How organizations can leverage technology to improve the employee experience regardless of where work happens
As we continue to cope with the pandemic, many organizations have taken the decision to allow their employees to work from home permanently. Office cubicles, meeting rooms, and coffee breaks with colleagues have suddenly given way to a new normal that includes family members and household distractions, adapting to new technologies, creating a shakeup in their lives. For some, remote work is a welcome change, especially due to the lack of commute, improved time management and extra family time. For many others, this new environment introduces a variety of stressors that they may not have experienced before. Let’s look at the top stressors that affect productivity, health and mental well-being of remote workers:
Loneliness and Isolation
Workplace loneliness was probably a major challenge even prior to the pandemic. The cceleration of remote work has only made matters worse as remote workers are physically isolated in their homes introducing a lack of social connection with office colleagues. In a recent survey, nearly 50% of remote workers expressed an increasing feeling of depression and loneliness. Research has shown that lonely workers take almost double the number of sick days than their colleagues and demonstrate weaker performance and less commitment to their work.
Working from home doesn’t just blur the lines between home and office life, it basically eliminates them. Many people have converted living spaces into offices, making it almost impossible to disconnect from work. Nearly 70% of workers report experiencing burn-out and the reasons are not surprising. As per research by Harvard Business Review nearly 60% of workers report an increase in job demands and a majority are struggling to manage their workload and balance home and work life.
Stress, Anxiety and Fear
The pandemic, an uncertain economic environment, alarming news, fear, work pressure and other strong emotions are accelerating stress and anxiety. Constant pressure to be available at all times, and adverse impact on career growth and network are some of the fears employees have about remote work. According to the Capgemini Research Institutes (CRI (News - Alert)) study, 56% fear that remote work will create a pressure to remain available for work at all times, while 54% fear that remote work will hamper their career growth in organization. According to a global study, seven out of 10 employees have experienced significant amounts of stress and a staggering 85% report facing mental health issues at work that is negatively impacting their personal life. Almost half of workers also report a change in sleep patterns resulting in a significant impact on mental health and wellbeing. Stress, anxiety and distraction are leading causes of human error and can pose a significant cyber threat for businesses.
Distractions and Interruptions
Caregiving, pets, chores, deliveries, workspace discomfort, etc. are a few of the many reasons for distraction while working at home. Social media is another huge one and probably one of the biggest contributors to distraction amidst social isolation. This is also exacerbated by notifications from smartphones, email, instant messages. Studies show that workers are interrupted every few minutes and it can take up to two hours to recover from interruptions. Researchers estimate distraction to cost American businesses a whopping $650 billion annually.
People working from home encounter a wide variety of technical issues such as: slow (or no) internet connectivity, computer issues, router/modem problems, internet service provider issues, browser problems and malware and viruses. In addition to these problems there are the simple ‘how to do’ questions that home workers must struggle through on their own.
Work from home mandates may require quickly getting up to speed with new technology challenges and communication methods. Workers may not necessarily be accustomed to or feel comfortable with something as basic as turning on the camera for online meetings. The rise in “technostress” (negative symptoms directly related to the use and adoption of new technologies) bears a direct correlation with the acceleration of remote work. Research indicates that bad technology experiences can impede employee performance by more than 30% on average.
Five best practices to ensure remote working success
1. Stay connected
In times of isolation and loneliness, it’s important that managers maintain regular touch with their team members. In absence of face-to-face interactions, use video where possible. Always check-in with your team, even if it’s non-work related -- it helps keep the connection going.
2. Embrace distractions
Encourage team members to embrace distractions. Dogs barking, a child walking up to your desk – today that’s a normal thing that people should not have to apologize for. This is now the world we live in; no need to be embarrassed by it.
3. Show commitment
Have regular meetings, turn up on time, establish a routine. Not only do regular meetings help people stay connected, they could also help to identify any issue that someone is struggling with. Encourage your people to speak out, voice their opinions or seek help.
4. Promote work-life balance
Recognize that people are stressed and burned-out these days and don’t take enough time off. Expect people to have a reasonable work-life balance between what they do for work and when they disconnect to get on with their home life. Try to respect schedules, make sure you start and stop meetings at appropriate times.
5. Workspace must evolve with changing employee expectations
Technology has the power to positively impact employee experience, relieve stress and improve employee efficiency. There are solutions and technologies that promise to positively support the work experience such as:
COVID is likely to be an ongoing issue over the coming years so remember that remote work, although challenging in many ways, makes a lot of business sense. Businesses that learn to embrace changes in mindset, behavior and technology will in the long run tackle the challenges of permanent remote work and enable their employees to thrive.
About the Author
Gary Taylor (News - Alert) is a workspace offering manager and architect for Capgemini, responsible for developing end user transformation services for the company’s Connected Workspace offerings globally. Capgemini is a global leader in consulting, digital transformation, technology, and engineering services. A multicultural company of 265,000 people in nearly 50 countries, Capgemini’s purpose is to unleash human energy through technology for an inclusive and sustainable future. With Altran, the Group reported 2019 combined global revenues of €17 billion. Contact [email protected]; Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/gary-taylor-3779ba11/