The spread of the coronavirus is a major concern for many organizations. Working from home has become the new normal, but research shows that only 23 percent of the Flemish people have ever worked from home. The coronavirus study of the University of Antwerp shows that 10 percent could actually work from home on Tuesday, March 17, but didn’t get the permission to do so from their employer. It is therefore quite an adjustment for both employers and employees to suddenly work from home on a structural basis. What can an organization do to support employees in tackling this challenge?
1. Keep your finger on the pulse
It is important to have insight into the activities of your employees who work from home. It is not only important to know what they are doing, but how they are doing. Does the corona crisis cause more work pressure or less? Can you help each other out by taking over or delegating tasks? A short survey of the employees via mail, chat, telephone, video call or maybe even anonymously via an online questionnaire, will give you an overview of what employees are doing and what they are worried about. Also ask what you can do for them to support them in these stressful times.
2. Provide bytes but also connection
Of course, it is important to provide the right hardware and software so that your employees can communicate both internally and externally about ongoing activities, projects and deadlines. But don't forget that research shows that more than 2 to 3 days of homeworking per week leads to less engagement and lower job satisfaction. So, encourage your employees to have their usual team meeting online or have a short digital 'coffee break' together. Also pay attention to team members who are not involved in this or check in with employees you haven’t heard from for a few days.
3. Set clear expectations
It is almost impossible to work effectively from home for 8 hours straight sitting at your laptop. Reassure your employees that you don't expect the impossible but be clear about what you do expect from them. Agreements about reachability (e.g. keeping your schedule up to date or indicating your current status) and deadlines (what about current projects?) create clarity for your employees. A Dutch survey on teleworking at 391 organizations showed that 29 percent of them did not (yet) make specific agreements on communicating about reachability.
4. Use audiovisual media to connect with each other
One of the pitfalls of working from home on a structural basis is communicating with each other almost exclusively by email. However, research into interpersonal communication shows that audiovisual cues, such as hearing and seeing each other, are key for understanding each other's message but also for ensuring social connection (see e.g. 'Personal connections in the digital age' by Nancy K. Baym). So, talk to each other regularly via audiovisual tools, such as Skype for Business or Zoom. They cannot replace face-to-face conversations, but they are the next best thing if you want to connect when you are apart.
5. Working from home: not just a fallback solution but an eye-openerA survey (in Dutch) of 1,170 employees shows that about 2 out of 3 employees work in an organization where time and location independent work is not the norm. The fact that working from home has become ‘mandatory’ now, may act as an incentive to embed homeworking in a more flexible organizational structure.
6. Scan your organization
What do you, as an organization, need in order to embed working from home on a structural basis? Scan your organization for the possibilities to facilitate and/or expand homeworking (flexible working) with the Flexwerkscan. Based on scientific research, you will immediately receive specific advice on how to organize or further develop flexible working within your organization.
Would you like to know more? Read our blog post (in Dutch) about flexible working.