Moving Forward from ‘Work from Home’

Practices adopted out of necessity during the pandemic can now be refined to work better.

Imagine if someone had asked you, late last year, what it would be like if everyone was allowed to ‘Work from Home‘, the office would be closed and there would be no face-to-face communication. “Impossible,” you probably would have said.

Fast-forward eight months and we are emerging from an unprecedented period in which almost all offices were closed for weeks or months because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Although workplaces have reopened in many countries, some businesses have found that WFH (Work from Home) is well-suited to their operations and continue to offer staff this option. Among them is Google, which has said it’s prepared to allow its people to ‘Work from Home‘ until July 2021.

WFH is not really new. It has been growing in popularity for years because of the availability of technology that allows user-friendly communication between employee and office. Rapid advancement of social media technology and familiarity among users has sped up the adoption rate.

By the time the pandemic started affecting operations, many organisations already had a choice of affordable and reliable teleconferencing platforms to help make the transition smooth.

Working from Home‘ can provide a number of benefits, among them effective meetings. Since all participants receive invitations in advance, they “arrive” punctually. The meeting usually starts and adjourns on time; there’s no small talk — everyone focuses on the issue.

Because it is a virtual meeting, the head of the session, who may be a CEO or senior executive, can ask for direct comment of managers two or three levels down who may not regularly work with them. This way, they also have an opportunity to get to know their people better and perhaps even identify future successors.

Working from Home can also help provide a quality work-life balance for employees
Working from Home can also help provide a quality work-life balance for employees

BALANCE AND DISCIPLINE

WFH can also help provide a quality work-life balance for employees. The time (and money) they save on commuting can be devoted to healthier activities that can benefit both body and mind.

It is also a good opportunity to practise discipline, not only in terms of getting regular exercise, but also work-related responsibilities such as submitting timely reports and getting to meetings on time, as a result of monitoring ad hoc assignments.

Working remotely also encourages skill improvement because people have to prepare reports and presentations by themselves with less support from others than if they were in the office.

However, in order to enjoy the above benefits, organisations and individuals need to ensure that the right conditions for success are in place, starting with IT readiness in all four dimensions: infrastructure, devices, software and knowledge (especially on employees’ part).

Clear and concise instruction of assignments is also essential since boss and subordinate do not meet face to face. Although they can talk any time over the phone, a clear understanding of expectations is crucial to job success.

It is also necessary to address how to properly measure results. The best approach is to design key performance indicators (KPI) right from the early stage to the expected end results. The frequency of KPI reports should not be too far apart in order to closely monitor performance.

Besides IT system readiness, organisations need to ensure employee readiness, which may involve time for proper training and trials. For example, one large organisation I know of has adopted WFH for years. It allows employees to choose one day of each week to ‘Work from Home‘. By the time Covid-19 became a major threat, they were all ready to work remotely.

SOCIALISATION GAP

However, one downside of WFH is the lack of socialisation, which may affect team effectiveness in the long term. Also, the reduction in face-to-face interactions and relationships can take its toll on the organisational culture overall. Anyone who has worked for a company that is headquartered in another country will understand this matter.

As a result, we can expect less loyalty to the organisation from employees since they have less opportunity to interact with colleagues, subordinates and bosses.

Employees who exhibit a high degree of extroversion, one of the “Big 5” personality traits, may experience stress and perceive they are not being valued. They may even feel they are being “abandoned” by colleagues and the company.

In any case, Pandora’s box has now been opened. People who get used to remote working may want to choose to make it their primary mode. In fact, according to an IBM survey taken in April this year, 54% of 25,000 respondents said they prefer to work remotely.

In this regard, organisations should take this golden opportunity to review business processes and push for necessary changes to their practices. Employees are probably more receptive to change since they are now aware that remote working could be applied permanently, for some functions, over the long term.

From now on, working in the corporate world will not be the same. Digital transformation has clearly become the main driver of corporate transformation. ‘Working from Home‘ — or ‘Work from Anywhere‘ for that matter — is just one of many manifestations of this new reality, and everyone needs to adapt.

via : Bangkok Post

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