The 10 biggest home office challenges – How to get ready for future ways of working?

Never in history have we seen such a rapid and radical shift in the way we work as we have over the past year. While the trend towards more flexible working models is anything but new, till spring 2020 many companies have resisted it arguing that such models could never work. The Covid-19 pandemic vaporized this argument as companies have been forced to make their employees work from home and it did work.

At the same time, employees increasingly demand flexible working models. This offers a great opportunity for companies that act now, as e.g. less office space is required, employees lose less time due to commuting, and the talent pool for potential new hires increases. Moreover, such models have shown to increase employees’ happiness and motivation.

However, implementing flexible working models is hard, and one size fits all solutions are not the answer. Some tasks are more suitable for remote working while others are less. Moreover, people are different: While some enjoy working from home and value the additional flexibility, others suffer from isolation and struggle to establish effective routines. Hence, the implementation of flexible work models must allow for “customization” to some degree.
Nonetheless, executives must provide basic principles/ guidelines around flexible working models, which ideally include solutions for a set of key challenges:

1. Prevent burnouts and mental-health-related issues

Since more and more employees are working from home, 65% ofemployers have noticed an increase in the use of behavioral health services, which clearly indicates an increasing number of employees facing mental-health-related issues. They feel isolated and lonely, but also, the line between personal and professional life disappears.

2. Maintain high productivity

83% of employees state that they can work from home productively, which is supported by similar feedback from employers. However, certain factors negatively impact productivity, such as not having the right equipment, distractions, or a lack of motivation, which must be addressed to sustain productivity in the long-term.

3. Provide required infrastructure and equipment

41% of employees have reported experiencing new or increased pain in shoulders and backs, indicating a clear lack of appropriate desks and chairs. Moreover, employees miss IT equipment (e.g. a second screen) and face the challenge of bad WIFI when working from home.

4. Adjust capability building curriculums

Remote working decreases the amount of on-the-job training, virtual collaboration requires new skills, and existing learning curriculums are often not suited to be transformed into virtual settings. Therefore, new approaches to capability building are required.

5. Reimagine the corporate culture

Human’s ability to connect meaningfully and build lasting relationships strongly relies on physical interactions and rituals enacted in the office. That being said, new ways must be explored to establish lasting cultures and integrating new employees.

6. Redefine leadership to uphold workforce performance and morale

The transformation from managers focusing on hours worked towards measuring outcomes has started long before 2020. Nonetheless, the Covid-19 pandemic has massively accelerated this development. Managers must adapt and learn new ways to nurture workforce performance and positive morale.

7. Foster effective collaboration standards

Who does not know these days (if not all days) with back-to-back virtual meetings? To make up for reduced physical interactions and to maintain “transparency”, the number of daily meetings has skyrocketed in many companies over the past year. However, this is not effective collaboration. There is a strong need for employees to learn how to effectively collaborate in a remote set-up. Just downloading Zoom is not enough.

8. Establish frequent and consistent communication

Employees are generally concerned about the future of their organization, industry trends, and/ or losing their jobs. This significantly increases in remote work settings if executives do not establish frequent and consistent communications.

9. Invest in cybersecurity and IT resilience

Around 60% of companies globally have experienced an increase of cyber threats or alerts of 25% or more since work from home models were largely applied in early 2020. Companies must establish secure and efficient ways for employees to access and exchange confidential data.

10. Encourage good health habits

With the fridge only some steps away from the home office and no need to leave the house to get to work, many employees gained some kilos during the past year. Hence, when discussing long-term shifts to hybrid working models, maintaining good health is key and must be actively supported by companies.

What do potential solutions look like?

Reading about all these challenges, we hope you got hooked to learn about practical solutions, which companies have implemented to face these challenges. Over the next weeks, we will discuss the above-listed challenges and related solutions with experts in the respective fields and share our insights with you through LinkedIn – one article per challenge.

In the meantime, please let us know if there are any additional challenges you are facing related to flexible working models, be it on an individual or company level, and share them by commenting on this article. We are very much looking forward to your comments! Finally, to make sure you do not miss any future content, follow us on LinkedIn.

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