Creating Success In A Work From Home Environment
By Jaye Cabreros*
You may remember our previous article discussing the benefits of implementing a WHF policy at your workplace. 11 months into the pandemic, and with more data on our hands, we are able to address the major barriers to WFH and how to overcome them. Jaye Cabreros is a research consultant for Jenoir® InternationalInc. and has analyzed the factors required for a successful WFH model in the blog below, as well as the attached White Paper.
With the global pandemic showing no signs of reversal, any significant quality of life improvement is unlikely to arise until a sizeable majority of the world's population is vaccinated. It is also unlikely, then, that the global workforce will see any wholesale regressions towards a pre-pandemic work arrangement any time soon.
Our previous article looked at the costs and benefits of adopting a work-from-home model (WFH). We drew implications regarding why the WFH model may work better for some industries and job functions and not others.
To recap, the primary benefits for companies adopting a WHF model include:
- a more resilient workforce that benefits from optimized schedules via decreased commute times and increased rest times
- an inevitable optimization in technological infrastructure that serves dual purposes:
- allowing workers to seamlessly work from home while optimizing the company's prospects through major technological upgrades
- an increased pool of prospective candidates, as the WFH model eliminates many geographic barriers to finding talent
And the primary benefits of an on-site environment are:
- the psychological heuristics that allow workers to maintain a consistent work-day routine
- an increased sense of direct supervision that can mitigate wasted time while maintaining a sense of urgency
- clear boundaries between work and leisure, as the on-site environment minimizes social and domestic interactions
While various industry leaders generally seemed to have mixed sentiments regarding WFH, we concluded that a hybrid model – that is, one that incorporates the benefits of both on-site and WFH while mitigating the costs of each respective model – would be best in many situations.
Adopting the hybrid model allows companies to allocate more on-site resources to those who cannot work from home while allowing remote workers more autonomy to do their jobs.
The Present State of Work from Home
Now that the WFH model has been implemented and, to some degree, tested during the last several months, we have observed a paradigm shift in the overall attitude towards WFH. Both high-level managers and their employees have expressed praise and responded positively to the WFH model, and it appears these opinions will continue to lean in WFH's favor.
Mid-Level Manager Support
While middle managers have historically frowned on the idea of WFH, the recent and forceful shift into this model has many reconsidering their past objections. Despite research showing the contrary, many mid-level managers previously assumed productivity would decline if they adopted a WFH model. Because the global pandemic forced their hand to favor business continuity, however, they are now seeing how their fears and skepticism to WFH were unfounded.
Employees Love WFH
Though only a small fraction of employees regularly worked from home before the pandemic, the surge in WFH employees caused minor disruptions, as a drastically new environment meant workers now had to adapt to this new model of work. The initial adaptation was slow, but workers are now more inclined to work from home. WFH allows workers more autonomy, more time with family, and less time commuting to an office or worksite. With the rising popularity of WFH, it is unlikely that workers will give this privilege up very easily.
Optimization and Sustainability
An ancillary benefit of the WFH model is that now many workers and managers realize the potential WFH has for cost savings and reducing a company's environmental footprint. The reduction in motor vehicle traffic from commuters has significantly improved the air quality in many cities worldwide, along with a significant decrease in time lost commuting. Additionally, with more of the global workforce working from home, the cost reduction in commercial real estate and site maintenance, along with the increased productivity and scalability potential, has left many defining this trend as "the new normal."
Even with just one year of data, we can see that the WFH model has received a positive reception.
- Over 3/4 of office workers work from home full-time and want to continue this trend at least one day per week.
- Over 2/3 of WFH employees say they are very successful working from home, and managers say their performance is the same or better.
- Industries are recognizing the value in time and resources saved by adopting a WFH model.
The current trend clearly favors a WFH environment, and over 55% of business leaders say it can succeed in their industry.
Now that the benefits of WFH are widely regarded and accepted by the public, industry leaders now want to focus on how they can implement a WFH model efficiently and productively.
Adjusting to a New Normal
Suppose we use the pandemic as a meta-analysis type case study for WFH. In that case, we can see that a significant number of organizations were ill-prepared in implementing WFH in an agile and efficient way. In a PWC survey in March 2020, 60% of US CFOs felt that their lack of preparedness for remote work hurt organizational productivity.
While resiliency in business is often a highly sought-after trait, rapid adaptation, or "organizational agility," is often overlooked. This is not due to a major oversight in management; rather, it is due to a lateral quandary often placed on the backburner.
Organizational agility is often focused on a company or industry's core competencies; as such, most organizations are unlikely to expend a significant amount of resources on a scenario of relatively low probability. That is until a global pandemic sweeps the earth.
When the global Coronavirus pandemic caused a worldwide shutdown earlier last year, companies had to make a difficult decision: adapt or become irrelevant. Business continuity became a significant concern with the world on lockdown. Companies incessantly tried to adapt a work from home (WFH) model into their repertoire.
The virus was a minor speedbump for the few companies that already had an established WFH procedure. However, for the vast majority of companies, WFH turned into a live case study, revealing many of the underlying weaknesses present in our operational models.
2020, A Meta-Analysis
2020 has given us a true glimpse into the resilience and ingenuity of business leaders and their associates. We learned that when the pressure is applied, businesses quickly learn to overcome the barriers and hurdles present with WFH implementation. Previous schools of thought were quickly debunked, while workers made active efforts to adapt to new working environments.
In hindsight, many of the concerns regarding WFH seem all but trivial now, yet the barriers to adopting WFH are real, and there are significant hurdles to overcome. The rapid and forceful deprivation of an on-site or office environment created many obstacles for workers and their managers. Workers realized that without replicating the coaching, collaboration, and organizational awareness present in an on-site environment, their work ethic and morale were in jeopardy.
Analyzing the Trend
You may remember our previous article discussing the benefits of implementing a WHF policy at your workplace. Now, with more data on our hands, we have addressed the major barriers to WFH and how to overcome them. Additionally, in the attached White Paper, we were able to outline the factors for a successful WFH model, including its implementation, maintenance, and the tools required for an assertive transition.
Taking a deep dive into current research surrounding WFH, we were able to glean the critical aspects required for remote work, some obvious, some not. We learned that companies could replicate near-perfect psychological variants necessary to allow workers to meet and even exceed performance benchmarks set at the office by leveraging new and emerging technologies.
We also learned that seemingly trivial ideas that have nothing to do with the company's operations could be pivotal for boosting worker morale and replicating the camaraderie often present on-site.
In our White Paper, we spend a great deal of time covering what managers need to do to ensure a successful transition to WFH. We also discuss what not to do. Many preconceived misconceptions go along with WFH, and eliminating these misconceptions could mean the difference between a successful WFH operation and a failed one.
Health, Stagnation, and Opportunity
With all factors considered, it appears that working from home leads to increased focus and productivity for high performing employees as they have more control over their immediate work environment. The reduction of office distractions and interoffice chatter allows WFH employees to work continuously with fewer interruptions throughout their workday.
While WFH may be a net positive for companies both in terms of productivity and profit, we must also recognize that WFH provides the added benefit for employee health. By analyzing survey data from GWA, we have discovered that three-quarters of WFH employees report a better work-life balance, as they have more flexibility managing work and non-work-related tasks. Additionally, nearly 70% of WFH employees report their overall wellbeing has improved in terms of stress, sleep, and exercise, with over 50% stating they are eating healthier too.
WFH has certainly changed the work-life dynamic, but what we are most concerned about are the long-term implications of working in a remote environment. Working from home means employees are consolidating their environments, which can presumably lead to monotony over time. This, of course, will vary between each individual, and as we continue to study the WFH trend, we may glean valuable insights into how employees manage WFH in the long run.
Based on the data we have now, 85% of WFH employees in North America report increased productivity, which is highest among Boomers, Generation X, and Millennials. Interestingly, only 44% of Gen Z state they are productive working from home. This is intriguing because, as the youngest generation, they tend to be the savviest with social media and technology. Contrary to our primary assumption that the significant decline in this generation is based on the notion that they may prefer a more social and cooperative atmosphere, this generation may, in fact, not have as many years of work experience under their belt as their older predecessors; thus, they may still be adapting to the work environment overall.
Stagnation may be a concern, but equally crucial is the acknowledgement that the opportunity pool will continue to increase as WFH becomes more stable over time. Employers may have the added benefit of selecting from a larger pool of talent; employees, too, have these same options in reverse. Because workers are no longer geographically constrained working from home, their prospective employment opportunities have also increased.
Managers should be aware of this phenomenon and actively seek to retain high-performing individuals who will continue to work from home. The primary focus should revolve around mitigating the barriers mentioned earlier, such as increased mentorship, training, and technology investment.
To retain top talent, however, companies need to understand that the demand for high-performing workers will increase as WFH continues to expand. Managers should therefore seek to assist employees with career planning, particularly for internal advancement opportunities. Job enrichment is another key factor in which managers can use their coaching time to analyze their employees' strengths and increase each employee's functional role. This serves as an added benefit of reducing redundancies while creating a dynamic and engaging atmosphere for employees.
Job rotation is another angle that should be considered, if applicable, to allow employees to gain valuable skills in various functions, thus preventing stagnation while also creating a robust and resilient remote workforce.
As you assess your current model for work from home, as an employer:
- Are you leading by example?
- Are you creating clear rules and boundaries?
- Are you establishing a clear communications plan?
- Are you maintaining company culture and organizational awareness?
- Are you enriching and engaging your employees?
Answering these questions will be vital to maintaining an efficient and productive WFH transition. Although the transition will be a learning process for both companies and employees, having a system of 360 feedback is paramount to achieving WFH success. There will be inevitable pitfalls and roadblocks along the way as you navigate this novel environment and addressing the concerns of managers and workers will ensure all sides are heard, and those issues can be dealt with appropriately.
We would love to know how your company is navigating WFH. What aspects have you had the hardest time with? How did you address them? And where do you see the future of WFH
*The author, Jaye Cabreros, is a research consultant for Jenoir® International Leveraging his expertise trading metal commodities and analyzing metal markets, he currently consults and develops the marketing and sales strategies for Canadian and international SMBs.
This blog is designed to inform readers and stimulate discussion. It is shared with the understanding that it does not constitute legal, accounting, medical, securities or other professional advice to be relied upon. If such advice is needed, the services of a competent professional person should be sought.
As we are critically thinking human beings, the views expressed in the blog are always subject to change, revision, and rethinking at any time. The author(s) and Jenoir® International are not to be held responsible for misuse, reuse, recycled and cited and/or uncited copies of content within this blog by others