In recent years we have seen a rise in the literature on topics such as the benefits of work life balance, flexible working arrangements, remote work and working from home. And while there has been a gradual move towards either implementing the above or increasing readiness to implement it; I have found that the majority of organisations have been slow to start.
Enter 2020 and the new normal. With the announcement of lockdowns (to varying degrees) across the globe, organizations and employees a like scrambled fervently to set up access to internet in their homes. The expectation being, as long as the technology is set up, it will be as if you are in the office. Instead, it became pretty clear early on that the technology being in place was but a minor player in this new normal. The productivity effects, both in a positive and negative direction as well as the psychological impact of working from home has surprised everyone.
Without the necessary training, remote management practices or change management initiatives needed to effect such a shift, the boundaries between work life and home life have been completely blurred. Typically, managers equate productivity with physically seeing the employee in the office/ behind a computer.
Now with the absence of physical presence, as well as the absence of productivity output measures, some employees have managed to slip under the radar, doing the absolute minimum to avoid retribution. Confirming every supervisor/ manager’s worst “working from home” fears. These employees are also engaging in counterproductive work behaviours. To name just a few: being on social media, watching Netflix, personal calls during working hours, constantly on WhatsApp, starting work late and finishing early. All while on company time and money. On the other side, the typically conscientious employees have been working themselves to the bone. With the physical and temporal boundaries of leaving the home to travel to the workplace removed; the result has been the always on duty employee.
No more lunch breaks, and no more ‘9 to 5’. Employees are working longer hours than usual both to complete the work, but also to prove to employers that they are in fact working. Clients and colleagues alike now have access to personal contact details, with zero regard for personal space or ‘working hours’. Even when the employee has finished work for the day, the laptop on the kitchen counter or home office set up in the dining room constantly pulls the employee away from switching off from work. Employees are also reading and replying to emails sent after hours, simply because they have access to it on their cell phones. Never truly ending the workday. The eventual end result, if it has not already happened, are employees that are overworked and overtired, a reduction in productivity is imminent and increase in errors unavoidable.
The remedy to the above fortunately is simple one: making sure that you implement the necessary remote management practices and train both staff and managers on these. And the best part is you don’t have to struggle your way through it, we can help you. Do you really know how your employees have been coping since working from home?
Contact us to enquire about our Organisational Development programs and training for both the employer and employee. Phone 021 855 0776 or email: email@example.com to find balance in the ‘New Normal’.
Written by: Mienke Victor
Registered Industrial Psychologist