Back to the office or not?
Despite employees’ desire to continue with remote working arrangements or at least part-time, studies have proven the hard truth is that it can’t be the reality forever.
17 February 2021 | Business
Remote working arrangements may seriously impact morale and productivity as loneliness sets in.
To help set the course, recent PwC reports focused on key takeaways for companies to assist with refining recovery strategies and transition plans.
Human resources (HR) professionals need to continue navigating remote work situations, prepare for a return to work in the near future and plan for the days when everyone is back in the office or on-site.
The trend found from surveys is that employees will only work from home one to three days a week and work the remainder in the office.
Stanford economist and researcher, Nicholas Bloom, argues people need to be in the workplace at least some of the time.
The Stanford study showed only half of employees working from home are at least 80% efficient compared to on-site work.
Many leaders found employees were originally more productive at home. But as time has worn on, employees were significantly less productive on Mondays and Fridays.
Tip: Managers should meet weekly with employees and assist with setting goals and strategies how to stay on course for the week.
The study should that more than one-third of employees don’t have the internet capacity to handle video calls. The majority doesn’t have the level of technology or network speed they have on-site.
Tips: Employers should do what they can to help employees get the internet capability they need or consider a lower-tech solution. Meetings should be scheduled very early or late in the day when internet usage is lower.
The majority of employees struggle with appropriate workspace in their homes, making the environment less conducive to be productive and comfortable.
Tips: Send employees regular tips on ergonomics and best practices for working from home. Consider a survey of employees to determine if you can assist with home-office setup.
Many employees aren’t just isolated from the office. We need to be aware that employees may not see or interact with family and/or friends, specifically those who live alone. Remote working arrangements may seriously impact morale and productivity as loneliness sets in.
Tip: Some interesting ideas include Zoom happy hours. This can’t completely replace real-time, in-person interaction, but attempt to create opportunities for employees who face similar circumstances to connect, share stories and best practices to create a remote working community in the organisation.
The longer employees stay out of the workplace, the longer they feel trapped in unpredictable circumstances.
They don’t know how long and to what degree remote working arrangements, whether in full or partly, will infringe on their personal lives and lifestyles. Change is good, but constant change with no expectation of stabilisation tends to cause uncertainty and with that come anxiety.
Tip: Plan to normalise your operations as much as possible. While some employees need flexibility, many are more comfortable with a defined schedule. Also, keep employees updated on your return-to-work plans so they can prepare for the new – or return to – predictability.
HR leaders shouldn’t be surprised that employees who feel isolated, stressed and suspicious will become burned out.
Gallup researchers recently found employees who work from home are more burned out than those who work on-site. Prior to the pandemic, the opposite held true: Remote employees faced less stress.
Researchers say there’s a difference between choosing to work from home and being forced to work from home. When people had flexibility and autonomy to go to the office, they didn’t feel “trapped” at home.
In conclusion, organisations will need to carefully consider the future way of work into their long-term strategies. Re-evaluate whether remote work arrangements will benefit the organisation, the workforce and the corporate culture in the long run.
Petrus Haimbodi is an associate with PwC P&O Consulting Services.