Remote working need not affect productivity...Here’s why
History will remember 2020 as the year the world was forced to stay home. With the outbreak of the novel coronavirus being identified as early as January, by March, the disease had reached pandemic status and almost every country on the globe went into lockdown. With employee safety and social distancing being the top priority, businesses of all sizes, everywhere, were forced to ask their employees to work remotely.
Many were unprepared in terms of having connectivity tools, collaboration platforms and security systems. It seemed that productivity was going to take a major hit as employees were stranded from their organisations and colleagues.
Luckily, that was not the case for long. Few know that historically, great works have emerged from lockdowns. Newton did groundbreaking work on his theories of gravity and even invented calculus from his home during the Bubonic plague. Shakespeare, too, is believed to have produced some of his finest plays and poems in quarantine at the time.
Fortunately for us, we live in a time where technology has made it much easier to retain and boost productivity levels. In fact, a recent report by Deloitte titled 'Future of Work accelerated: Learnings from the COVID-19 Pandemic' which surveyed CXOs of 42 Indian companies found that 60 percent of companies reported an increase in individual employee productivity, while 10 percent said productivity had not been impacted at all.
This new way of working seems to have worked so well that many companies are considering making this a more permanent arrangement. A CNBC-TV18 report found that even after restrictions are fully eased, major Indian IT companies will still ask 90 percent of their employees to work from home at least till August. Some said that 60-70 percent of their employees will still be asked to work out of home beyond August.
So, how can companies enable their staff to continue maximising productivity? Here are some of the things that we, as business leaders, can do to help our colleagues succeed
Enable them with the right tools
The first indication that their work-life had changed was a mass mailer that was probably sent out by the HR. Many employees were left grappling with how they would meet their targets, complete pending projects or finish that crucial meeting that had been scheduled. Organisations must continue to engage with employees, ask them what their setup is at home, and make efforts to provide the technology they need to fill the gaps.
Stress the need for constant communication and collaboration
Now that water cooler conversations and walking over to a colleague’s desk have become things of the past, organisations must encourage their employees to leverage tools to ensure communication continues seamlessly. This could include tools for messaging, access to an intranet, access to an employee network, project management, etc. The tools should have mobile accessibility and everyone should be on the same sanctioned platform to ensure not only seamless functioning but also security, which has become a prime concern in these times.
Ensure external communication
In addition to addressing their employee concerns, companies must also ensure that customers’ needs are being addressed. This means providing timely updates and seamless communication to ensure that everything seems business as usual. Therefore, employees should be encouraged to continue open communication with customers to build and maintain the relationship.
Provide the necessary upskilling and training...
While the right tools and technology are necessary, employees also need to be trained to use them correctly and for maximum impact. With remote work increasingly becoming the norm, ensuring that employees don’t feel incapacitated or dejected with lack of knowledge of the new tools will be essential. An engaged workforce will continue to drive productivity in the future. In tandem, employees will also need clearly defined goals and objectives in terms of deliverables, and expected outcomes with clear metrics etc.
...and finally, engage with recognition, empowerment, and...enjoyment
With all the focus on business continuity and productivity, there needs to be a focus on the employee’s contribution and how this can be recognised. Today, HR tools on the cloud can help with employee recognition even remotely. Employers can also organise online breakout and fun sessions where employees connect and discuss things other than work.
The reality is that we are all still working amid a pandemic with no cure or end in sight. The one way that the spread has been contained is people staying home and maintaining social distancing. Implementing work-from-home practices that work for employees, customers and organisations is the only way we can all move forward. And technology will only make that journey a little easier.
Do you think WFH will be the trend going forward or do you think people should eventually return to working from offices? If you are the primary caregiver at home and work full-time, what do you think the Future of Work should look like? Let us know in the comments section.