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REMOTE WORK – DOING IT RIGHT

INTRODUCTION

If it is up to employees, working from home will continue to establish itself more strongly in Germany – this has emerged from a study commissioned by DAK, in which 7,000 workers were surveyed before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. 75% of respondents would like to have more opportunities to work from home after the pandemic is over. This development is potentially long overdue, as even in 2018 we still lagged far behind countries such as Finland and the Netherlands with only 5% of the regular workforce working from home.1 When employees are asked what they like about remote work the answers are often similar – more flexibility, no commuting, less distraction and increased productivity are benefits that many employees no longer want to miss and which have already been discussed in detail in this article.

However, there are two sides to each coin. According to the DAK study, one in two employees are struggling to maintain the separation between work and private life and three quarters of the respondents lack regular and direct contact with their colleagues. The ambitions of companies to offer their employees the opportunity to work remotely are without a doubt correct and long overdue. However, in order to optimally exploit the potential of this form of work, the focus must be set correctly during the implementation: On each individual employee.

KEY FACTORS

Personality & Motivation – Know your employees

It is not possible to draw a clear line between those employees who are suitable for remote work and those who are not. Our individual personality and motivation have a great influence on our actions and thus decisively determine whether working from home is a suitable alternative for us. Employees who particularly appreciate working with their colleagues and who feel a strong sense of belonging may prefer regular presence work. However, especially performance-motivated employees may quickly notice that the concentration in their own four walls is significantly better than in the office. This is especially beneficial for those whose day-to-day work is predominantly characterised by particularly demanding tasks. The more complicated a task is, the higher is the level of self-discipline one needs in order to accomplish it. However, our cognitive resources for self-regulation are limited. If we have to deal with a challenging work environment, for example in the form of noise or unnecessary meetings, while carrying out a demanding job, the process of self-exhaustion is much faster. As a result, our willpower to cope with work is diminishing, our productivity decreases and we feel exhausted. This is just one of many examples in which remote work can be a very good alternative for the individual employee.

Role Conflicts – The underestimated burden

Of course, not every employee can be guaranteed a quiet working atmosphere at home. What about employees with children, for example? For family fathers and mothers, their little ones are often the strongest argument for and at the same time against working from home. Several families were put to the test during the corona lockdown and have drawn their own conclusions from this experience. Max Buddenbohms‘ tweet probably hit the nail on the head for many parents: „I would like to carefully summarize my complex thoughts on the subject of remote work in connection with household, home schooling, education and mental health of all those involved in one word: No.“

The pandemic will (hopefully) end at some point, most schools and daycare centers are already open again. For many parents, working from home then represents a tempting alternative. In this case, managers are responsible for developing individual approaches together with their employees on the basis of understanding and trust. Because even if regular care for the little ones is guaranteed again, role conflicts are still a major problem for many parents. But denying reliable and ambitious employees the opportunity to work from home for this or similar reasons will not only reduce the motivation and satisfaction of these employees, but will also increase the likelihood of them handing in their resignation.

Fairness – For the sake of a positive work climate

Another fundamental factor that can determine success and failure of the expansion of remote work in companies is the perceived fairness to the individual parties. Managers need to keep an eye on potential sources of interference: Who is allowed to work from home when the company‘s structure allows only a limited number of home-based jobs to be offered? What are the criteria for deciding on this? Is the selection process transparent, traceable and consistent? Is there a negative impact if one employee is allowed to work from home? In order to maintain a good working environment and the satisfaction of the individual team members, these and other questions must be taken into account and build the foundation for the development of a functioning concept. Otherwise companies accept that the intrinsic motivation of their employees will decline, the loyalty to the employer will diminish and the willingness to perform will be reduced.

CONCLUSION

It becomes evident: The impact of what you do depends on how you do it. The benefits that remote work offers to companies and employees are immense and should be taken. For this to be possible, the correct implementation is essential. And, as with so many things in life: Knowledge is power. The knowledge of the relevant key strategies and potential challenges is the building block and forms the basis for the successful expansion of the remote work offering in companies.

We would be happy to support you in developing and optimizing your home office strategy, helping your employees to perform remotely with excellence and quality with consideration to factors such as distractions and private concerns, and adapting the leadership behaviour of your management to the new concepts and way of working.