For every person cheering at the possibility of working from home indefinitely, there are those for whom it is far from ideal.
One year on from the first lockdown, the CEO of Goldman Sachs has been quoted as saying remote work is an “aberration” for his organisation. Fighting talk indeed but if you take the heat out of his language, he makes a valid point on how remote working doesn’t necessarily suit a business with an apprenticeship culture where new recruits need direct mentoring.
With 57% of the workforce wanting to be able to work from home at least some of the time and HR professionals helping organisations delicately navigate the challenge of ‘reluctant returners’, deciding how to distribute a workforce has become a highly emotive topic. So how can organisations look out for long-term remote workers? Here’s five tips:
1. Consciously include everyone
When even the CEO is reduced to being a square on a screen, it’s easy to be fooled that we’re in an age of everyone being heard. But as people return to the office it will be easy to forget those who do not physically have a seat at the table. When scheduling events or meetings that have both in-person and online components, it’s vital to make sure those who are attending virtually do not end up with a second-rate experience. Inclusion of remote workers needs to be called out as an objective to be met upfront – not an afterthought.
2. Regularly assess satisfaction
Our lives are not static. Life events create changes in circumstances that impact an employee’s willingness or ability to work from home. Regularly checking in with people on how well remote working works for them helps employers identify early whether staff are thriving in their home environment or craving the human interaction that comes with being in a busy office. Keeping this separate from a performance review makes it about the employee’s wellbeing vs their productivity.
3. Actively prioritise mental health
Cases of depression in the UK doubled with the advent of COVID-19 and there is a belief that we may be about to enter a period of ‘Post-Pandemic Stress Disorder’. With this in mind, organisations must proactively signpost mental-health support services as a matter of routine – not just when employees exhibit signs of distress. Mind’s mental health first aid training is a great example of how organisations can create their own programmes where employees are empowered to look out for one another.
4. Positively promote office-based opportunities
One thing I’ve discovered during ten years of working from home is that it’s not the right solution for every project. Up until March 2020 I travelled for meetings and to perform – my clients look at what I have to offer rather than where I am based. Remote / home-based employees must be offered the opportunity to attend meetings in person and – perhaps more importantly – steps should be taken to avoid accidentally discounting them in recruitment processes when hiring for a role that is office-based.
5. Carefully track and measure performance
Just as presenteeism can be an issue in the office, it’s become a challenge online too – 80% of HR managers believe the pandemic has created an issue of ‘e-presenteeism’, where employees, fearful of being seen as ‘skiving’ stay online way beyond what is reasonably expected of them. For this reason, it’s important to make sure that employees feel clear on how their contribution is measured and that communication from the business as regards to working hours / employees not being expected to be online at all hours are sincere. We’ve probably all worked for organisations that ‘say’ one thing and do another…
However people choose to return to work, one thing I hope all organisations do – for all employees – is to take a moment to thank and congratulate everyone for their contribution over the past year, whether sat in the office, out on the road or working from home.
About the author
Toni Kent is an experienced writer and performer who is trusted by large corporate IT organisations to represent their business leaders and brands through a mixture of ghost writing, coaching and motivational speaking.
With twenty years of experience in technology and as an advocate for women supporting women, Toni is frequently booked by Women in Business networks and organisations that want to promote gender parity. With lived experience of how work transforms the life prospects of women from disadvantaged backgrounds, she is proud to be the official event compere for Smart Works Reading – an organisation that helps women return to the workplace via free interview coaching and work-appropriate clothing.
Toni is also a columnist for Berkshire Life and has written three books of humorous reflections on what it means to be a woman: Reasons to be Cheerful Parts One and Two and I Need a Wife. Her books are all available via Amazon.
You can follow Toni on Twitter and LinkedIn at @tonijkent
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