Yes, remote working has its pitfalls, but they aren’t impossible obstacles on the road to business productivity
There is one essential thing that defines a successful remote working relationship between employee and organisation – trust. Without it, there will always be concerns around employee performance, productivity and reliability. The ‘dog ate my homework’ excuses of ‘My PC has crashed’ or ‘My Wi-Fi is down’ or ‘I can’t log in’, that are trotted out when a person would rather finish their Netflix marathon than that overdue project. The problem is, these are genuine excuses for many people which makes it difficult for the business to distinguish the truth from the lies.
“It’s difficult to determine if someone is genuinely having problems or if they’re simply making excuses,” says Nicol Myburgh Head: CRS Technologies HCM Business Unit. “Is it real? Is it fake? Many of these problems are legitimate and it’s unfair to cast a negative light on an employee who is genuinely stressed about being unable to do their job.”
Fortunately, there are some steps that the business can take to minimise the suspicion and reduce the risk while giving employees the benefit of the doubt. The first is to look at the person themselves. Have they been an exemplary performer in the past? Are they usually very good at getting the job done? Or did they work badly at the office and this behaviour is repeating itself at home? Often, if a person had no work ethic at the office, they won’t have one when working remotely either.
Work on an outcomes-based system
“You can use employee monitoring tools to establish whether or not they’re working; these can be used legally in specific situations to manage time and performance,” adds Myburgh. “You can also work on an outcomes-based system that isn’t focused on how long a person spends at their desk but rather on how well they’ve achieved their outcomes. If they’re not working today but have achieved all of their outcomes, then this shouldn’t be a crisis for the company.”
Engaged employees who enjoy their jobs will just get on with it. If they’re complaining about connectivity or not joining meetings, then it’s likely that they have a very real issue and should be provided with support or the option to go into the office for the day – South Africa is no longer in the middle of a mandatory lockdown so employees should be allowed to opt into office work until their remote environment issues are resolved.
“It’s also worth asking yourself if getting worried about these problems – unless they are relentlessly consistent – are worth even worrying about,” says Myburgh. “If you don’t trust your employee to get the job done, why did you hire them? Give people the space they need to prove themselves and they may do just that.”
Myburgh also points out that the office is not exactly nirvana for work ethics and productivity either. People are interrupted constantly, they chat in tea rooms and boardrooms and they lose time to random conversations. When these interruptions are removed from the equation, suddenly people have a lot more time to do their jobs.
“More work gets done at home, if the person has the right tools and connectivity,” concludes Myburgh. “If they are late to their desk or take a slightly longer lunchbreak, this shouldn’t be cause for concern. Rather look at their output, focus on their commitment to the company, and treat people like the adults they are.”