​This Working Life: Learning to manage a more flexible workforce

08 June 2020

By Ed Rossiter

​This Working Life: Learning to manage a more flexible workforce

The practice of working from home is likely to stay with us even after the pandemic fades – which means that employers will need to employ new ways to communicate, motivate and connect

With working from home set to become one of Covid-19’s most notable employment-related legacies, learning to manage a more flexible workforce will be a priority for employers in the months ahead.

To find out more about the challenges they may face, we surveyed 250 senior and mid-level professionals around the country about their experience working from home over the past three months.

We wanted to find out more about their working hours, productivity, mental health and expectations of the employment landscape post-Covid.

Our research suggests that sustained periods of working remotely, without any face-to-face interaction with colleagues, could have a negative impact on mental health. Sixty per cent of the respondents we spoke to said they believed their mental health had suffered as a result of working from home. Some of the challenges they have faced include feelings of isolation and insufficient support from managers.

This suggests that, for employers managing more flexible workforces in the future, clear and consistent communication will be a priority, as will fostering a sense of connection and community. Fifty-eight per cent of the respondents we surveyed reported working longer hours at home, and 31 per cent said they were less productive.

To ensure working from home is a positive and productive experience, the onus will be on employers to arm remote workers with the necessary tools and supports. This might include a working-from-home policy, clarifying obligations and expectations, and the introduction of initiatives designed to support interaction with colleagues.

Regular ‘check-ins‘ from managers will be especially important as a means to motivate remote workers and support productivity. Transparency will be equally important. People working remotely on a regular basis will need to be kept up to speed on company developments and briefed on the outcome of face-to-face meetings in the office.

Ninety-five per cent of our survey respondents believe their employers have implemented the IT infrastructure needed to support remote working long-term. It’s essential, therefore, that managers make full use of all of the tools available to communicate effectively with remote workers. Zoom, Google Hangouts and other video-conferencing platforms can provide a richer form of communication than phone or email, helping remote workers to feel more connected.

Eighty-six per cent of the respondents we surveyed said they expected working from home to become a regular part of their employment in the future.

As offices around the country begin to re-open, we are likely to see a hybrid working model emerge as companies seek to support social distancing with a combination of on-site and remote-working arrangements. A number of our clients are exploring a rotational shift-based approach to office hours as a means to reduce the number of employees working together at any given time.

As the ‘new normal‘ begins to bed down, we believe that we will see a far better balance between office-based and remote working. Done right, this could help employers to motivate employees and retain high performers.

They will, however, need to develop new ways of managing people. Remote workers will expect clear rules of engagement and meaningful access to managers. Clear policies, training and communication will all play a crucial role in helping employers to manage the transition to a more flexible future.

As seen in The Business Post on 7/6/20


To download the full survey findings along with further expert insights, fill out the form below and download it now.

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