The world is changing fast and to keep up you need local knowledge with global context.
Since the deadly global pandemic struck at the end of 2019, companies all over the world have moved (in varying degrees) to a remote work situation. As vaccination programmes continue to roll out and lockdown regulations slowly lift, more and more employees should be able to return to the office. One can imagine that most people would be dying to get back to normal after almost two years of juggling work with children, online learning, and more. However, some companies have chosen to continue working from home until further notice – a decision which, according to global research organisation Ipsos, could be a grave mistake. – Claire Badenhorst
Ipsos research finds working from home takes toll on productivity and morale
Companies considering a permanent switch to a Work From Home (WFH) policy to save on overheads should take note of research by global research organisation, Ipsos, which shows they risk losing competitiveness as productivity slumps, employees lose motivation, cohesion of teams is eroded and managers struggle to keep their fingers on the pulse.
Business growth is also placed at risk by WFH, according to many respondents. Managers reported concerns with WFH, saying they found it more challenging to manage their teams remotely, and they were fairly sure employees were not fully focused on their work.
This corresponds with the responses of employees themselves, with more than half (55%) reporting that teams don’t collaborate as well, that they take more frequent breaks (55%) and that they experienced more interruptions at home (49%).
Just over two thirds (67%) said they were spending more time on domestic chores and errands and close to three out of 10 (27%) admitted they were not disciplined enough to work from home.
Respondents also highlighted issues of trust, the absence of on-the-job training and a sense of isolation, which could lead to the decay of the organisational culture that many companies depend on for superior business performance.
“While many people say they prefer their home environment to the office and enjoy the flexibility of working from home, it’s quite clear that their performance can suffer and teamwork, especially, becomes much harder,” said Stella Fleetwood, Service Line Lead at Ipsos.
Managers said they found it more difficult to monitor their teams’ performance (54%) and that their teams weren’t fully engaged with each other (52%). It is also more difficult to provide effective training (56%), and it is more difficult to execute day-to-day team functions (53%). Managers also reported that team members tended to be less punctual (55%), and teams communicated less effectively when working remotely.
Younger employees were especially adversely affected by WFH, with respondents between the ages of 18 and 28 reporting that they experienced more distractions and interruptions at home, were not disciplined enough and were less motivated, leading to being less productive.
Those aged 30-44 said working in an office built trust and made them feel more important to the business, while late-career respondents, between the ages of 45 and 55, found working from home easier and said they still made themselves presentable, despite not going to the office.
Women, meanwhile, said they struggled with routine and other commitments and that they were taking more frequent breaks and felt less important.
Men said they found teamwork more difficult, there was inadequate communication, and they had difficulty keeping teams motivated, while also spending more time in meetings. Both men and women alike found completing tasks more difficult, requiring more effort.
“Executives should be considerate of what employees are experiencing while working remotely. The new way of working does not necessarily mean better work-life balance, or a happier, more motivated workforce,” said Fleetwood. “Working from home could be putting productivity and business growth at risk.”
“In fact, less than a third (29%) expressed a preference for working from home, while about half (51%) find it more stressful.
“We could also see higher churn within the workforce as employees lose their organic connection to colleagues and the business culture, and experience a loss of motivation, feelings of isolation, lower morale and stunted career development,” Fleetwood concluded.
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