I have met so many people over the years that work from home. Some work for a company based in another part of the country or overseas, and some work for themselves or a mixture of both. It’s not unusual to hear this way of working in conversations now and many love it and say they wouldn’t have it any other way. We love this too as it shows people are not being excluded from work because of geography or location. Certainly, we recognise it is not for everyone and also know that some jobs that must be in the office. For us, being mothers, it was very important so we can balance our time with our children and our work.
On the flip side, we know from research that remote workers can be lonely and disengaged. Often they are working on their own, and a lot of the communication is over email, text and instant messaging. Whilst these communications are great and a necessity, there is a lack of human and social connection either over the phone or in person. There can be a great deal of isolation. This as you can imagine, has an impact on the individual and far outweighs performance expectations and tracking of time. Reuters survey, of more than 2000 managers and employees in 10 different countries, found that ‘more than 40 percent said they felt lonely always or often, were not engaged and had a high need for social connection.’
The question many have around remote working is how does an organisation and the employee track time and performance. What’s more important…performance, time spent working or a combination of both? It seems that both matter for most organisations, whereas some would say that the time spent working is not important, flexibility is the key. There are plenty of time management and tracking tools out there that have helped the remote workforce but is that really enough?
What about the remote workers level of engagement and wellbeing?
Stating the obvious, we won’t always know how the remote worker is feeling or much about them if they are not keen to open up over the phone or conference call. We have heard a lot about wellbeing in the workplace and the remote workforce is no exception. We need to be able to understand the whole person in a remote working environment as well as someone who is in the office or someone who travels a lot for their job. The WeWork model and many other working environments like that around the globe have given some people a great place to stay connected with people whilst working remotely, but it still doesn’t tap into the whole person, who they are and how they are feeling about work, balancing work/life, connecting with others in the business, and so on.
We at Emotie are all too familiar with the remote workers and feel there is more that needs to be done to ensure this community is engaged and thriving. It’s very easy for a remote worker to suffer in silence if they are not connected. The conversation becomes even more important and must be part of a purposeful plan to allow for regular open dialogue and a ‘getting to know the remote worker’ mentality.
HR Rewired cited about GitLab which has 850 employees across 55 countries, all of whom work from home, ‘remote working shouldn’t be seen as a lazy option to reduce cost however, but an opportunity to empower employees to focus on productivity and not hours served.’ They go onto say that it is important to ‘invest in the right tools and technology and don’t forget to upskill your leaders and managers.’
Remote working is definitely not for everyone or for all organisations. Trust is key for organisations, and if remote working is done well it has proven to bring about higher productivity, high levels of satisfaction and engagement. To have more engagement and happier remote working employees, organisations have the opportunity to be more human and understand the whole person, as we only know too well at Emotie.