The advantages and risks of ‘forced’ working from home

Covid-19 pandemic:  How to keep employees connected so they can remain confident and committed while working from home

It is clear that working from home full-time is quite different from the usual working from home one, two or three days a week that allows better balance between life, work and commuting time. In the long term, isolation, ‘hyper-connection’ and sometimes poorly organized “digitized” management have left many employees saturated and exhausted. Some companies and organizations that have never had to set up remote work arrangements have suddenly found themselves completely helpless, because they do not have adequate professional equipment or specific procedures to quickly organize remote working. Also, network overload has led to connection problems.

Some employees quickly became overwhelmed because they are not equipped with the appropriate collaborative tools to ensure continuity of the business plan. They have thus been obligated to use digital apps and services they find online and then train themselves to use them. Alone in front of their computer, trying to learn how to use these apps has probably been a great source of anxiety. Some of them have needed help, such as psychological support.  Help from external partners, such as platforms and companies, has also been provided so they can talk about their concerns and feel connected. Today, some companies are seeing a decrease in their employees’ motivation, commitment and productivity. Some employees also fear that once things get back to normal they will have to work harder to ensure continuity of the business.

From forced digitization to well thought-out digitization

It is perhaps time that HR departments rethink work methods or increase transformation by including digital technology in professional relationships with managers, peers, co-workers, customers and suppliers.

The appropriate communication channels should be set up beforehand to enable an exchange of information. HR and managers need to adapt by setting clear guidelines that specify what each person is expected to do, by providing the tools required to share agendas and documents and use video conferences and even setting up a corporate social network. Managers also need performance monitoring tools that provide them with dashboards and reporting capabilities. Digital platforms also provide an opportunity for feedback to employees and personalized monitoring.

Remote communication, whether it be instant or deferred, is easy in today’s world. In some companies, employees can even create their own communities based on their favorite topics. This encourages interaction, solidarity and teamwork.

Protecting work/life balance and maintaining trust

Companies should try to keep social relations intact by organizing actual (non-virtual) meetings and face-to-face meetings between managers and employees. Digital technology will never replace actual human contact. It can help to maintain contact depending on the circumstances and location and according to the tasks required and in case of ‘force majeure’, which is currently the case.

There are risks to be avoided, however, such as isolation and hyperconnectivity, that can negatively affect an employee’s work/life balance and even their health. We need to encourage and help employees create an area in their home especially for work and set up their computer in proper conditions, so as to avoid back problems, for example. Some people may also find it difficult to do their work from home and be self-sufficient. Managers need to be vigilant by setting specific hours, allowing the employee time to log off, anticipate workloads, informing them of their status (busy, available, absent, etc.) and have update meetings on a regular basis. Managers will have to change their practices by trusting their employees and allowing them to be self-sufficient.