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Work from home – How is this working for your company?

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Employee engagement was an issue long before our world and work were disrupted entirely, and it is likely to worsen as workers are thrown into unfamiliar distributed work settings. Disengagement is exhibited in a decline in work quality, missed deadlines, complacency, silence and withdrawal… Remote workers fall into a state of disengagement as they feel that being out of sight is also out mind.

Recently, at a doctor’s office, I met a worker who was reportedly ‘working from home.’ Unbeknownst to her employer she had taken four hours out of her workday to get her ears pierced. The following day, I tried reaching another worker who was reportedly ‘working from home’, at mid-morning I was informed that the worker was still in bed… These and other experiences have given me reason to be concerned that working from home may not be a positive move for workers and productivity.

While I understand the reasons behind employees in certain industries working from home, as a HR professional, the level of disengagement and unproductivity of remote workers and the economic impact on companies, concern me. I wonder whether companies reacted to what others were doing too soon without planning and considering the consequences of their decisions.

Nicholas Bloom, an economics professor at Stanford University, who has studied and written extensively about working from home and who has been optimistic about its benefits, is now less optimistic about the new inundation of working from home. Bloom believes that employees who volunteer to work from home, are trained prior to the move and are allowed to return to the office at least one day per week, are more likely to be productive than those who are forced to work from home, received no training and are expected to remain at home week in and week out.

I know of at least one company that has reconsidered its work from home decision. I recommend that other companies at least re-evaluate their decision and ensure that remote employees remain plugged in. “Studies show remote workers struggle with loneliness, isolation, an inability to unplug and ongoing distractions.” In some organizations, remote workers are among the most stressed, which can seem counterintuitive. Managers must, therefore, confront the dangers of disconnection, especially with remote work being unfamiliar territory for many of the individuals now adjusting to it.

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