Prior to COVID-19 pandemic, we can count the number of organizations that have embraced the working-from-home (WFH) arrangement. But to many, the thoughts, let alone the act of implementation WFH, are considered as an anathema. For the organizations that have introduced WFH arrangement, only the staff would know how many years it took for them to convince the management to provide flexibility to the employees to work from home.
Prompted by the rapid spread of COVID-19 disease, the Malaysian government announced that the Movement Control Order (MCO) will take place on 18 March 2020. All private and government offices are to be closed except for those that fall under ‘essential premises.’ This is a historical day for countries around the world where Enrique Dans from Forbes wrote that we have all become the ‘largest ever experiment’ in working from home.
In May 2020, the then-President and Group CEO of PNB made an announcement that WFH is now a permanent option. A month later, KPMG Malaysia revealed that the majority of the workforce in Malaysia supports the continuation of WFH arrangement post MCO. Looking at the other side of the grass, there are a number of major companies making their current WFH policies to be permanent such as Zillow, Twitter, Square, Facebook, Hitachi, Coinbase, Nielsen to name a few. Recently in August, CEO of REI, Eric Artz said the company will “lean into remote working as an engrained, supported, and normalized model” for its employees.
For other organizations, there are initiatives introduced to create a roster to coordinate the number of staff to be in the office, who goes to the office on which day, investing to continue subscribing to various tools and software for remote collaboration such as Zoom, ClassPoint, Webex and Microsoft TEAMS, in order to adhere to social distancing measures. Nevertheless, since the lockdown measures have relaxed, organizations are still wrestling with issues whether new adjustments need to be made.
Here are four things that can be starting points for organizations to make WFH effective for its employees:
Revise the list of targets for staff. Most organizations have set a list of targets for their staff to achieve on a monthly or yearly basis. It would be very considerate on part of the organization to revise the list of targets as not only the staff are struggling to achieve their KPIs but the entire workforce is affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. A recent announcement was made where Malaysia’s economic performance showed a sharp contraction of 17.1% of the gross domestic products. This would mean that other organizations, businesses and consumers are unable to spend much money as their spending power are also being cut-back. By revising the list of targets, it will encourage staff to provide exceptional work on the tasks that they can realistically achieve.
Conduct training on how to work from home. The management of any organization would know what is expected of their employees. But the same cannot be said whether all employees know what is expected of them when working from home. A training providing strategies to work from home can serve as a guiding light for staff on what they should and should not do. An example, when a meeting is to be organized, it would be helpful if the organizer of the meeting can – 1) send a calendar invite to all attendees and 2) providing the Zoom / TEAMS link in the location section in creating the meeting. It sounds like common sense but this is something that most people overlook to do. This would ease the process of attendees attending meetings as opposed to entering the details of the meetings into our own calendar and to scroll through emails to search for the meeting link.
Inform staff that you trust them to WFH. Trust is a delicate invisible fabric that can provide a harmonious working relationship between managers and staff. By informing staff that you trust them that their work will be done efficiently and effectively will eventually empower staff to provide their best even if they are working from home. The fabric of trust will result in staff to feel supported in their work. Staff works better when they are not being micromanaged by their managers at the office. For managers who would like to give this a try, they may want to consider using the services provided by Monday.com. Managers would be able to assign and keep track of remote work in one platform. Alternatively, managers can utilize Google Sheets to monitor each staff’s specific tasks, the deadlines and progress of the work done. This would make the managers feel less anxious and are able to monitor the performance of their staff albeit remotely.
Provide resources for staff to WFH. Research has shown that staff can be as dedicated, driven and passionate although they are working from home. Studies have also shown that staff are working longer hours as compared to be working in this office. Organizations that have survived the lockdown or MCO can continue to survive due to the hard work and passion of their staff. In order to encourage them to continue their performance, organizations can provide the necessary resources for staff to support them to WFH such as to subsidize their Internet bills and also electricity bills. These investments would go a long way as staff would not only be comfortable to be WFH but they will gravitate to provide exceptional work when proper support is provided to them.
It is understandable that it is daunting for organizations to invest into this ‘new norm.’ But with the power of perseverance, consistency, being resilient, always inspired to keep changing, WFH can be effective even beyond after this current pandemic has passed.