Challenges of Remote Working for Employers
In this blog, we will explore the challenges of remote working for employers and why it seems difficult for companies to decide whether to continue with it or not. While most things have gone back to their pre-pandemic ways, remote working still lingers as a stark exception. We will discuss the impact of returning to the non-remote status, not just on individuals but also on society as a whole.
We’ll also delve into the reasons why this decision is challenging and why it creates conflicts for both employers and employees. We will examine various factors that companies need to consider when making the decision, such as employee morale, productivity, cost, convenience, and more. Join us as we explore this complex topic that affects the way we work and live.
The Pandemic is mostly in our rear view mirror – so why haven’t we all figured out whether we want to or can abandon remote working?
Let’s admit that this conversation generally applies only to white collar workers/companies that hire folks who work in offices. Meaning, excluding folks who serve people, build things, do not need as much supervision, etc. Mostly everything else is back to its pre pandemic ways – this is the glaring exception. Why? We are conflicted as a society. Divided. Many have black/white stark opinions. Others are sitting on the fence not sure how they feel or what they want.
What is it about this issue that has us so confused?
The return to the pre pandemic non-remote status impacts the following: us, our co-workers and society at large.
- Ourselves: convenience, hassle, letting go of annoying focus on wardrobe, etc., what are our connections worth if we never see anyone, introverts vs. extroverts preferences, driving time, missing eye contact in person – jokes – eye contact – glances – humor … all of the things that comprise actual “human contact.” Is zoom a legit replacement for actual human contact, or just another technological fad. But the traffic is still so horrible… we cannot justify sitting in cars as much as we did before. Are we lonely now? Are our lives as full now? (Do you go to trader joes just to get a jolt of a random conversation with the checkout person?) Freedom to go to dr. and other appointments without the hassle of scheduling around being at the office. No more small talk – love or hate that? Camaraderie? Opportunity to make lifelong best friends. Do you feel like you are in a bubble and on your own?
- Our coworkers: same issues, but from other people’s perspectives. Think about how this impacts Gen Z – they are not making deep connections, etc. This is not just about us.
- Society at large: The environment – traffic, less burning of fossil fuels and wasted resources/silly consumption (clothes). Decreased sense of community. The person is more important than the company/community – or is it visa versa? Are we creating a bifurcated society – is this contributing to the wealth, etc. division in the US/elsewhere? Are we ok with that?
Some thoughts about the “why” of this failure to go back to the old ways/make a commitment to making a decision:
- We have been given a taste of freedom from the drudgery of our day to day work lives.
- We no longer want to give so much power to our employers. They need us as much, or if not more, than we need them (the job market for most everyone except some tech workers is very hot.)
- Can’t most white collar jobs be performed equally as effectively remotely?
- Power shift between employers and employees. Employees now want to be treated more humanely – have their feelings and thoughts about the workplace be taken into consideration.
- Shift between how much we value our work, versus the REST of our lives and our passions. You’ll note that a lot of Gen z, etc. are taking serious time off to re-think their careers and life goals.
- We want more respect.
- Our society puts too much emphasis on our jobs/work status – this is a pushback.
- Can anyone ever really go back to something in their past without adopting changes based on recent experiences?
- Note that some employers seem as conflicted as employees. The leaders of companies are generally also employees … and have family and friends who are employees at other companies.
- Generally it’s freeing to not have to drive a distance, dress up and follow a lot of rules that now seem to some to be antiquated.
- It’s a liberation.
- How is this fair to employers? They are running businesses, and have their personal finances on the line – taking all of the risks. Why wouldn’t they have the right to make this decision on their own? Or is that approach antiquated given the labor shortage?
Some factors to consider when (a company) is deciding how to approach this issue:
- Employee morale. Take a poll folks! Talk to your team.
- Figure out how to accurately measure productivity. Implement this asap. And terminate workers that don’t perform to standards.
- Cost. Are you wasting money on fancy office space that you don’t really need?
- Convenience of employees. Where do folks live? Poorer employees live farther from workplaces than senior, more affluent workers. Are the poorer workers being punished for their lack of education and opportunity?
- How much do companies benefit from buying into the autonomy issue – meaning giving more power to workers? Benefits – productivity?
- How much do you trust your workers to actually work?
- Are you willing to put up guardrails to make sure that workers do the work they need to do (see measuring productivity above) and do not multitask (i.e., take care of toddlers) when they are supposed to be working?
- Can you put in place technology to ensure compliance with employment laws and regulations? Specifically, laws that regulate hours worked/clock ins and outs, etc.
- Are you paying an expense budget to workers for their at home work expenses? That is mandatory.
- Are you complying with worker’s compensation regulations related to safe work environments?
- What software are you using to ensure the confidentiality and safety of your trade secrets and confidential information?
- Do you have a written “remote working” policy that spells out expectations, guidelines and sets expectations?
- Are you making up for the remote experience with increased check-ins with employees, getting the pulse of workers, etc.
- What about employee training? How are you addressing that? Are you helping your workers to grow?
- How will remote working impact employee loyalty – studies show that it will be negative.
- How do introverts vs. extroverts feel about remote working? How to balance that?
- Get the legal footprint in place. Increase policies and procedures related to evaluation of workers, etc.
What should employers do now?
- Figure out whether they want to promote the larger global/societal goals that are important to them (burning of fossil fuels), and incorporate that into their decision making process. Implement, if applicable to their value system and economic model.
- Make a decision/plan. Put it in writing. Commit to trying it for 6 months. Inform employees. Listen to employees. Reevaluate it in 6 months. Then change as needed or desired.
- Get your legal team to help you manage this process.
- Form a task force to help.
- Understand that your company may not have a choice on this issue, and accept (i.e., restaurants, laborers, security firms, etc.)
- Weigh and balance the following: financial issues, employee morale issues, employee development issues, among others.
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