Understanding the Symptoms of Burnout

In the first post of this series (Whose Problem is Employee Burnout?) I explored burnout as a indication of a sick work environment. What do we mean by “burnout?” Let’s start first by defining the mental and physical symptoms of burnout and how that definition pertains to the workplace.

What is burnout?

Burnout is a reaction to prolonged or chronic job stress and is characterized by three main dimensions: exhaustion, cynicism (less identification with the job), and feelings of reduced professional ability.

Burnout, Symptoms and Treatment, Elizabeth Scott, MS

Authors of The Truth About Burnout, Christina Maslach and Michael P. Leiter, describe burnout as an “erosion of the soul.” 1The Truth About Burnout, Maslach and Leiter, pg. 17 It occurs when the employee becomes disconnected from “the values, dignity, spirit and will” of the work they do. That erosion is seen along three dimensions: exhaustion, cynicism, and feelings of reduced professional ability.

Exhaustion

Burned out employees may feel 2 types of exhaustion 2Stress and Burnout Symptoms and Causes, https://www.verywellmind.com/stress-and-burnout-symptoms-and-causes-3144516:

  • Physical exhaustion – this is an extreme level of fatigue that manifests itself in the body. The sufferer may experience headaches, aching muscles, or gastrointestinal issues.
  • Emotional exhaustion – such as lack of energy, inability to concentrate, and moodiness.

Cynicism

Cynicism is a form of depersonalization. It’s used to psychologically distance a person from a situation that is overwhelming or painful. Employees demonstrating cynicism will become sarcastic, negative, or callous towards others and will not display an interest in their work. Cynicism is an outward manifestation of the erosion of engagement that’s occurring internally. 3Beating Burnout, https://hbr.org/2016/11/beating-burnout

Feelings of reduced professional ability

Feelings of reduced professional ability may begin as a true lack of resources needed to perform a job well during difficult times. But in people experiencing burnout, these feelings are amplified because they are battling fatigue and a disconnection from their work. This can show itself as a lack of motivation or creativity in performing their job or can be as serious as dropping out of their work or social circles altogether.

Presence of some, one, or all dimensions

Burnout is not “one size fits all.” The severity of burnout may look different depending on the person. A sufferer may not have visible symptoms in all 3 dimensions. Or the manifestations may be more or less intense. This is why it can be difficult to self-diagnose and why checking in with employees regularly is so critical to monitoring burnout in employees.

Burnout Stages

While there are no set stages of burnout (online articles offer anywhere from 3-12 stages), there is a progression burnout. Paraphrasing an article from ThisIsCalmer.com 4This is Calmer, https://www.thisiscalmer.com/blog/5-stages-of-burnout, here is what that progression looks like:

This progression doesn’t have to happen because burnout is reversible when interventions are deployed earlier.

Burnout is a workplace syndrome

The World Health Organization (WHO) added burnout as a syndrome to its International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11). Burnout syndrome is an “occupational phenomenon.” It is not a mental illness. It is not the sign of a weak person. It is a form of trauma that occurs because of sustained and increasing levels of stress in a work environment.

Because burnout is related specifically to work environments, the “focus should be on fixing the workplace rather than . . . fixing the worker,” writes Sara Berg 5WHO adds burnout to ICD-11. What it means for physicians, https://www.ama-assn.org/practice-management/physician-health/who-adds-burnout-icd-11-what-it-means-physicians.

But what are factors that can cause burnout? We’ll explore that in the next post.

Whose Problem is Employee Burnout?

I was catching up with a colleague recently. After a year of the pandemic and being fully remote, the team was experiencing a number of issues which sounded suspiciously like a recipe for burnout:

  • a mass exodus of long time employees
  • increased, complex project work and longer hours
  • new team members rolling on and rolling off the project regularly
  • routine requests to work weekends with no notice
  • a limited on-boarding program which required full-time staff to buddy up with multiple new team members to do just-in-time training

The most concerning part of this were the full-time staff who were leaving and taking the project knowledge with them. My colleague explained that people were leaving because they were just burned out. The pleas for organizational changes to address these issues fell on deaf ears.

Burnout Epidemic

Toxic workplaces, unrealistic demands and leadership that is out of touch with their employees are a morale killer in the best of times. Over the last year, many employees have been working remotely and “living at work” 24/7. Add to that the increased demands that the pandemic has placed on employees’ personal lives and no wonder there’s an epidemic of burnout in this country. Good employees are overwhelmed by too many stressors coming at them from their workplace.

Employee burnout is a symptom of a “sick” work environment; therefore, the workplace must be addressed in order for its employees to get better.

If you’re struggling with burnout or are also curious about this topic, this upcoming series on burnout is for you. I want to explore this topic so there’s more awareness of what it is and how employees, leaders and organizations can address it.

This series will focus on:

  • understanding burnout and its causes
  • techniques to give yourself more control over your work (it’s not all yoga and hot tea!)
  • what you can do as a manager or organizational leader to incorporate employee well-being in your workplace
  • stories of companies that are coming up with burnout prevention strategies and changing their culture to address employee burnout

Do you have a story of burnout to tell? Email me. info@virtualbacoach.com

How Business Analysts Can Ace Every Job Interview

Business Analysts, YOU more than most other roles have job interviewing in the bag. Why? Because you plan and facilitate interviews as part of your work! Regardless, I still speak with business analysts who are nervous about job interviews. In this post, I’ll give you some “gentle reminders” from our own bag of tricks to get you through those interview jitters and help you feel right at home.

1. Do your homework

BAs wouldn’t meet with a customer without understanding background information and neither should a job candidate. Do your due diligence on the company or hiring manager before you arrive (stakeholder analysis!). What you are able to find online (document reviews!)? Can you get some additional information about the organization from the Human Resources contact you’re working with (organizational analysis!). Collect and document your information to prepare for your interview.

2. Prepare your job interview questions in advance

Imagine for a moment that this job is a new project to which you’ve been assigned. You’ve been given a little information about objectives and expectations but you don’t know the whole picture. Yet. Put on your BA hat. Analyze the gaps between what you know so far from the job description and company research and what you envision the job to be (future state). What information do you need to know to close that gap? Document your questions just as you would for a client interview and have them ready to ask your interviewer.

3. Show the interviewer you can analyze in real-time

The sign of a good Business Analyst is being able to think on her feet. That means using active listening skills to comprehend what’s being said and to connect the information with what you have already learned. Where there are gaps in your understanding is an opportunity to ask another question. This not only demonstrates your attentiveness to the conversation but also that you can synthesize information and identify gaps in your understanding quickly.

4. Demonstrate your emotional intelligence skills

Creating rapport builds trust which can enhance your conversation. Give the interviewer a demo of how you use your emotional intelligence skills to build rapport. For example:

  • Share something (appropriate) about yourself. Let your guard down and just talk. Remember, to keep it appropriate for your audience however. BTW this is not the time to share dark secrets.
  • ask questions about the company’s mission, values and culture . . . you know, questions about people stuff. In my post Why a Future Employer’s Values Should Matter to Your Job Search I write about why your future employer’s culture is an important part of your job search. The interview is the place to ask questions about it.
  • And talk about your values too. Companies are hiring humans, not robots. Your skills and experience matter but so do you. Take an opportunity to tell the interviewer what matters to you.

The outcome of this is that you and the interviewer will (hopefully) make a memorable connection. One that should keep you at the front of their mind when making the hiring decision.

5. Show off YOUR interviewing skills

Good interviewing isn’t just about asking questions. It’s about learning and connecting information and then asking more questions. “Zig when they zag,” as I always say. Incorporate some of these techniques to show off how well you can interview:

  • Paraphrase a question or answer to ensure that you understood what you heard
  • Think out loud. Sometimes it helps to talk things out to make sense of them.
  • Listen actively. Show your interviewer you are listening by being silent and patient as she speaks, asking additional questions based on what was said, and summarizing what you’ve heard.
  • Use body language that indicates you are engaged and interested in what the interviewer is saying
  • Connect the interview questions or answers with something you’ve learned from your employer research or during the interview

They say interviews are really just practice runs for the job you want. So show off how you handle interviewing by flexing your skills!

Why a Future Employer’s Values Should Matter to Your Job Search

I’ve started coaching business analysts who are looking to change jobs. They are a mixture of burned out, needing a change or wanting to grow in their careers these days. My most recent engagement involves helping a client review job postings and craft resumes. We’ve been spending time talking about how each job fits (or doesn’t) her skills, experience and values. We’ve also been spending time researching the future employer’s values to ensure that the employer is a good fit.

In one of our sessions we found a posting that was particularly interesting – and not in a good way. We went out to their company website and read more about their core values. I will paraphrase in our words the values that got our attention:

  • Excuses are for losers
  • Employees are expected to be online and available at any time
  • We’re smarter than our competitors
  • We only pick people who are the best so don’t expect us to hire you unless it’s clear you fit in with us

Your future employer’s values matter so read between the lines

We discussed her impressions of these values. We focused not just on the text but how they were stated. What you’re reading above is how we interpreted them. We could tell they were go-getters looking to disrupt their industry. But we could also tell there was an air of arrogance and “good-ol’-boy-ism” in how they went about it.

This posting gave us an opportunity to talk more deeply about her personal and professional values. An employee’s happiness and growth at a company are tied not only to the job’s responsibilities but whether there is a good match in values.

Where to find a company’s values

Once you’ve located an interested posting, find the company’s presence online everywhere you can:

  • go to the company’s website. Start with the About page.
  • find their company page on LinkedIn. Scan their Home, About and Video pages.
  • lookup the company on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or other social media platforms. Review their posts. Notice what hashtags they use.
  • go to Glassdoor. Read the Overview, Reviews and other pages. (Note: I always take the Reviews and other pages with a grain of salt because they are subjective.)

Some early stage start-ups or very small companies may not have much of an online presence. Never fear! If you choose to apply and are interviewed, be prepared to ask lots of questions about their values and culture. Remember, know what’s important to you in a workplace and be prepared to ask questions.

Assess what you find and how you feel about it

All of this information is data you can use to determine if you’d like to apply for their job. Look at this information as a set of facts (some, admittedly subjective) and then assess how you feel when you read it or hear it. Don’t gloss over answers that don’t sit well with you. Ask for more information or clarification. Listen to how you feel as you take in the answers. This will guide you on whether this company might be a good fit.

In my coaching example, my client and I talked about how she felt when she read their values. “Some of what they said turns me off,” she said. “I don’t think I’d fit in.” She decided to pass on the posting.

When job hunting, think not only about what you want in the job but also the kind of company and work environment you’d like to work in. This will help you identify companies that share values that are important to you.

Are you thinking about growing your business analyst career? Contact me for coaching.

2021 and beyond!

My 2020 started in 2019. After a series of life changes and losses, I started to rethink where I was in my life and if that matched where I wanted to go. 2020 gave me the space to work on those goals. By the end of last year, I had made significant advances in that new direction. So that got me thinking about where The Virtual BA Coach is going in 2021 and beyond.

What matters?

What values matter most in the core work I do?

Equality, equity and uplifting humanity. Employees over the last year brought their full selves to work (literally). Their homes, families and daily lives have been on full display. This peek into my colleagues’ lives reiterated the unique contributions, and sometimes their adversities, that make each unique. As a result, people on teams were bonding like crazy but companies continued to treat employees and contract staff as fungible “resources” or “bodies” that simply were “butts in seats.” These thoughtless corporate words have echoed for far too long in our industry and have resulted in toxic work environments that devalue the efforts of their employees.

Everyone deserves to have a place at the table. Each voice makes us stronger and better. This needs to be reflected in every level of technology teams. I need to do better and I want to help teams and companies do better too.

Exploring new ideas and looking at long-held ideas with a new perspective. As a Product Professional I’ve heard the phrase “that’s how it’s always been” more times than I can count. It wasn’t a good answer then and it isn’t an acceptable response now. So it’s time to really challenge the things that don’t make good sense (or good business).

Mindfulness. 2020 was hard on every level. Working from home has overtaken many people’s lives. Social and political strife added to feelings of loneliness and sadness. Mental health is now and will forever be a critical component of the workplace. How to practice mindfulness needs to be taught and encouraged in companies.

Giving back. I’ve done a lot over my career. I didn’t have formal training and I made a lot of mistakes. I really want to help folks who are in similar situations. At this stage of my career, giving back just feels right.

These are the things that matter to me which led to . . .

What’s next?

My little consulting venture has been “traveling light.” After thinking about what really matters, I’ve decided to take The Virtual BA Coach on the road (well, figuratively anyway)!

I’m writing a book! I’ve signed a contract with Bookboon, the world’s most used corporate learning solution, to write a book on virtual body language. This was a topic I spoke a little bit about in my Oct 2020 conference talk (BBC 2020). It’ll be released in an online format in September 2021.

More consulting and coaching services. Seems that teams have specific areas where they need help. I’m adding targeted services in those areas (COTS project requirements ramp-up, low code platform business analysis, better business analysis team coaching).

More online courses for product professionals! I launched a Udemy course on Demand Management in 2020. In 2021, I’m launching a few more courses on “pet topics” where I made a lot of mistakes and have a lot of lessons to share!

More speaking. More writing.

2021 is going to be busy!

Six Soft Skills Every Remote Business Analyst Must Have

Hard skills and business domain expertise make successful business analysis professionals but there is a core mix of skills needed in remote and hybrid work environments. In this post, I identify the 6 skills that are the most essential for success.

Virtual Communication Skills

Communication skills fall into categories such as verbal, non-verbal, and writing. These are essential skills regardless of whether you’re in the office or remote. But given our dependence on technologies that communicate across space and time, there are a whole new set of skills that fall into a category of their own: virtual communication.

The skills in this category include:

  • Virtual presence skills – involves understanding how to present an authentic version of you in all forms of digital communications
  • Audio visual skills -maintaining and troubleshooting audio, video and lighting tools
  • Writing skills for asynchronous communications – ability to clearly document information using techniques that make detailed information easy to read, search and understand
  • Communication delivery skills – think of this as more akin to public speaking. Understanding how to communicate your message through techniques such as eye contact, tone, and pace of your speech.

Organization

Remote workers cannot be successful if they can’t organize the information they are collecting. They just can’t. That’s why this is at the top of my list.

I don’t equate “organization” with having a clean desk (mine is terrible). Organization is an important component of communication. An organized worker can take information and structure it in a way that is easy for their audience to interpret.

Coachability

You must be able to accept feedback if you want to grow, learn and advance. Being coachable is the single-most telling skill that will indicate how far a business analysis professional can advance in their career.

The qualities of being open-minded and willing to learn, essential to accepting and incorporate feedback, are the foundation of being coachable. If you can’t accept feedback, can’t learn from the experience of others, you’ll only get so far in a project and in life.

Curiosity

In the office you might be able to reach out to a colleague to get an answer. Working remotely means you may need to rely on your own skills for how to do something. Being able to search and learn quickly is a core skill that can help you work independently.

Flexibility

Call it agile (lower case “a”) or creative or an optimistic-mindset. When you’re working remotely, anything can happen. Being flexible allows you to find an alternate path or plan a different approach on your own.

Self-Motivation

Are you able to get work done when a manager is not around? Remote workers must have the ability to complete their work without someone asking you to complete it. A self-motivated remote business analyst can take action to clear their own obstacles or advance their work without management overseeing their work.

Forming, Storming, Abnorming: How to Deal With Toxic Employees

To expedite hiring on a recent project, we relied on outside sourcing company. They sent over candidates. We interviewed and checked references for each one. We needed people and even though we sometimes had a heads up about issues, we believed our on-boarding and coaching program could overcome them. Cut to the end of the year, when the team imploded due to a series of bad behaviors that we could have avoided.

Toxic team members happen. Here is how to deal with toxic employees if it happens to you.

When Someone Shows You Who They Are . . .

Toxic team members can slip through good hiring practices. It’s hard to have the perfect question that can weed them out. However, if you seek reliable references and their information reveals problems with the potential candidate, believe them. Especially if they are providing relevant, first-hand examples. Maya Angelou said “when someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” The organization does not need to suffer the same fate as a prior one if you already have the knowledge.

Get Your Facts Straight

Sometimes teams just need a little time to form and storm. Things that might seem troublesome could be harmless. Make sure that what you are hearing or seeing is true. Fact-find. Follow up. Coach when possible. See the full picture to assess if there are problems.

Take the Time to Get to Know the Team Member

I once worked with a team that had a young employee who was talented and conscientious but had no social skills. The team refused to work with him and they complained to the manager frequently. We discovered during our coaching that he was on the autism scale. That important discovery helped us get him resources (and us!) so that he could be a successful member of the team. Make sure that you take time to understand all the conditions that shape a person’s behavior.

Coach and Influence

Sometimes the toxic employee isn’t damaging as much as they are distracting to others. Or you may catch the toxic behaviors early. Either way, take the time to have 1-on-1s with the employee and explain how they are distracting others and what behaviors you expect in their place. Over time, reinforce the behaviors you expect. Continue coaching to address other behaviors.

Don’t Tolerate Unethical, Dishonest or Illegal Behavior. Ever.

Getting the job done quickly isn’t worth it if the team is going to be undermined by a dishonest team member. This will do more harm than good and could forever damage the team’s ability to trust their leadership. Moreover, unethical, dishonest or illegal behavior can put the company at risk for lawsuits, HR complaints and so on. As soon as you verify that a team member has crossed that line, take immediate steps to move the person out. And by “out” I mean “out of the organization” and not just “out of the team.” Shuffling a toxic employee to a different team delays the inevitable and further erodes trust in leadership.

Zoom Studio Effects: A Remote Technique!

Many of us are spending a lot of time in Zoom meetings this days (apologies to those primarily using Teams, Webex, etc). Over the past year (heck, the last 6 months), they’ve add A LOT of features to improve virtual meetings. Recently, they’ve really expanded their video settings and new Studio Effects, which can add some fun and flavor to your virtual meetings.

What are Zoom Video Settings?

If you click on the Video icon in the lower left hand corner, you’ll see a few new-ish options.

  • Choose Virtual Background
  • Choose Video Filters

We’re beyond familiar by now with Virtual Backgrounds, right? If you aren’t, let’s discuss!

What are Virtual Backgrounds?

Virtual backgrounds replace your live background with an image or video of your choosing. Zoom provides a few by default. You can upload others. Some companies are even providing branded, company-appropriate backgrounds as options.

There are a few common sense rules for Virtual Backgrounds (VB):

  1. VBs should be appropriate for your audience. Leave backgrounds with more “personality” for your 1-on-1s or team meetings. Else, keep things basic for those important audiences
  2. VBs should not be distracting especially if you’re the speaker. The camera should be focused on you. Not the menagerie in the picture.
  3. When you’re not sure if Rule 1 or 2 applies, KEEP THINGS BASIC.

BUT NOW Zoom has added Video Filters!

What are Video Filters?

Think Insta or SnapChat filters but for Zoom meetings. These can add flair and fun to your Zoom meetings. They can also create trouble. Follow the same 3 VB rules above for Video Filters.

To access these new features:

Just a few clicks away from Video Settings and the new Studio Effects!
  1. In Zoom Settings, click Background & Filters
  2. Click the Video Filters link to view the filters. The filters appear. Click one to view it in the preview window.
  3. In the lower right corner of the Video Filters, click Studio Effects (beta)
  4. The Studio Effects panel opens.
It’s the Masked Business Analyst!

When would you use Video Filters or Studio Effects?

If you’re working with an audience over the age of 12, there’s probably no reason to use the filters. However, the new Studio Effects, available from the Video Filters page (in Zoom version 5.3.1) are the bomb-diggity for those of that can’t muster the energy to wear make-up!

I wake up looking like this . . . with Zoom Studio Effects!

Check out the eyebrows and lipstick feature. This can give your face a little color and definition. And when paired with Zoom’s extra awesome Touch Up My Appearance feature, you can wipe that Zoom fatigue right off your face. Or, ladies AND gents, you can sport a mustache just in time for Movember!

Now, even the ladies can show their support this Movember!

But seriously, Zoom continues to improve their video settings with each release. As evidenced by the fact that Zoom refers to the Studio Effects as “beta,” there are more features coming that will expand how we see and manage our virtual identities through this platform.

The Organizational Problems Keeping Your Teams From Succeeding

I’ve been on lots of teams over the years – good and bad ones. The teams always had good people doing good work. The “bad” teams always seemed to have organizational problems that prevented us from performing well. The indicators were there early: bad behaviors were permitted, lack of psychological safety, focus on hitting a finish date at any cost instead of caring for the people shouldering the load. The difference between the good and the bad teams was simple: leadership.

Are you a leader that can’t quite figure out why your team is under-performing? See if any of these issues might be happening in your organization.

Control of communication

Communication is “managed” by a few key individuals. Honesty is “balanced” with certain groups’ “need to know.” Notice how I’m using quotes? That’s because there’s a lot of hidden meanings when communication is controlled.

This is not always a management tactic either. Teams or key project contributors may control communication to avoid blame or give a particular spin on their work. Note: this is always my first red flag that a team or project is in trouble.

Examples of this include:

  • “Be careful” and “Don’t” are used frequently when team members are allowed to speak with others
  • You are coached on how to say things or what details to leave out
  • Information must come through only a few people
  • There’s a “meeting before the meeting” followed by a “meeting after the meeting” to make sure everyone is on the same page

Individual heroism over team work

Teams are tasked with getting work done but it’s a core group of individuals that are consistently rewarded for “heroic” efforts. This sends the message to people that team effort isn’t valued.

Symptoms can include:

  • heroes are visibly rewarded. You know what that looks like. A key project status update occurs where one person – usually, the same person over and over – is acknowledged for working “above and beyond” to make X happen.
  • unrequested overtime is valued – individual heroes work a lot of overtime – usually without being asked – to pull off a timeline or deliverable that otherwise could not be achievable. They receive praise from leadership when they give up their personal time to help the organization.
  • lack of team collaboration – the heroes have the best ideas and know how to implement them. They pursue that direction with limited involvement from others. They are not encouraged or just don’t feel the need to coach and mentor others to spread the knowledge out.

Disrespectful behavior

An eyeroll in a private conversation. A backhanded insult in a team meeting. Outright shouting and humiliation in public meetings. These are flagrant signs of disrespect.

When disrespect is permitted, team work and morale are undermined. It can be even more devastating to the organizational culture when the leaders are the ones exhibiting the disrespect. This gives employees tacit permission to be disrespectful to each other.

More subtle examples, which can be equally damaging to employee morale, can look like this:

  • Gossip and, in particular, allowing a gossip culture to flourish
  • Lack of regard for team members such as demanding unending overtime, referring to employees as “resources” or “bodies” rather than the using their job title or name
  • Scapegoating and blame culture – blaming others when something goes wrong instead of assessing the root cause and fixing the problems
  • Micromanaging specific individuals or teams without providing any explanation as to what concerns leaders may have

Team competition

Team competition when done correctly can lead to increased morale and innovation. But teams can collapse when this competition comes with the threat of job loss or discipline. The threat doesn’t have to be real. Teams can pick up the vibe through the gossip mill, by watching the behaviors of the leaders, through poorly coordinated communication or, worse, the absence of communication.

Team competition can also be a problem when outside staff are brought in to do a portion of the work. One group can interpret leadership’s actions (or lack thereof) as favoring one side or the other. This creates an “us versus them” mentality which can give the favorite team permission to treat others poorly.

So What? Now What?

Do you see any of these happening in your shop?

These situations aren’t inevitable. Honest, empathetic leadership that prioritizes employee well-being is the key to addressing these behaviors early so they don’t become systemic problems.

Five Ways That Companies Get Serious About Remote Work Over the Next Year

With so many companies going remote first, our home office is now an extension of our employer’s office. Companies will think long and hard about what that means for their liability. We’re going to see changes in the requirements they place on their remote workforce. Here are five ways that companies will get serious about remote work and the future of remote working over the next year.

Pop-up Offices in Retail Spaces

Those malls and retail spaces that have been shuttered by COVID? Wait for them to re-imagine themselves as pop-up office spaces. Companies like WeWork and others may have already taken office spaces in this direction. But owners of large retail spaces will get in the game by offering meeting and work space that is nested within their large, planned spaces. Those spaces already have food options and other small businesses that can support workers (such as shipping stores and so on). They’ll also reconfigure the public spaces to offer experiences that are both safe and relaxing.

Private businesses invest in public internet infrastructure

Some companies are paying for or are subsidizing their employees’ internet access today. However, the real problem is that not everyone has access to “good” internet. Heck, a part of the workforce doesn’t even have access to internet.

Internet and communication infrastructure in the US has been problematic. It’s largely been driven by what private telecom companies wanted to invest in. Think large urban areas with businesses and users willing to pay top dollar for fast internet. Small municipalities that have tried to provide this service to their communities have been stopped by aggressive telecom lobbies. (Check out this story on the town of Wilson, NC trying to become its own internet provider)

Large private businesses will stop investing in their own real estate and start to invest in state and local infrastructure to bring better internet to underserved communities. This not only ensures that the workforce has access to internet but that the access is affordable.

Return of tax deductions for home offices

The home office deduction was eliminated in the US with the last big tax code revision. Many newly remote workers will get an unpleasant surprise next tax season when they realize investments they’ve made to their home to add or expand their dedicated office space cannot be deducted. US companies will lobby their representatives to bring this back to benefit their workers.

Business insurance directed at the remote worker

Many companies already require remote workers to add additional coverage to their personal policies. Usually this is additional auto insurance to cover trips made in their personal vehicle, etc. But these times mean new risks and the insurance market will respond with new types of policies for things like:

  • personal cybersecurity,
  • business equipment,
  • loss of use of their home office along with a salary replacement element, and
  • new types of personal remote worker liability coverages

These types of insurance are not new to the market; however, they are only available for insureds that are businesses today. Enterprising insurance companies will quickly fill this need.

In addition, employers will ask employees to add additional coverages to their homeowner’s policies to cover risks like workplace injuries, personal liability, and so on. Some are already doing this.

Home office audits

Companies are taking on a certain amount of liability in having their workforce work from home. The home office is an extension of their office. Home safety, reliability of business equipment and so on will become more of concern. Companies will not only start to request and require certain safety standards but will enforce those through home office audits.

Companies and their remote workforce are just starting to come to terms with “remote first” looks like. What other things do you think will change over the next year?