Are employers failing remote workers after 18 months of being at home?

Are employers failing remote workers after 18 months of being at home?

This may not be a popular opinion, but UK employees who work from home are in danger of becoming overworked, underpaid and under-resourced.

The reason it is unpopular is because the whole issue is becoming increasingly contentious - with many choosing to believe the fantasy that hybrid working has been wholly facilitated and is working perfectly.

But it has become clear that employers and employees have competing issues, everyone is exhausted after dealing with the last 18 months and talent - in fact candidates in general - are in high demand and short supply.

And is it any wonder that the WFH model is proving problematic? When we look back at even the first few months of the pandemic breaking out, it was found that remote workers felt the need to be available at all times of the day, putting in 28 hours extra a month.

Despite this increased presenteeism, government ministers have now raised the possibility of lower pay rates for home workers. Now data shows that despite home working being the norm for nearly half those in employment at some point in the pandemic, with four in 10 (39%) saying they were are missing the tools needed.

Considering it’s 18 months since the Prime Minister said, “you must stay at home,” this lack of technology is unforgivable. 

This has become more important than ever given that 86 per cent of employees now demand the freedom to work from home according to our “Work Happy” research. If staff don’t get what they want, firms across the UK are at risk of losing a staggering 71% of their people if they can’t offer the flexibility employees have grown used to.

It’s clear that employers need to up their game and ensure the right technology is in place. If they don’t, there’s little chance they’ll retain staff throughout the “great resignation” let alone attract new hires.

What action needs to be taken?

While the basics of video conferencing and file sharing are probably already in place, more attention needs to be given to other resources that were once available in the office.

For example, platforms for professional development and training. This can often be integrated into existing software such as Microsoft Teams, allowing leaders and employees to curate, create, and track learning while aligning activities with both business outcomes and personal goals.  

Another area of focus should be technology to support well-being. This can take several forms, but the simplest is to put rules in place to stop out of hours communications. To support this, leaders must encourage staff to work sensible hours and take full lunch breaks while resting and recuperating after busy periods.

It also means having the right platforms to reach people wherever they are. For example, University College London has rolled out its Belong programme via collaboration tools. This is dedicated to ensuring staff feel welcome and know how to get help if they need it, regardless of location.  

Linked to well-being is tech to help teams manage productivity and time across locations. There are also tools available to empower employees with the information they need to balance their own productivity, for example, Microsoft Viva Insights. This provides data driven information about the way people are working and gives them personalised recommendations to improve the way they do so.

Finally, it’s vital that employers introduce tech that helps to recognise workers for their efforts. Nearly two fifths (39%) of staff are worried that people think they’re not working as hard at home according to our data. Without line-of-sight visibility from line managers or colleagues, they feel unable to demonstrate to others what they are doing. 

Businesses therefore need to look for ways to bring people together to work visibly and collaboratively – wherever they are – connecting remote employees with the rest of the organisation and keeping them engaged in the flow of activity. Yammer is a fantastic way to surface and share stories from across the business.

This helps put people and their efforts in the spotlight, so they are visibly rewarded for their work. Ikea has achieved this, using the platform to find stories about staff at a store level, before sharing them with its 170,000 staff around the world.

Change is vital

In conclusion, the workforce will no longer accept being let down by poor technology. Employers need to consider this carefully and design future working models that work for everyone, wherever they are.

They need to understand what engages people, how they can be supported every day, and how they can create a flexible workplace. Because those businesses that don’t evolve at this crucial juncture, will surely be the ones that die.

Alex Graves is CEO of Silicon Reef

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