Remote working leading to 'hidden fractures' in the workforce
Richard Stuart-Turner, October 15, 2020
'Hidden fractures' caused by working from home are forming in the workforce and risk causing irreparable damage to cultures and productivity, according to new research from digital culture platform Totem.
The organisation's survey of 1,000 UK employees found that while the shift to home working during the coronavirus pandemic has been a positive experience for many, there have been issues emerging around a lack of interaction, collaboration, recognition and support that could cause lasting damage to workplace trust, culture and engagement.
Nearly two-thirds (64%) of employees feel that working from home has had a positive impact on workplace culture, with the majority (61%) saying they are able to complete their work effectively while working from home.
But despite these benefits, Totem also found that while working from home, over half (55%) of employees feel it has been harder to work as a team, 54% feel less motivated, and 51% feel it is harder to reach out for help from teammates.
Totem warned that unless employers address these issues, surviving and maintaining growth as the economy recovers after the pandemic will be a much bigger challenge, particularly as remote working is likely to remain the norm for most in the short and medium term.
Marcus Thornley, CEO of Totem, said that businesses would have to find new ways to celebrate daily successes if remote teams are to stay motivated.
Speaking to HR magazine, he said: “The saying goes ‘out of sight, out of mind’ and, worryingly, for many companies working remotely right now, that may be the case as they struggle to communicate – and recognise each other’s successes – as they would in the office environment.”
The research also found there is a strong desire from many employees for remote working to continue.
While the majority (88%) of respondents worked from an office before COVID-19 hit, many people said they would now feel anxious (28%) or unhappy (18%) if their employer made it mandatory to return to the office full-time.
If they could choose, only 25% said they would work from an office full-time while 44% would choose hybrid working and the remaining 31% would choose to work from home full-time.
In addition to recognition (critical for 33% of respondents) the study found that accessible support and guidance when you need it (31%) was one of the most important elements to creating a positive remote working culture.
Thornley added: “First and foremost, business leaders need to design for remote. The reality is that many teams will have to operate on some sort of remote basis for the foreseeable future, so you need to ensure that you are working to create a shared experience, regardless of their location.
“For instance, although people may be sitting in their kitchen or living room, this doesn’t mean you can’t create meaningful experiences at key moments in employee life-cycles – whether that’s onboarding, promotions, new business wins, or leaving.
“If effectively supported, these key moments can positively shape sentiment towards employers, role and colleagues.”
Consumer research for the survey was undertaken on behalf of Totem by Pollfish, with fieldwork conducted online on 11September 2020.