Work from Home: Advantages and Disadvantages for Employers
The Covid-19 pandemic saw a massive increase in employees working from home as it became a necessity. Many employees have been reluctant to go back to the office, and some bosses have been nervous about allowing them to stay at home. Meanwhile, some employees can’t wait to reunite with their colleagues. This article will look at both the advantages and disadvantages of this situation from the employers’ perspective.
The results of homeworking have been a mixed bag; some employees have thrived whilst working remotely, with a consequent increase in productivity. However, some employees have struggled with the change. As for the organisations themselves, some have gained a degree of agility from hybrid working practices, whilst others have seen a consequent drop in customer service standards and overall productivity.
As always, there is no one-size-fits-all solution; some jobs preclude working from home, and some have always been conducive to hybrid or remote working.
Advantages and disadvantages of remote work for both employees and employers
Most employees are glad to leave the daily commute behind, and there is an element of novelty to staying at home. Some have found that it works better with their childcare regime, and this flexibility has enabled them to juggle work and family commitments more effectively.
However, employees themselves need support, guidance, and leadership, which can be difficult to give from afar. Technology has enabled this in many cases but still has its limits.
Workers felt that they lack support
According to a survey by global financial services company Jefferies, a sample of 1,500 UK employees questioned during the pandemic revealed that 61 percent of workers wanted to return to the office. One reason for this was workers felt that they lack support while working at home.
Employees do not always have access to equipment
While offices may be equipped with the technology to enable employees to work remotely, employees do not always have access to equipment such as photocopiers and printers in their own homes. Even video-call technology such as Zoom or Teams has its limits, and this can lead to employees feeling like they’re unable to do their jobs.
Employees often need managerial support
This is particularly difficult in call centre-based jobs, where employees often need managerial support with difficult cases and access to reliable telephony. Being unable to support customers can lead to increased stress as callers become frustrated and angry. It also impacts customer satisfaction due to increased wait times.
Blurring of the work/life balance
Furthermore, some employees work in an environment that lacks a suitable working area. Many people also miss the rhythms of office life, and the blurring of the work/life balance can be difficult for some. One unforeseen aspect of enforced homeworking has been a consequent worsening of employee mental health, which impacts engagement.
For employers, a reluctance to continue to allow telecommuting revolves around oversight. An organisation needs a hierarchy, and employees have to be monitored and directed in order to ensure they are working towards organisational goals. This can be a balancing act: some employees will thrive with their newfound autonomy, while others will need more support. Some employees will inevitably exploit the lack of oversight to ‘shirk from home‘.
The change is not going to suit all employers and managers either. Some managers will find the lack of oversight frustrating. Many employers have been using keystroke technology to monitor their employees’ working habits, and staff often find this intrusive and insulting.
Additionally, some managers lose control of their employees, either by failing to share crucial information, failing to offer support, or allowing their employees to become distracted from their work. Whichever way, this can have a disastrous impact on business goals.
Best practice for managing employees working remotely
The good news is, that the rollback of covid restrictions has resulted in businesses being able to take a more flexible approach, with hybrid working becoming the norm. Even so, there are a number of best practices to ensure success:
Be realistic about who can work from home
The nature of some types of work means that some employees will need more support and resources than others. This may not preclude working from home completely, but there are times when they may need to be in the office. Some tasks are impossible to complete at home while others lend themselves to remote working, so learn to strike a balance.
Treat all workers the same
A culture of post-pandemic presenteeism has meant those who were first back in the office are often regarded as the best employees. Let their work do the talking instead. The best employees are those who perform the best, at home or in the office. Allow workers the opportunity to come into the office if they need to, but don’t make it an unnecessary expectation.
Use meaningful metrics to track staff performance
Solely using metrics such as browser monitors and keystroke logs may not be a true indicator of how someone is working. For an employee, it can sew resentment and an increased sense of isolation. Make sure that there is human interaction and full oversight of an employee’s working methods. Keep a personal touch as much as possible and take a nurturing approach to keep employees performing
Treat online interaction as an opportunity
Never under-utilise team meetings and virtual chats. They can help to reduce employee isolation, boost engagement, and iron out any problems that staff have. Invest in technology that enables this to be done effectively and listen to them. Employee mental health is an employer’s responsibility, and it’s essential to remember the human aspect of human resource management.
Treat hybrid working as a long-term culture change
It is notoriously hard to change a company culture, but hybrid working is becoming normal across a plethora of sectors. It’s never going to be perfect at the first attempt, so persevere. Despite the difficulties, there are many positives to hybrid working.
Use employee feedback to isolate pain points and maximise the areas that increase productivity and performance. While it may be a steep learning curve for the organisation, it will enable the business or institution to become more efficient and flexible in the long term.
The success or failure of remote or hybrid working is often a reflection of how employees were managed beforehand. Micromanagers who can’t let go will be reluctant to allow their employees the freedom to work autonomously and reap the rewards. At the other end of the spectrum, laissez-faire managers will lose track of their remotely working employees, and poor communicators will negatively impact efficiency.
As for the employees themselves, those who thrive with the newfound independence and are motivated and engaged will do well, while those lacking in motivation will do badly. In between, all staff needs a certain amount of support and leadership.
Any combination of the above will dictate how successful the new way of working is in any organisation, and as businesses embrace hybrid working, it should be seen as a positive opportunity to strengthen the relationship between employees and employers.