COVID-19 has turned many small businesses into remote workplaces in 2020. With more people being vaccinated against the virus and states signaling businesses and schools to reopen, remote workers would like back to office. But in a Society for Human Resources surveyMore than half (52%) of the 1,000 employees surveyed said they would rather work from home full-time if given the choice.
Employees’ growing preference for WFH may be troubling for some employers. Companies that want employees back to work as COVID-19 subsides must weigh the need to have them back in the office against their desire to work from home. They also have to decide what to do if many of them no longer want to work.
As companies make plans to get employees back into the office, they need to understand that the workforce that left the office in March 2020 will not be the same workforce return in the coming monthssaid Terri Patterson, director of Control Risks and former psychologist. “Employees have been through a lot in the past year and what employers know may just be the tip of the iceberg,” she said. work.
Workers are afraid of getting COVID, causing them to lose flexibility
When the pandemic hit, employers acted quickly to slow the spread of the virus by sending workers home to do their jobs elsewhere. According to the Pew Research Center, the number of employees who worked from home all or part of the time rose from 20% before the pandemic to 71% today.
“Data tells us that the most important thing for employees is the autonomy to choose when and how they get their work done,” said Becky Frankiewicz, president of ManpowerGroup North America. “With an increase in distance learning and increasing demands on families, providing this flexibility has never been more important.”
Many people have fears or restrictions about returning to the office and are pushing employers back hard.”
Ron Weiner, CEO of iMoveR, acknowledges the reluctance of employees to give up working from home. “The return-to-office momentum is much weaker than most employers expected,” he told work. “If we have learned anything from the pandemic, it is [that]: employees can be even more productive at home than in the office, at least for 2/3 of their work, and [that] many people have fears or restrictions about returning to the office and pushing employers back hard.”
Employees are anxious and face emotional challenges
In a global study of 4,553 full-time, homeworkers, Limeade Institute found that 100% of them feared returning to the workplace. They attributed the causes of their fear of returning to work to:
- Exposure to COVID-19 (77%)
- Inflexible work schedules (71%)
- Commuting (68%)
- Wearing a mask (54%)
- Need for childcare (22%)
- Other sources of anxiety (7%)
Employers who overlook the impact of the pandemic on workers’ mental health can expect increased resistance to returning to work. According to the global business consultancy, lockdowns and stay-at-home measures have affected nearly 3 billion people worldwide Deloitte.
Gena Cox, Ph.D., an industrial/organizational psychologist and executive coach, said: work that employees, especially women and black women in particular, do not want to return to the office. Many don’t want to go back because they still face many emotional challenges and unpredictable circumstances, such as childcare and housing costs. She added that employees do not believe that workplaces are willing to provide them with the psychological safety they need when they return and continue to juggle these challenges.
Cox also said employees know that the longer they stay at home, the more likely it is that employers will give in to their desires to win the war for talent. “Employees know they have more options than before for tasks that can be performed remotely” [and therefore] will hold out as long as possible,” she added.
Employers distrust WFH, lack remote management training
Companies can have a variety of reasons for wanting remote workers to return to work, but the relative newness of WFH as a work option is a likely factor. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics’ National Compensation Survey 2019In the pre-COVID era, remote work was only an option for a select group of workers – mainly managers, white-collar workers and other highly paid personnel – while most jobs (63%) had to be performed locally. As a result, managers generally expect tasks to be performed in the workplace.
Managers’ distrust of unsupervised remote workers and little to no experience of supervising them is driving some employers to issue return-to-work orders. A team of Australian researchers found that COVID-19 pushed many managers into the role of WFH overseer without preparation or training. Of the 215 managers and supervisors in the survey, 40% said they did not have the confidence to manage telecommuters. And nearly as many managers (38%) believed that remote workers underperform those who work on location.
A third of business leaders in a Unisys Digital Workplace Insights report listed 1 or more of the following as WFH deficiencies that lower productivity:
- Difficulty communicating with team members
- Unreliable internet connection and/or insufficient bandwidth
- Difficulty using new or unknown WFH technologies
- Problems accessing required content, data and/or applications
- Obstacles to Receiving Valuable IT Support
- Difficulty concentrating at work due to personal commitments
While BLS data shows that 31% of all jobs can be performed completely offsite, executives in a PwC (PriceWaterhouseCooper) study don’t think the corporate culture can survive under a 100% remote working system. In fact, 29% – the group with the highest number of votes – prefer to have employees on site at least 3 days a week to maintain the company culture. Only 6% of executives could support having employees on site only a few times a month.
Getting employees back to work
Surprisingly, not all workers agree that WFH lowers productivity; 79% of business leaders in Unisys report admitted that telecommuters are just as productive as they are in the office. And the PwC survey found that not all employees are against returning to work — they’re just not as excited to return as employers had anticipated and don’t want to give up WFH altogether.
Unisys and PwC studies show that employers and employees can agree on return to work issues and policies. Employers can start the process of returning to the workplace with the following steps.
Tackle the fear of COVID-19
Follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDCs) guidance for companies and employers. The CDC provides updates on methods to control the spread of the virus in the workplace, including sanitation practices, social distancing, mask wearing, vaccinationand other precautions. Employers may require employees to follow safety procedures as a policy, including full vaccination before returning to work.
Recognizing workers’ mental health needs is also part of helping them cope with the pandemic as they return to the workplace. “The current workforce is more vulnerable to mental health issues, with 50 to 55% of survey respondents reporting a decline in mental wellbeing during the pandemic,” said Patterson. She recommends promoting the availability of employee assistance programs (EAPs) and other mental health resources for employees.
“The current workforce is more vulnerable to mental health issues, with 50% to 55% of survey respondents reporting a decline in mental wellbeing during the pandemic.”
Accept WFH as the new norm
Give employees who have been working from home due to the pandemic some flexibility in their work schedules. For companies facing WFH for the first time since the pandemic, a hybrid work model could help reduce employee resilience. A hybrid model combines on-site work schedules with WFH options. By working remotely once or a few times a week, managers can have quality time with their teams while meeting employees’ need for more flexible schedules.
Americans already accept WFH as the norm. Millions of people have easily transitioned from working full-time on location to working remotely since the start of the pandemic, data from Pew shows. The transition has been so massive that teleworker requests for iMoveR’s standing desks have jumped from 30% pre-COVID to 95% today.
Employees of Voices, a company specializing in voiceover talent, told founder and CEO David Ciccarelli that they are very happy with the company’s ongoing policy of working anywhere. He told work that the first step is to have a clear policy, which includes both current employees and new hires.
Train leaders to manage a remote workforce and measure performance
Train managers on how to increase and maintain productivity without having to have their teams on site every day. The focus should be on results, rather than on work processes and procedures.
Setting up a metric process includes:
- Drafting a WFH Statistics Policy on what and how performance is measured.
- Track employee goals, priorities and deadlines
- Using performance management procedures to evaluate employee progress
- Have employees track and register their hours; the Fair Labor Standards Act requires records of the working hours of non-exempt employees
Leveraging HR expertise expertise
SHRM offers a 10-point return to work plan that includes:
- Making workplace safety the top priority. In addition to the latest CDC guidelines, safety strategies include employee health screenings, a response plan for exposure to COVID-19, and the provision of personal protective equipment (PPE).
- Planning how employees will make an orderly and gradual return to work to avoid chaos
- Continue to offer WFH for security reasons, stagger WFH days as needed and update technology to support remote workers
- Update or create new policies for paid time off, attendance, flexible scheduling, or other topics as needed
A win-win for the workplace
The pandemic has turned the way we work upside down. And while most tasks still need to be performed on site, COVID-19 has shown millions of workers that flexibility between work and home is possible. Business leaders learned that changing the way their company operates can not only be necessary, but can also create a win-win situation for companies and employees.
A hybrid workplace gives employees the flexibility they want in their lives, while reducing some of the isolation they sometimes feel when working from home. By taking COVID safeguards, accepting WFH as a bona fide work option, and training team leaders in remote work management, employers will make employers’ return to work less of a burden.