There’s nothing temporary about working from home anymore. Which means employers need to transition to data-led, but also compassion-led companies.
The great return to workplaces – like so many things in 2020 – is off. Reversal of try-to-work-in-the-office requests to ‘try and work at home if you can’ advice (and more recently the new national lockdown), has ushered in what many commentators feel is the official start of ‘hybrid working’ – the long-term shift to sharing time between working from home (WFH) and working in the office, with the majority of this time spent at home.
If data is to be believed, it’s what workers want. Research from communication platform provider, Slack’s, Future Forum arm reveals just 12% of staff surveyed want to return to full-time office work. An overwhelming 72% of employees now say they prefer a hybrid remote-office model.
But while this is all very well for staff, for employers used to nothing but office-based environments and management structures, the challenges this change of mindset produces is huge. What sometimes suits staff (further data shows 91% of employees prefer balancing their work and family life this way – source: Covid-19 Remote Working Survey), doesn’t suit bosses. In fact the model throws up entirely new concerns that need dealing with – like the fact managing productivity is harder (The ONS finds 24% of businesses say there’s been a drop in output), and also that there is mounting evidence the isolation with WFH creates serious staff mental health issues.
What any hybrid model needs, is actually enhanced employee data reporting requirements, supported by virtual and regular communications between managers and staff.
Informal contact needs to be formalised. They need to be properly recorded, so that patterns in what were once subtle changes in employee behaviour (which managers simply observed and made mental notes about), are indelibly stored. They will need IT support systems where absence data, or illness data can be cross-referenced with other datasets like productivity, output levels or quality of the attainment of performance against company, team and personal goals. These need doing just in case management need to intervene.
But what employers really need to do is also apply elements of predictive analytics – where oscillations in live data around performance can pre-warn managers of action they need to take now to avert stress or anxiety before it gets too all-consuming.
And this needs further support too; from systems that can manage aspects like the distribution of corporate updates (such as changes to company policies), and which send alerts new useful resources might be available – such as techniques to improve resilience or raise people’s overall wellbeing. When staff are literally remote from the business, it’s information they crave – about where the company is going; how it’s responding to changing markets; what new updates exist that they need to be aware of; and what their place is (and what there targets are) in this ‘new normal.’
Appogee HR’s suite of HR software solutions facilitates all these functions, with real-time dashboards and reporting filters that can help HR managers and business owners understand what needs to be done to help employees navigate the new normal. With leave management reporting, goal insights and online performance management all in one place, being able to closely monitor wellbeing and take steps to improve, any staff member’s output will make all the difference in ensuring that hybrid working really does work for everyone.
As the hybrid working model shifts from being a temporary experiment, to a more long-term reality, it’s the companies that can shift from being output-driven, but also be human and empathetic in their leadership that will see their employees thrive. They’ll thrive despite the impediments WFH places on people’s lives.