When done right, telework can improve employee productivity, creativity, and morale.
The verdict is out – telecommuters are much happier than the regular office goers.
In December 2020, those working remotely reported a Workforce Happiness Index score of 75 out of 100, compared to 71 for in-office employees.
The same survey also found that remote employees were more likely to report being satisfied with their jobs than office-based workers (57% vs 50%). All in all, those working from home reported more positive measurements on almost every question related to job satisfaction.
Those who can do their job remotely are more likely to work full-time, to have a higher income, and to be employed in industries that have above-average rates of job satisfaction — all factors that bolster self-reported happiness at work.
Not only do the remote workers feel happier, but they are also reporting better work productivity and job engagement levels.
A recent Stanford study found that working from home increased productivity among a group of workers by 13% over the course of nine months. Attrition rates were also cut by 50%, with employees citing a quieter, more convenient working environment as a major advantage.
Similar results were reported by Mercer, an HR and workplace benefits consulting firm. 94% of 800 employers surveyed by Mercer, said that productivity was the same as or higher than it was before the pandemic, even with their employees working remotely.
This is most surprising, as remote workers have been able to remain productive or increase their productivity levels even during the worst working conditions i.e. the pandemic.
The job engagement levels are also reported higher, enabled by the access to tools and technologies allowing the employees to better collaborate, and also enabled by an enhanced focus on the outcome, role clarity, rather than adhering and monitoring the process.
82 % of remote employees agree that they have the technology needed to stay connected to their manager and team when working remotely. When provided the right resources and equipment, remote employees can stay connected to collaborate with their team members.
With the employees reporting better productivity and happiness levels, many companies are now planning a hybrid virtual model in which some employees are on-premises, while others work from home.
While productivity has gone up, many employees are also reporting being overworked, feeling like they are “always on” and having an inability to ‘disconnect’. Remote and hybrid work environments often make designating specific work times difficult, which can lead to overwork. The challenge is even more for employees juggling care for children or elderly, along with the work stress.
Remote and hybrid employees are more likely to report working over 50 hours a week compared to their on-site co-workers.
Employees are reporting increasing anxiety about the future working model and policies in their organizations.
Based on a McKinsey survey, employees feel they have yet to hear enough about their employers’ plans for post-COVID-19 working arrangements, causing them anxiety.
Organizations may have announced a general intent to embrace hybrid virtual work going forward, but too few of them, employees say, have shared detailed guidelines, policies, expectations, and approaches. And the lack of remote-relevant specifics is leaving employees anxious.
One key factor pulling workers back to the office even if they might otherwise be more comfortable at home is career advancement.
More than half of workers (52%) expect those at their company who work in-person to have better career opportunities in the future than those who work remotely.
New collaboration tools like Zoom, Slack, and Microsoft Teams have made it possible for a dispersed workforce to collaborate on projects and attend meetings in much the same way that they would if they were all in the same building. Yet, there are some aspects of work that aren’t easily scaled digitally. Younger workers, who prioritize career advancement, are more likely to say they expect to be back in the office
Unstable internet connectivity and delays in getting IT support are some of the key issues faced by remote employees. Data security, customer confidentiality, IT troubleshooting, hardware and network support are some of the key areas for which employees are seeking a robust IT support. Many remote jobs encourage BYOD (Bring your own device), which further requires appropriate backend IT support.
As the employees go remote, organizations are struggling to translate their company culture into a digital space, which impacts connectivity between employees and their work. Leaders are facing the challenge of reimagining their culture for a world where rituals and ceremonies enacted in the office are inaccessible.
When Marissa Mayers, called off remote working for Yahoo quoting the need for ‘One Yahoo’ and better collaboration, it was a polar opposite step from today’s scenario where tech organizations are leading the way for remote working.
While remote working supports productivity; office connections and team collaboration enable brainstorming of ideas and creative problem-solving.
Productivity and creativity, in other words, can be polar opposites. So how to find a balance?
The first step is to acknowledge that the old, office-centric ways of reinforcing culture won’t work. Then, organizations need to be more intentional about establishing more touchpoints with remote employees, reimagining onboarding processes, and fostering inclusive ways of communicating.
An example here is Alibaba, which shifted some of their culture-building activities online. As a substitute for Aliday, historically a day-long company celebration, Alibaba North America hosted a remote quilt-making event where employees could come together and create “one quilt for each office to commemorate this special time,” thus reinforcing their values of community and collective activity.
Even fully remote companies like GitLab and Automatic rely on episodic in-person gatherings to rebuild bonds among employees and socialize new members.
Organizations will undoubtedly require a mix of practices that enable efficient, inclusive engagement while at the same time preserving aspects of synchronous and in-person activities that strengthen culture. Adapting to a hybrid environment will require some trial and error, but investing time and resources into new processes will ensure both employees and organization are able to thrive in a new era of work.
The new talent model of hybrid/remote work mandates shifts in organization culture, employer branding and employee experience. It is essential that business and HR leaders work together to bring about these vital organizational changes to attract top talent and business outcomes.
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The future of work is hybrid, and as they focus on retaining the remote workforce, they would also need to invest in ways to engage the workforce which does continue to come to the office.