A few years ago, working remotely was considered a bonus, but last year it became the “new normal”. Although some employees are happy about the opportunity to work from home, such a work regimen is challenging for the company’s staff management specialists, because it is their task to maintain team spirit, common values and motivation remotely. What are the risks of working remotely and how can you avoid them?
Studies to date have shown that working remotely has a positive effect on employee productivity and overall satisfaction. For example, Harvard Business Review writes about an experiment in a call centre in China, in which the employees were given the opportunity to volunteer to work remotely for nine months.
Half of the volunteers were allowed to work remotely, while the others continued to work in the office as a control group. The data obtained at the end of the study revealed that, compared to employees who worked in the office all the time, those working from home were not only happier and less likely to leave the company, but also more productive. However, working from home also has its drawbacks.
Saving feedback and team spirit
Every day, while working in the office, the whole team meets, connects with other employees, and is able to receive and provide feedback on a regular basis. However, when working remotely, the team usually doesn’t have such opportunities, and this can create a feeling of alienation from the team. To prevent this, staff management professionals must encourage employees to continue communicating on a regular basis, even when working remotely. This can be done with the help of various digital platforms – currently, every company can find the most convenient way to encourage employees to provide feedback in digital format on a regular basis.
It is also possible to organise various remote events to maintain team spirit, for example, to combine weekly meetings with remote breakfast, game evenings and other activities that allow people to keep in touch with colleagues in a relaxed atmosphere. A creative approach to such events will have special value: when colleagues cannot meet in person, time can still be spent in an interesting way when meeting on digital platforms.
Strengthening the company’s values outside the office
Company values are the unifying element that guides every company employee to a specific goal, while also determining how this goal will be achieved. However, when working from home, employees are less likely to be “reminded” about the company’s values, so staff management specialists need to work hard to ensure that employees follow the company’s established values, even when working remotely.
For example, if one of the company’s values is open communication, but when working remotely, employees neither communicate with each other, nor with their managers, it indicates the disappearance of the company’s values when working from home. To prevent this, the staff management specialist should be involved and offer activities that allow employees to return to the usual communication style, such as online discussions on current issues with both management and lower level employees. This gives a great opportunity for all the company employees to discuss current issues, and the problems employees are facing – thus, staff management specialists are able to continue working on the elimination of problems.
The company must also demonstrate and represent the values it stands for when working remotely, to its employees, customers, and business partners.
Maintaining a balance between work and free time
Maintaining a balance between work and free time can be a challenge when working remotely. However, it is very important that an employee starts their day relaxed and full of energy. In addition, long-term problems with maintaining this balance can lead to burnout, which can be a major blow to the employer, especially when several workers are burnt out.
According to data from a survey conducted by Telus international, 4 out of 5 employees have found that they have problems “disconnecting” from work-related responsibilities and thoughts after working hours. The same survey reveals that more than half of respondents have not taken their days off since working from home because of the pandemic, despite the fact that 97% understand that taking some time off, even when working from home, is important for recharging.
“Since many of our employees work in different time zones, a working day can have no end, unless leaders do something about it,” said Michael Weening, Head of Calix, a software and cloud services company. The way Calix “forces” employees to keep their work and free time balance is simple – they have to register in the system when they start working and leave it at the end of working hours, so management can see how long the employee has worked and how much time they have taken off.
For the most part, keeping a balance requires a reminder from the team leader or staff management – when starting an employment relationship, both parties agree on the working hours and the time for rest – it is important to keep it this way when working remotely as well. Employees can be encouraged to schedule a specific time for lunch in advance on their calendar – so that this time does not overlap with other tasks or remote appointments.
Remote work offers many advantages, but also creates a number of challenges; however, nowadays it is possible to eliminate potential problems in time with the help of technology and various applications. Any company that can be managed remotely, can become even more productive, unified, and generally happier during this time, if enough attention is paid to work and communication planning.