Working from home after Covid-19: What is the right balance for employees?

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Working from home after Covid-19: What is the right balance for employees?

 

It is official, working from home can make businesses more effective. A new study from Stanford University has suggested working from home boosts productivity by 13.5%. Now that working remotely is more accepted than ever within businesses, employees need to find the right balance to maximize the working from home experience.

With a variety of studies and surveys, there’s clear evidence that if well managed, remote working can help businesses increase employee productivity by as much as 20%.

With increased productivity, working from home will become more accepted and easier for employees working remotely to get approval. As it becomes the new normal, employers need to consider home working compatibility when recruiting and consider working remotely regarding expectations during employment.

 

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Working from home: How has the pandemic changed our working habits? 

 

Remember the days when working from home was an occasional employee benefit? Perhaps you would fit in working from home day while you waited for an important delivery. Or maybe you would need to work from home once a week to make sure you could collect your kids from school on time?

But then Covid-19 came along and disrupted our working patterns for good. Working from home became a new experience for many employees. It made remote work the new normal. But working from home is not without its problems; it can be lonely, stressful, and at times unproductive. This is where working remotely after Covid-19 is vital to ensure employees working outside the office are supported and working in an environment that makes them comfortable enough to succeed.

Keyworkers continued with ‘business as usual', and furloughed staff reluctantly enjoyed an extended break from work. But a large section of a society dedicated part of their home to office space and learned to contend with pets or kids interrupting their Zoom calls. The UK saw the number of remote employees more than double during the pandemic, with those in professional and managerial roles more likely to work from home. Unsurprisingly, employees in healthcare, hospitality, and manufacturing were less likely to work from home.

The home working of the pandemic was not without its challenges. Covid-19 put this new working style on the map for many employees, but it has also helped employers understand what home working actually means. We know more about how working remotely impacts employees beyond just an increase in productivity.

As the pandemic starts to ease, office-based businesses have begun the grand return to normal. But what will normal look like in this post-covid world? And do office-based employees actually want to return to a pre-pandemic normal?

 

How does remote work benefit companies?

 

Working from home can have a positive impact on employee efficiency. It is often seen as critical for a company's success. Actually, it has been shown to boost productivity by 13%. However, working remotely also presents challenges that may be overlooked in the workplace.

The pandemic gave remote work a good name. It affords employees the opportunity to manage their time efficiently, get more work done, and feel less stressed. Some working from home after Covid-19 became so popular that companies began offering remote work to individual staff full-time. Employees working remotely are less likely to be distracted or bothered by office politics.

Working from home certainly has advantages for business which include:

 

Improved employee productivity & engagement

A survey by McKinsey found most companies who used remote working over the pandemic saw an increase in productivity, engagement, and even customer satisfaction. This was especially the case in organizations that made a special effort to keep employees connected despite their lack of physical proximity. Employees working from home often set their own working hours and working preferences. This allows for a better work-life balance while also reducing total working hours.

As the pandemic eased off, many employers found that working remotely after Covid-19 allowed employees to maintain morale during an uncertain time period. In fact, studies have shown that working from home after Covid-19 increases employee satisfaction by 25%.

A working home space helped employees feel more engaged, especially those who were working long hours or working in particularly inconvenient office times. This is not the only benefit working remotely offers. If work conditions are poor, working outside of an office can make all the difference to happiness and working productivity.

It represents new challenges for HR managersbecause they needs to pay a lot of attention to new hires and especially the one who has a remote onboarding. From previous experience and recent research, employees who do not benefits from a good onboarding experience are more likeky to leave the company within the first 90 days.

Many working from home found working outside the office helped improve their working efficiency and even work quality. Employees working from home had more flexibility in how they chose to carry out tasks, with fewer distractions. This meant more occasional breaks and interruptions, leading to higher working productivity.

For employees working remotely after Covid-19, working outside of an office made it easier to continue working and remain productive. When working remotely, some employees felt more motivated and less restricted than in an office.

 

Increased workforce diversity

For employees with childcare responsibilities, physical or mental health disabilities, or those isolated by poor transport connections, remote work is essential. These groups are at a major disadvantage when required to travel to an office every day. This is particularly problematic for working mothers, who often end up shouldering the bulk of childcare responsibilities.

Employers working from home need to be aware of employees’ working preferences and their ability to work effectively in an office environment. However, if you remove that requirement, these employee groups can start to participate in ways that would previously have been impossible. That is good for society and good for business.

 

A healthier workforce

For the most part, allowing employees to work from home allows them to make healthier choices and lead more balanced lives. By cutting the need for a commute, employees can choose to exercise more, can take regular breaks, and choose to eat a more balanced and affordable diet with the food they’ve prepared themselves.

For working mothers, remote work can be vital for balancing work and childcare. For working fathers it may allow them to spend more time with their children or tackle issues like housework that they otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity to do. Remote work allows you to use your commute time as part of working hours.

The increased time spent with friends, loved ones and pets can also reduce the feelings of stress and improve overall wellbeing. 

 

A positive environmental impact

Organizations that choose to allow their employees to work remotely are reducing their impact on the planet. Not only are they helping cut carbon emissions associated with travel, but the carbon associated with running a large office – such as air-conditioning - can be reduced by cutting the amount of office space that is used.

A remote-first culture can also reduce an organization’s carbon footprint by reducing the need for employees to travel large distances to take part in meetings, especially if those meetings involve flights. This environmental benefit isn’t just good for the planet. It reduces costs and is an attractive benefit to both employees and customers, helping improve employer and employee branding.

However, it would be wrong to say that remote work is all positive. Despite the many advantages, remote working has definite disadvantages.

 

A lack of managerial skill

Many managers have not been trained to manage remotely. For this reason, remote workers are a problem in most organizations after Covid-19. This lack of knowledge often leads to managers underestimating their workload and taking on too much work. If this goes undetected, working out of the office can quickly become a recipe for increased stress and burnout.

Without proper training, employees can feel isolated or may not get appropriate feedback and guidance. This can be especially problematic for employees working long hours, who may not get the guidance they need to stop working unhealthy or unsafe hours.

Remote managers are often perceived as being less available by their staff. This is because making contact with other people in person is more immediate than communicating online or through email.

At the other extreme, some employees may feel as if they are expected to be constantly available, leading to digital presenteeism that damages to morale and productivity. 

 

Working from home

 

Employee mental health can suffer

Not all employees enjoy working remotely, and for some, the isolation, an always-on expectation, and weak co-worker relationships can affect employee mental health. This can be especially problematic in high-risk or high-stress working environments. Employees working remotely after Covid-19 has taken place, need proper training and guidance to ensure they feel supported and able to build strong working relationships with others.

The working environment also needs to be conducive – working at the kitchen table is always going to be difficult – but if working remotely goes smoothly, that can lead to a healthy working environment with both remote work and working in the office.

If working remotely becomes a problem, working from home after Covid-19 is best introduced gradually using trial periods. This allows any possible problems to be spotted quickly so they can be addressed before fully remote workers becomes common practice .

Additionally, employees who has remote jobs are often excluded from corporate culture and may feel like they are not working together with others toward common goals.

If employees working remotely do not feel that there is the same level of accountability in their remote working environment. This may lead to working longer hours than previously and increased levels of burnout, resulting in increased sick leave and reduced productivity.

 

A lack of equality

Working outside of the office can increase the problems associated with financial inequality.For example, a remote team or collaborators with flexible jobs lead to working different hours than colleagues in the office. This can result in an uneven distribution of working hours across employees.

While working remotely can help tackle issues like commuting time, working outside traditional office hours can be problematic for shift workers who need to coordinate with others as part of their job function.

Employees who do not have enough space in their homes, have poor internet connections, are unable to afford heating or who have noisy children around them while working will not be able to work productively. This can put these employees at a disadvantage and lead to them feeling anxious about their performance, which can further affect their ability to work effectively.

 

Reduced collaboration

Without the small and frequent interactions that happen in a shared workplace such as an office, the social bonds that can build an organization may start to weaken. This can be especially problematic for employees working in remote locations, who cannot use the same types of methods to build relationships with their co-workers.

A remote team after Covid-19 can bring its own set of issues that might not be present in a physical office environment. For instance, working outside of the office means working without the motivation and inspiration of co-workers. It is hard to get into working mode when you're sat by yourself at a dining table or in a spare room. For many workers and especially the HR team, a software program such an HRIS with data entry can be helpful to manage the work schedule with the office time of fully remote workers. Not everyone can handle home working. Sometimes, for some collaborators, it can feels as being their own boss.

Managers working from home often rely more heavily on email and written reports for communication than face-to-face interactions which are crucial for effective working relationships. While working remotely can promote efficiency, it can also lead to working at a slower pace due to lack of interaction. This can be problematic for employees working in creative roles, which require frequent input and brainstorming from other employees.

Communications platforms and virtual assistant are very helpfull for work from home opportunities.

Employees may also feel less valued when working remotely than when working in an office and this can impact morale and productivity levels.This can lead to weaker teamworking, less innovation and poorer opportunities for employees to be recognized for their work and gain promotion. Over time this can affect a business’s productivity.

 

Working from home: how can you ensure optimum productivity?

 

Getting the best out of your remote workforce does not happen by accident. The organizations that saw their employees thrive while working remotely were those that had already got the right building blocks in place. The employees working from home that feel the most productive are those working in a flexible working arrangement with their employer and who have a good working environment. For some people, working from home is all about being able to work in a comfortable place in their own time. Others need more structure and a different type of working environment in order to flourish.

Company culture has a large impact on how well your employees work from home. A culture that focuses on output rather than hours will be more likely to see a better relationship between managers and teams regardless of how and where they are working. A strong culture will also ensure that employees know what they are working towards and are clear on the overall purpose of their work. This stays the same regardless of where an employee has their laptop set up.

Strong and consistent communication will mean employees feel connected regardless of where they are working. From the way managers stay in touch with employees to how policies are communicated, by following a consistent and intentional approach to communication, an organization can ensure their employees are as aware of what’s happening if they are working from home or are in the office.

No matter what the culture or how good the communication, if a company does not have the right technology in place it is difficult to ensure optimum productivity. Cloud-based software gives employees access to the tools they need to do their jobs regardless of where they are based. Likewise, they can access important files quickly meaning they do not waste time waiting for office-based employees to email them documents or updates.

 

Working from home: what will future working habits be for employees?

 

A return to normal or 100% working from home? It seems like neither is likely. The working habits of employees in the future will continue to change and evolve, whether working from a remote location or a traditional office.

Employees working from home can be effective for businesses if they have the right working environment and culture that offers flexibility with structure. But when working remotely, managers need to take extra care when working with employees working in creative roles. Managers should regularly check in with them, offer regular feedback and take an active interest in their work.

Although some organizations are keen to ensure all their employees return to a traditional office set-up, most will be working on a hybrid model.Employees working from home will be effective if they have a working environment that suits them and the right technology to stay connected. They will need to feel included in company activities and social events so that they know what’s happening across the business.

These changes are likely to continue as businesses see how sustainable working with remote employees and working in a hybrid arrangement. Technology will continue to play an important role, ensuring that working from home or remotely is the best way for an employee and their employer to work.

McKinsey survey of 100 executives across industries and geographies found that 90% of organizations will combine on-site and remote working. What this looks like and how long this will work is unclear. The only certain thing is the lack of certainty.

As attractive as remote working is for some employees, the office will have a role in the future of work. Used to boost connectedness, spark innovation and onboard new talent and younger employees, a central office location may prove a competitive advantage in the future of work if used creatively.

 

Working from home: What is the perfect balance for employees between office and remote time? 

 

The Microsoft 2021 Work Trend Index suggests that ‘a thoughtful approach to hybrid work’ is essential for organizations who want to attract and retain the best talent. What’s more, an incredible 64% of employees surveyed said they’d like to work from home one to four days a week. Despite this, few organizations have been able to give their workforce a clear direction and this is causing anxiety amongst employees.

Perhaps the best way for organizations to deal with hybrid working is to avoid a one-size suits all approach and instead work on an individualized basis. This means working together with employees to determine what working anywhere means for them, how it can work and making the necessary changes to ensure they deliver their best.

Employees working from home will be effective if they have a working environment that suits them and the right technology to stay connected. They will need to feel included in company activities and social events to know what’s happening across the business.

These changes are likely to continue as businesses see how sustainable working with remote employees and working in a hybrid arrangement. Technology will continue to play an important role, ensuring that working from home or remotely is the best way for an employee and their employer to work.

With support, managers should be able to work with employees to agree a hybrid working model that suits the employee and the business. Some employees may prefer to work in the office five days a week – perhaps they live in shared accommodation and would otherwise need to work in their bedroom. Others, such as employees with a long commute or family commitments may prefer to work remotely for four days a week.

The essential factor in the success of working from home is to have clear expectations for both organization and the employee. The working agreement needs to be made in consultation and with the support of HR, working together with employees to determine what working anywhere means for them.

A McKinsey survey of 100 executives across industries and geographies found that 90% of organizations will combine on-site and remote working. What this looks like and how long this will work is unclear.

Perhaps the best way for organizations to deal with hybrid working is to avoid one-size suits all approach and instead work on an individualized basis. This means working together with employees to determine what working anywhere means for them, how it can work, and making the necessary changes to ensure they deliver theirbest. With the right working environment and technology, this working style should benefit employees and their employers.

The Microsoft 2021 Work Trend Index suggests that a thoughtful approach to hybrid work’ is essential for organizations who want to attract and retain the best talent.

 

Conclusion

 

A clear hybrid working policy is essential and should outline the minimum hours needed in the office and where flexibility may be required on behalf of the employee – such as for team-building days, communication events and training. A hybrid working policy will also need to clarify how hybrid working will relate to different job roles.

In addition to good communication and managerial support, hybrid working must be supported with the correct IT infrastructure to allow employees to access their work regardless of where they are based and ensure the need for regular team building to ensure strong hybrid team cohesion.

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