A report created by OddsMonkey predicted that approximately 50 percent of the UK workforce will be working remotely by the end of 2020. Fast forward to the end of April 2020, and ONS figures have revealed that 49.2 percent of the workforce was working from home.
While there was a larger, health-driven reason behind the acceleration of remote working this year, experts have been commenting on the increased productivity that remote working can provide alongside other benefits. However, there have also been some well-noted drawbacks of working remotely for employers. Now, questions are being raised about the feasibility of a permanent move to a remote working model. Will business organisations embrace remote working and experience increased productivity?
Remote Working Enables Better Work-Life Balance And Better Employee Well-Being
One of the plus sides of remote work is that it can address the issue of work-life balance that many UK workers struggle with. A study by HR Review found that 30 percent of workers in the UK are not happy with their current work-life balance. Further investigations by the CIPD and in the UK Working Lives Survey also showed that 22 percent of workers feel under pressure at work while 60 percent of them work longer hours than they want to.
However, a recent survey by CIL Management Consultants showed that 43 percent of employers and managers polled across Europe have seen an increase in their staff productivity. Employees that are less stressed and able to spend less time between commuting and juggling personal commitments, they are able to focus better and also spend more time on their jobs. Also, there is a cost-benefit to remote working that can benefit employees. A reduction in transport costs means less financial obligations on an employee’s paycheck each month- and more opportunities for savings and financial progression.
Employer-Employee Relationships Becomes Harder To Manage
Remote working can make it more difficult for employees to connect with their employees and managers. As a result, the employee-manager relationship can take on a whole different image as employees are harder to reach when working remotely. Yet, maintaining a good relationship between the 2 is vital not just for productivity but to help management plan for and sidestep other drawbacks in remote working such as spotting worker isolation and burnout.
Remote Working Can Present Challenges To Employee Mental Health
Another well-documented drawback of remote working has been the increased likelihood of poor employee well being. In a Gallup study, 21 percent of employees cited loneliness as the number one struggle with remote working. However, there are also cases where employees can feel isolated with an in-office working setup. The organisational culture and employee management communication and relationship are fundamental helping employees overcome such downfalls.
How Can Organisations Find The Optimal Balance In A Mass Remote Working Setup?
The success of a remote working model largely depends on the employees- and HR policies implemented by their employers to support them. For some, working from home can be distracting or demotivating. For others, it is the perfect balance between their professional and family life.
In a 2013 study by Nicholas Bloom, it was found that working from home one day a week increased productivity by 13 percent. However, while the results suggest that working from home in the long term can mean higher productivity, it is not without its adjustments.
For instance, clear regulations must be set out for the monitoring and reporting of employees during work hours. Similarly, remote working injuries and illness must also be defined and added to existing employee wellness policies, along with the clear cut guidelines on the legal rights of a remote workforce including the process and redress for telecommuting employee injuries.
For instance, the participants in the study had the right tools (high-speed WIFI) and little distractions (no children around). For the 75 percent of mothers and 97 percent of fathers in the UK workforce, this may not be so straightforward.
Many of them are combining their at-home meetings with childcare duties and find it more difficult to make measurable progress on their work tasks in the same work hours. Then there is the issue of feeling isolated and disconnected from colleagues and the wider community of the organisation. The key to overcoming this is to provide employees with adequate access to remote working tools, interactions, and materials as if they were in the office. Employees want to be seen and heard. Otherwise, they can feel ignored, unappreciated, or forgotten.
So, is the move to mass remote working the right move to boost productivity? While the work model definitely has its merits, these cannot be accessed without the right infrastructure in place — systems and policies to protect, empower, and encourage employees, managers, and all those involved.