Yes, working from home has a proven positive influence on the productivity and well-being of employees. And no, as an employer you can’t just say ‘good luck at home, toodle-oo’ and expect golden results. If you don’t meet the conditions below, then working from home is more likely to be a flop than a raging success.
Home sweet home: making working from home work
There had already been plenty of experimentation with it in the New World of Work, but the corona crisis meant the definitive breakthrough for working from home. Under the heading of ‘hybrid working’, many companies now allow their employees to work at home one or more days a week.
When carefully considered, this is beneficial to both parties. Employees are happier with their work because of working from home, while employers reap the benefits because employees are much more productive at home. Companies with many employees working from home also benefit from lower absenteeism due to illness and can scale down office space.
However, there are also plenty of challenges to these benefits. For example, working from home can be difficult for younger or lower-income workers because of connectivity issues or lack of space.
Moreover, according to PWC during the corona crisis, young people often find working in an office less stressful than working at home. Not only because at the office they know what is expected of them, but also because at home they feel more detached from the company culture and organisational goals.
But have no fear: by ensuring that your organisation meets the following conditions, you can turn these perilous challenges into resounding successes.
#1: An office-level home office
In a major Dutch survey, 70 percent of employees said that there were one or more things they lacked when working from home, such as an adjustable desk (25 percent) or a separate room to work in (24 percent).
As an employer, you can’t easily give them a separate room, but things like monitors, other hardware (accessories), a good desk and an ergonomically sound office chair can be offered. Do you want to ensure maximum productivity and ultimate employee welfare? Then give your people a budget for workspace extras, such as decoration, lighting or insulation.
Good home working not only requires a good home-working environment, but also at the office. Think of easy-to-use and comfortable video conference rooms that perfectly capture voices and faces and transmit them to the home workers. Thereby, you increase the chance that hybrid meetings will run as efficiently and effectively as possible.
#2: Appointments and mental support
Sure, home workers benefit from more privacy, flexibility and focus. But at the same time, they can experience extra work pressure and more easily overshoot their work-life balance because of the lack of separation between work and private life. As an employer, it is important to pay more attention to this, for example by having managers ask about it and by making good homeworking arrangements.
In any case, managers must make solid agreements on working from home, based on all the requirements from the organisation and wishes from team members. For example, how often can they work from home? Especially with younger employees, it is important to agree on what is expected of them when they work from home.
An important appointment also concerns the question: what do people need to come to the office for? Good to know: McKinsey research shows that tasks such as coaching and training, building relationships with colleagues and clients, onboarding new employees and everything around decision making, problem solving, creativity and collaboration are better done face-to-face in the office.
#3: Maximal social
Man is essentially a deeply social animal. Mutual social contact, the feeling of being part of a team, working together towards a certain goal: these are all factors that are key to employee well-being and productivity.
Working from home inherently means less social contact, so it is good to consciously encourage this. Think of fixed office days, compulsory face-to-face team meetings or super-fun Friday afternoon drinks. All studies agree: no matter how smart or lifelike digital social tools may be, they cannot match the connection we feel with each other when we are actually physically together.
They may not be a complete replacement, but good digital social tools are much better than no social tools at all. With a digital workspace such as Workspace 365, you can integrate a social intranet, for example, so that employees can form virtual communities and can like and share posts. A social intranet can be used to strengthen relationships and lay the groundwork for new projects, ideas or collaborations.
#4: Communicating is the message
At home, you can just mind your own business and – unless your children are banging on the door – focus incredibly well, while at the office you can just quickly pop in on colleagues. Good communication tools fill this gap, although in practice it will always be difficult.
Communication tools for video calling and instant messaging, such as Microsoft Teams, Yammer and Slack, allow people to quickly and simply look up information and files and share them with each other. To ensure this speed and simplicity, digital communication channels, such as those offered by Workspace 365, must be immediately and clearly visible on the dashboard of the digital workspace.
Video conferencing is one of the cornerstones of home working. It is important that home workers do not feel disadvantaged. One way to do this is by creating a so-called ‘level playing field’: everyone, whether sitting at home or with others in the office, must dial in from their own device as soon as one or more colleagues are working from home.
Also important: keep the number of online meetings to a minimum. Often, instant messaging or project management tools, for example, are better alternatives if the main purpose of a meeting is the exchange of information.
#5: Steer working from home in the right direction
Do you give everyone free reign in deciding when they will work at home or at the office? Chances are that colleagues see too little of each other and that the office is too full on Thursdays and too empty on Fridays. That’s why it’s good to coordinate when people come to the office.
A fixed office day is a great way to be present regularly as a complete team. A smart office platform facilitates team members booking shifts and workspaces in the office and in locating colleagues, so people can easily meet when needed.
#6: digital workspace for working anytime and anywhere
Last but not least: a digital workspace is the technical foundation for being able to work anywhere at any time, as is required for working from home. It is, as it were, a colourful collection of software tools that, taken together, form a fully-fledged workspace. Whereas a desk or other type of workstation at the office can only be used physically, a digital workstation can be used anywhere and at any time.
It consists of all the technologies and tools needed for everyday work, such as word processing, e-mail, instant messaging, ERP, CRM, HR and finance systems, and all kinds of productivity applications. The digital workspace also ensures that employees have access to the documents and data they need to perform their work anywhere, anytime.