way representative of the general population. As directional “sense of the room” polls go, however, it is very informative. You can see a graphic of the poll results here.

I am happy and productive working from home

Almost 80% of our respondents strongly agreed or agreed that they were happy and productive working from home. Only 1% strongly disagreed. From a work perspective, our readers are weathering the pandemic with very little stress.

I want to go back to the office full-time

Nope. Sixty-four percent want to keep WFH and 12% are good either way. A scant 19% of respondents want to go back to the office.

So it should not surprise you to learn that almost 70% of respondents strongly agreed or agreed with the statement, “Working from home is less stressful than commuting to and working from the office.”

I will move to a new city or state if remote work continues indefinitely

Only 18% of respondents strongly agreed or agreed with this statement. This is quite surprising, as most of the people I speak with day-to-day in online chat meetings have made a point of telling me that they are either in the process of moving or are thinking about it.

Work/life balance

We asked a bunch of other questions about taking breaks, exercise and general work/life balance. Mostly everyone agrees that they are doing more chores at home, but not everyone is exercising or taking more breaks, which brings me to some ideas about WFH and WFH management I’d like to share with you.

Management style

In the past six months, everyone who has been forced to work from home has developed their own strategies to deal with it. No two situations are alike, but there are some common pain points. I’ve written several articles about how to WFH, and you can find the resources here. But for most people, tech is not the issue. The issue is adjusting to the new normal.

For this, I offer one simple bit of advice: Do not manage the people; manage the work. No matter what your management methodology is—Waterfall, Agile, Scrum, Kanban, Lean Project, Six Sigma—people working from home will respond best to a results-based management style.

Results-based plus

There are many good approaches to results-based project management, but all of them can be reduced to one simple idea. “Please get this done by Friday at 3 p.m. I don’t care how you do it.” We add another step to our results-based project management approach: We advise our clients to tell their teams about the big vision and then ask how it might be accomplished. Using this inclusive approach with a remote team brings the group closer together and encourages additional interaction. Then, we suggest telling the worker or team to “go do it.”


@shellypalmer Shelly Palmer is CEO of The Palmer Group, a strategic advisory, technology solutions and business development practice focused at the nexus of media and marketing with a special emphasis on machine learning and data-driven decision-making.
{"taxonomy":"default","sortby":"default","label":"","shouldShow":"on"}