It’s now been over a year since we all first experienced the effects of COVID19. Businesses were shaken by the sudden necessary measure of working at home. Remote working is defined by Cambridge Dictionary as “ the practice of an employee working at their home, or in some place that is not an organisation’s usual place of business.” We gathered 254 HR professionals to participate in our Remote working survey. The data was created by HR for HR. We aimed to find relevant and modern data to support HR professionals future strategic planning. This report is what we have discovered from our findings.
Workplaces prior to COVID19:
Previously Remote working was seen as the last resort. Remote working was offered as an exception to those who had a reason to do so .There people were perhaps outsourced, going into maternity leave or had worked for a company for years and needed to now bring up their children. Location was important for hiring as they were geographically limited to those who were able to make the commute from their homes. Forbes recorded that the pre pandemic only saw 5% of corporate employees worked remotely. Working in the office allowed Managers and HR professionals to helicopter watch their employees and have hands on access to their productivity and availability. Pre pandemic, it seemed to me that working hours were meant to be priorities before other responsibilities.
Workplaces after COVID19:
Now 20-30% of full time employees enjoy a level of remote working. This is for the following reasons:
- Employees can earn the same income but save on rent by moving outside the city
Less Commute Stress
- Time and money can be saved by eliminating the commute to work
- Opportunities are widened as employees are not longer geographically limited to the job market
Better Work/Life Balance:
- Employees have the ability to work on their own schedule that suits their own productivity. They can also adhere to family lifestyles while still working in their own time
1. Different companies require different levels of face to face presence. The current level of remote working can be used as an industry benchmark. This was the aim of our first question:
“What level of remote working does your company plan on encouraging over the next 6 -12 months?”
The pandemic can be seen as a thorough trial experiment of remote working. The necessary legality to work at home made the “ sample size” very large. The larger the sample size is, the increased accuracy the experiment has. Outlines of the benefits and disadvantages suddenly became very clear.
I believe that it was found that remote working advantages outweigh disadvantages due to the fact that the traditional workplace hours first approach has been outdated with the utilisation of technology. This is why a hybrid model of remote working is likely to persist even in the wake of the pandemic for the corporate world.
The most common option of remote working level is Partial remote working which came at a definite high at 63.64%. Flextime working came second at 16.88%. These results indicate that there will continue to be a strong demand from employees for the option to work at home. They have been given the opportunity to see how remote working suits their lifestyle and they would prefer to utilize this working model part time. The fact that the top two remote working styles omitted full time remote working demonstrates that a level of in office social interaction remains vital to a work and life balance.
2. Traditionally we would go to work, then return home for a resting period before going into work again. When the pandemic first occurred, this all changed. Suddenly zoom calls were occurring with constant disruptions such as kids walking in the background.
To most effectively remotely work, an employee must be fully equipped with all the assets to do so. In the creation of this question it was brainstormed if we should label the items that the company offers to support remote working as “ incentives”. This idea was scrapped as instead of an added bonus, these items were compulsory for an employee to produce work. We ended up wording the question as: “Which items does your company offer to support remote working employees?”
The reason why we asked the question was to evaluate the extent that companies would provide for their employees. The results showed that the computer device was the most necessary at 48.92%. Offices tend to provide their employees with a computer device each in their office. Taking an office device home provides separation between personal life and work.
Work computers enable technological functions such as access to softwares to track productivity. Providing standardised devices allows employees to all have an equal platform to work on. This allows for equal opportunity to work from home if the individual was unable to obtain a laptop previously. We found that the rest of the options greatly varied depending on the employee’s home office needs. Allowances were quite commonly offered across the options.
3. With any type of change in the workplace, with such a large number of people involved. There are bound to be a number of challenges that must be faced. That’s where the question of “What remote working challenges has your company faced”. We wanted to discover if there were common remote working challenges across a variety of companies.
However we actually found that remote working challenges experienced by our survey participants were very evenly distributed across the board. This is due to the unique nature of each business.
The highest chosen option was “ Lack of collaboration and communication” at 17.99%. This does not surprise me as it is a definite adjustment to switch from natural, human face to face communication to completely online. Remote working isolates employees and creates barriers with communication. For example, in the office you can walk up casually to your manager for feedback. In remote working you would need to book a zoom call meeting just to exchange any information. These extra steps can defer from efficient communication and thereby decreases social interaction. When a number of the employees work remotely and another number work in the office spontaneous conversations happen in-office but remote team members miss out. It is important to note how close the second option was, this was “ None of the above” at 17.33%. This shows that there was no clear winner for a standout remote working challenge.
4. The greatest remote working challenge revealed in the last question was found to be “ Lack of corporate culture and communication”. Corporate culture is especially a primary concern for HR leaders.
With remote working they are faced with the challenge to replicate their culture through virtual means. How can they re- imagine their cultures with no commonplace and face to face events are limited? How will they direct everyone on the same wavelength when some employees are in the office and others working elsewhere?
It was these types of questions that inspired the question: “Which activities has your company implemented in order to maintain a sense of workplace during remote working?”
Virtual team catch ups were the most popular option to maintain a sense of workplace at 59.74%.This was not surprising as video call online meetings are now the new norm. It would be the same practice of creating and planning the meeting call, which employees were quickly made familiar too.They can also be scheduled the same way as meetings are. However, the difference with Virtual team catch ups and meetings are the different intent. A virtual team catchup is a video call meeting that omits the conversation of work and instead keeps it social. The most effective virtual meetings have an itinerary or a theme to keep it substantial and interesting. Examples of this could be a weekly book club, a Kahoots game or other online games such as Bingo. If your company has downsized while practicing remote working or even not having an office at all, the money could then be invested into incentives such as a game prize of a coffee voucher.
The second highest voted option was “ none of the above”. The main reason that may have contributed to this result could be that most of the employees have returned full time back to the office, making this focus not a priority.
5.”How has remote working influenced tracking employee productivity”
The influence of remote working on employee productivity was found to be neutral. Remote working also enables more flexibility which allows time to be delegated appropriately towards tasks. The results of employee productivity resulted at a stable but slightly higher than average score of 57. Remote working employees view their company as doing them an extra service by allowing them to work at home. In turn, employees are more likely to be more productive to get the job done. Also, the fact that employees are happy to be flexible with their working arrangements ie. either at home or in the office, proves that they are more adaptable. The strength of being adaptable is likely to be projected across their productivity. These employees will be able to adapt to changes for their company success. Fortune 500 companies found that most people reported stable or even increased productivity levels after employees started working from home. Remote working saves hours of productivity, previously lost before in unnecessary meetings or long commutes. .
The new remote working norm has changed the traditional mindset that working hours come first. Into work being prioritised in the same level of other life responsibilities. Now when family, social and physical exercise are viewed as equally important as work, employees can better prioritise their time. As a result, heightened mental health is achieved as other needs are met. With their mental health needs met, they can more productively and efficiently, work.