Working from home has enabled thousands of people to keep doing their job well during the pandemic. But is this new world of work, tied to a single laptop, killing employee engagement, and creating ‘screen burn-out’? Martin Belton thinks so and gives you eight ideas to help keep employees healthy, happy and engaged.
According to the research organization Gallup, from mid-March to mid-May 2020, the number of U.S. employees working from home more than doubled, from 31% to 65%. That accounts for more than 100 million American workers. That is an amazing statistic, but it is compounded because we are working from home during a pandemic. Workers have made dramatic changes to their home lifestyle. Taking Zoom calls in the bedroom, dealing with serious health issues an,d changing their lifestyles. For the homeworker, home is not just where the heart is. It’s where the PC is – the day-care center and the restaurant. Challenges aside, our Gallup poll also revealed that more than half of at-home workers would prefer to continue working remotely when restrictions lift.
For this reason, organizations need a clear plan for transitioning from the early-crisis makeshift solutions to a remote work strategy that makes sense for their own business circumstances. Crucially, it must also embrace employees’ ongoing wellbeing.
It is up to organizations therefore to create environments where home workers can be both effective and properly supported in material and mental terms. Gallup offered a set of criteria to help us understand the challenges home workers face:
Readiness and comfort: Is the person comfortable with the solutions the organization is implementing? What are the individual’s health and safety concerns both for themselves and their family?
Life circumstances: What demands does the homeworker face for the care of others – either childcare, elder care, or tending to sick family members? Can they get to work easily if needed? Does the person have a good area at home to use as a workspace?
Performance: How has this person performed before and after working from home? Tracking and supporting low performers may be more challenging remotely.
Strengths: Even if a role is suitable for homeworking, people are different and have different talents. They sometimes have unusual ways of achieving the same outcome. Some people work very well remotely with only minimal interventions. Others in the same role may need far more interactions and structure of on-site work.
At Talent Transformation, we recently contacted our members, together with other business leaders and senior HR practitioners, and asked them what their biggest challenge was during the pandemic. Unsurprisingly many suggested it was just keeping the business afloat and making sales in such a tough environment. HR personnel was primarily concerned with how they can get people back to work safely. The challenge of creating an environment where people felt comfortable and that worked as a socially distanced yet effective space.
But our question also revealed a few potentially private comments, even cries for help.
“It feels like I'm living Groundhog Day in a prison” was one reaction.
“I’ve got computer screen fatigue!”, cried someone else.
“I can't stare at the screen any longer, especially for Zoom and I’m sitting way too much!”, was another dismayed response.
“Please release me from this 16x9 tyrant!” one employee pleaded
For these and many others, if they are to continue to work from home effectively, merely checking on their ‘readiness and comfort’ and ‘life circumstances’ is nowhere near enough. Organizations must adapt new support strategies which will properly engage their key workers and provide broader rewards and lifestyle opportunities.
The challenge is how do we create an environment which engages and rewards our employees. Dedicated social media platforms such as ‘Slack’ help in a small w