I Can See My Whole World Changing: Working From Home Permanently

For the last few months we have been told by the Government to stay at home and non-essential businesses were to encourage employees to work from home or shut down until further notice.  While your social media feed may be filled with people posting that they are looking forward to returning to “normal”, the way we have known normal has changed forever. 

In the last of our blog three-part series we will talk about employers who have made the definite decision to have a remote workforce with no view to return any employees to the workplace. 

Why continue in the WFH trend?

We are now witnessing the rise of the work from home (WFH) trend.  Employers of large tech companies such as Twitter, Square and Facebook have informed employees that they can continue to work from home indefinitely.  This has a flip side – in the United States, these tech companies have also warned employees that if they move out of a certain radius of their ‘usual’ workplace, they may have to take a pay cut to reflect the market rate of their new workplace (wherever that new home might be).

A factor that has led to the work from home trend is that the survey data shows only a quarter of employees are emotionally ready to return to the workplace.  The remainder are reluctant to return specifically because of concerns about contracting COVID-19 or there is a personal preference to continue to work from home.

With the availability of technologies to collaborate and stay in constant contact with each other, employers have seen that most employees transitioned easily to the new work from home arrangements.  Given this, some employers have even deferred their decision to return employees to the physical workplace until 2021.  For instance, Shopify, an e-commerce platform for online stores, announced via Twitter that as it is a “digital by default company” that offices would remain closed until 2021 until the Company could rework their physical offices for the “new reality”, which included the majority of employees continuing to permanently work remotely.

Hold Tight!  What to consider before making a permanent shift to WFH

Whilst many employers and employees are jumping on the work from home bandwagon, there are some important things to keep in mind:

  • The human brain: People are not built to connect via screen or phone calls permanently.  Many employees seek social connection and belonging (which contributes to organisational performance).  Employers need to ensure that there is a plan for employees who are permanently working from home to have a social connection and/or belonging to the workplace.  For example, Upwork (a global freelancing platform) has declared that working remotely will be the default, however, teams will also be able to come together (once it is safe) for intentional collaboration and socialisation.
  • The Resistance – Some employees may be resistant to working from home permanently – employers will need to have a plan or procedure to assist in these circumstances.  For example, will employees have the option to work in an office and work remotely or split the time between the two?
  • New Skills Training – Think about your employees and their training needs – employees will now need tech skills they never had before.  When physically working next to someone, they may have asked questions on how to “fix” something; this may not readily be available in a pure WFH workforce.
  • Where is WFH? Will your employees be allowed to “work from anywhere” or just purely “work from home”?  Apple and Microsoft have adopted work from anywhere approaches as they recognised that people working in office hubs could create ‘in-person communities’ which still boost team members’ creativity, socialisation, etc.

It is important that if you are deciding, or have made the decision to have a purely remote workforce, it is essential that employees are engaged, motivated, productive and a part of the organisation.  Check out our first 2 blogs in this series for more!

Want to know more?

Seed People Consulting are experts in change management and managing team engagement.  If you would like to discuss the tools you have in place or are looking for tailored resources to assist with this transition, please contact Seed via our website www.seedpeopleconsulting.com.au