With the sudden emergence of Covid-19, companies once hesitant to embrace remote working arrangements have been forced to allow employees to operate from home.
“The results have been surprisingly positive, leaving some organisations to wonder why they didn’t do it sooner,” says Deon Smit, chartered reward specialist and committee member at the South African Reward Association (SARA).
Yet, there are several obstacles associated with working from home effectively and, according to Smit, reward strategies to help employers overcome them.
Firstly, many jobs still require workers to be present at their place of business, like cashiers or store assistants. Yet, even some knowledge worker positions require employees to be in the office and employers must identify those for which remote work is not feasible.
The size of an employer also makes a difference. Smaller employers can adapt easier and are more agile in regards to remote work. Large employers, on the other hand, have thousands of employees interacting across a range of complex business processes and it becomes all the more difficult when they are remotely located.
This makes measuring and managing performance incredibly tough as well. Even with an abundance of online work management systems, many unusual factors impact employee performance when working from home.
Further, working on remote systems or communicating on video software may prove challenging for those who are used to constant contact with their managers and team. They may need specialised training and support to get up to speed before settling back into their normal performance profile.
Lastly, there’s now the inevitable requirement to deal with family affairs, children’s interruptions and a myriad of other distractions that distract employees’ attention away from their daily work tasks. Employees will often find themselves working abnormal hours to stay abreast of demands on their time between work and home.
To overcome these obstacles, employers can try a number of reward interventions to address this issue.
The first is to maintain a strong sense of company culture, combined with a flexible approach to working hours. Employees need to know that deadlines still exist but that the employer is sympathetic to their situation.
It is also critical to implement a work management and performance tracking system that is fair and not overly intrusive. Employees working remotely should never feel over-policed or micromanaged.
To enhance performance, employers should ensure their remote employees have all the resources required to complete assignments. This may include providing equipment and services that the company would otherwise have supplied in the workplace, such as a suitable office chair and desk, a suitable computer, printer or smartphone, a fast internet connection and monthly data allowances.
Further, they should identify critical training their remote workers will need to work productively from home. While technical competencies like software or video conferencing may be required, the employer must look deeper. Time management, emotional intelligence, stress or anger management, mental health and even entrepreneurship may all assist employees to better manage their work time and output.
With the right remuneration strategies in place, remote working becomes its own reward. “It’s exactly what younger generations of workers are looking for, their main concerns being a good work-life balance and independent decision-making. They are also often willing to sacrifice income for this type of job and may see an organisation that offers this benefit as an employer of choice,” concludes Smit.