Kristi Sinclair - HR Professional
Covid-19 has resulted in a huge work from home experiment that may result in changing the way many businesses operate when restrictions lift and we move to our new normal. As many business leaders have learned, the sky hasn’t fallen in with teams working off site but others have come to understand that some employees are better suited to working on site. With any new process, it’s worth looking at the learnings we can take from this experience and weigh up the pros and cons to help you decide how you direct your teams when the world opens up again.
Pros and cons
There are significant benefits of working from home for both businesses and its employees which might include:
Zoom fatigue is a ‘thing’. How many times have we heard “Can you hear me? I can hear you” or “where did Bob go? He’s dropped out again”. And let’s be honest, Tiger King wallpaper backgrounds were funny for around 5 mins. While technology supports remote working, humans generally require social interactions with isolation having the ability to impact mental health negatively and causing teams to feel disconnected.
Loss of organic conversations and collaborations as well as ‘water cooler’ conversations have a huge impact on productivity and development. Being able to run an idea by your colleague allows us to workshop an idea as the idea germinates, often resulting in turning a passing thought into something really beneficial to the business. Unfortunately talking things through with the cat does not seem to be as productive. These organic conversations also lead to well connected and engaged teams which are a huge asset within any business.
Being able to give on the spot feedback and advice to your employees in person is invaluable. Employees learn and develop from situational feedback far better than what they do from an impersonal email three days later. Additionally, there are the difficulties of missing out on tone, body language and the inability for the employee to ask questions when feedback is delivered late and by email or over the phone, so employees can mistake intent and this can cause confusion and conflict.
The Social Network
So, with many employees working from home due to Covid19 and experiencing the ‘benefits’ of flexibility, a sleep in each morning and the only commute being from one room to another, what’s the incentive for them to make the trek back to the workplace?
These are some of the more obvious pros and cons, but something not as easy to quantify is company connection and work place culture.
A Gallup study surveying more than 15 million employees indicated that those with a “best” work buddy are “seven times as likely to be engaged in their jobs, are better at engaging customers, produce higher quality work, [and] have higher well-being” compared to those without.
When employees feel connected to their workplace and are aligned with a business’s values, they are more likely to engage with their work. Businesses with high engagement levels have higher repeat business, productivity and profitability than their competitors. And in comparison, businesses with high turnover rates often suffer from poor employee engagement.
Strong social connections make employees happier and physically healthier which translates into increased work performance. Happiness expert Annie McKee, author of ‘How to be happy at work’ says, “one of the ways we can make ourselves happy and feel more fulfilled in our workplaces is to build friendships with the people that work with us, work for us and even with our boss”.
Although working from home has its benefits (and let’s be honest, it has been nice for a while) it can be detrimental to employee’s mental health in the long term, especially with the added stress of Covid19. Humans are social creatures and working without seeing anyone outside the family unit can cause a real sense of disconnect.
Prolonged remote working can also cause anxiety. A recent study concluded the lack of close contact hinders three key aspects of effective working relationships: The formation of trust, connection and mutual purpose. Socialising may even become awkward or uncomfortable after so much time apart. On one hand, employees may feel disconnected form their work colleagues and feel like they need to get to know everyone again. And on the other, they might have missed their co-workers so much that they risk their health and productivity to ‘catch up’.
What can you do to get your employees back in to the workplace and be happy about it?
If you are providing peace of mind to your employees by ensuring they feel supported, informed and heard the transition should be seamless. The health and safety of employees is the number one priority and if your people are confident with your stance on this, they will feel comfortable and confident to productively return to work.
Managing the communication and transition back to on site working arrangements may provide you with some challenges. Contact HR Staff n’ Stuff if you require any support as well as guidance around ensuring you have a CovidSafe workplace and what to consider if more flexible work arrangements are being requested.
The HR Staff n' Stuff team all contribute to our blogs. Enjoy the read!