Are staff asking themselves ‘will my career be affected if I’m not returning to the workplace’? Working from home was forced on many of us and, despite restrictions not fully being removed, many businesses have started a return to the workplace and offices are expected to be aiming to be fully reopened as soon as possible. Having experienced the pros from working from home, some employers are embracing remote or hybrid working where employees have the flexibility of working form home a few days a week.
There are no doubt pros to working from home for staff – the commute is shorter and cheaper, staff don’t need to worry about parking, and they can have a homemade lunch every day. However, if staff are remote working all the time, is there a risk they could feel disadvantaged and be treated less favourably at home? Could you lose valuable staff who become isolated or feel undervalued at home?
Here we look at the ramifications of working remotely and ways in which employers can deal with the potential cons of remote working.
Do you know which of your staff are working from home or in the office on any given day? Or do you assume when someone is absent from the workplace that they are away? It’s an easy mistake to make – if staff are not visible to managers at work because they are working at home – their absence can be overlooked. The same can apply to identifying who will work on projects or attend meetings and, by extension, it can mean that home workers are overlooked for taking on more responsibility and ultimately promotion.
It sounds basic, but it’s good practice to keep track of staff whereabouts each week and ensure that the information is circulated amongst the wider team. Remote workers have their part to play by increasing visibility through the use of virtual workspaces and video conferencing software like Slack or Teams. Keeping in touch with colleagues in the workplace in this way means remote workers stay in the mind of those working in the workplace.
They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, but the same does not apply to working relationships necessarily. Building relationships with colleagues remotely is challenging. One of the major cons of being absent from the workplace is the impact it has on the relationships staff can build and nurture with each other, and between managers and their teams.
Younger members of staff in particular usually thrive on the interactions with more experienced members of staff. These relationships can often be a form of informal mentoring and help to drive ambition in younger staff, their career progression and productivity. It’s usually easier to build these relationships face-to-face, but it’s just as important to maintain these relationships for remote workers.
Managers need to think about how they work on maintaining relationships at work – face-to-face meetings at a venue close to their home or in the workplace and more frequent check-ins can help. More staff engagement surveys, or doing one for the first time, with remote workers can help to identify any obstacles that have appeared. Don’t forget to include remote workers in after-work social events, too.
How can you ensure equality in your business between remote workers and staff that are permanently based in the workplace, and avoid creating an unequal workforce? Ensuring managers are focussed on maintaining relationships with all of their team has to be one of their key objectives they are required to achieve. Prioritising this means that good connections are maintained between remote workers and their managers, but it also means managers are better able to represent the thoughts and opinions of their remote workers to the wider business, and help their team maintain their visibility in the workplace amongst senior staff and other teams. Managers may not have the necessary skills in their toolkit to do this. Training in this and how to achieve effective working from home is therefore critical. If you need help with this, contact our HR Consultants or encourage your managers to book onto our training courses that are designed to ensure they are fully equipped to get the best out of their teams.
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If you need support in ensuring equality between remote workers and staff based in the workplace or would like to enquire about training managers to lead remote workers effectively, our team of HR Consultants and Employment Law Solicitors can help. Get in touch with a member of our specialist team today.