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Working from home productivity… good or not so good?

30 April 2021

By Kim Ritchie, Director, Eden Ritchie Recruitment 

The current business environment is an ever changing beast and staying up to date with what future trends are going to be, such as working from home, is almost a full time job for Managers, hence the creation of the Futurist role which is being embraced by innovative organisations.  If the last 12 months has done nothing else it has put Business Owners and Managers on notice that Working From Home is definitely here to stay but in what form is the million dollar question.

Whilst employees are the main asset to any organisation and providing the flexibility to ensure they achieve the desired work/life balance is important, the question needs to be asked are people more productive when working from home?

As the owner of Business which operates within a highly competitive sales environment, it has been a major shift in thinking for me, maybe I am old school but I struggle to understand how you can develop new business or stay top of mind when you are consistently on the end of a phone or Zoom catch up rather than sitting down in a face to face meeting.  What makes you stand out in the crowd with this approach.

Many surveys and reports state the advantages of WFH offer staff flexibility in hours worked (it is no longer a 9-5 proposition), time saved from commuting, less office chatter and distractions, no need to put on the corporate uniform every day, ability to work around family commitments more easily and cost savings.

But to play devil’s advocate there is also a down side, lack of motivation and taking constant breaks (grazing by fridge all day, hanging out the washing, talking to the cat, watching the latest Netflix series), lack of communication with the team and feeling disjointed from other areas within the business, mental health issues and burn out from not being disciplined about hours worked per day.  And the most frustrating of all – technology not working when in Zoom or Teams meetings, how many times have we all heard, “you are on mute”, “I can’t see you”, “Is that your partner in the background”.

I read a term recently called “panic productivity”, in the early days of the pandemic and forced WFH during lock down, employees were initially energised to be working in home environments and trying to stay visible and relevant with their employers for fear of losing their jobs.  As the last 12 months has progressed people have “hit a wall” and productivity in some instances has declined due to the isolation WFH can often present, navigating the balance between work and home when it is all in the same place and the unknown of the Australian economy.

So what does all this mean – WFH is the new normal and is here to stay.  So how does business ensure their staff are firing on all cylinders and producing the results and outcomes expected of their role?  Trust that your employee have your best interests at heart and ensure there are mutually agreed expectations as well as transparency and accountability around productivity.  Most importantly ensure there are regular check ins and provide regular feedback and emotional support.

Does WFH work for every business and its employees – probably not

Will there be a hybrid model WFH and office based hours – most likely

How will this look in your business in the next 12 months or so – who knows

Maybe we all need to bring a futurist on board to tell help us navigate the complex times we have ahead of us.  All I know is, as a Business Owner/Manager with many decades of experience this has been a steep learning curve for me, one that continue to challenge me every day.

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