Workload, Not Remote Work, is Issue Among Employees Returning to Work

There have been companies who openly expressed their excitement to have their workforce return to the office soon. According to Microsoft’s Work Trend Index, 50% of business leaders mention that their companies will require full-time onsite work in the year ahead. Understandably, most of these leaders belong to companies in manufacturing (55%), retail (54%), and consumer goods (53%).

Slack’s Future Forum Pulse survey discovered that business executives were nearly 3 times more likely to mention that they want to return to the office than non-executives. Most of their sentiments come from the fear that the flexibility in where their employees work will affect a company’s ability to collaborate and be creative.

These numbers are faced against a surge in demand for remote work and can cause quite a problem. Microsoft reported that 52% of respondents are likely to consider shifting to any form of remote work – fully remote or hybrid. Moreover, it cited LinkedIn’s findings that job posts that offered remote work were receiving 2.6 times more attention in contrast to on-site jobs.

Recode argues that these concerns, albeit seemingly rational, may be baseless. Christoph Riedl, an associate professor at Northeastern University who’s been studying team collaboration and processes for almost 12 years now, states that the prevailing consensus from managers is that if a workforce is all remote, then it has to be bad, and hence you’d have to return to the office. To plead his case, he claims that comparing remote teams versus ones that work face-to-face shows no difference with regard to team performance.

However, the narrowing of work networks might have caused concerns from these business executives. Data shows that employees are communicating with fewer workers outside their respective teams. But one would have to take a deep look as to why employees are having a difficult time reaching out to other departments. 

Main issue with remote work

Is it remote work? Not really. The main issue is that there isn’t enough time to allow these communications to occur. People now are just working too much.

The Great Resignation has caused employees who’ve managed to stay inside their companies to pick up the slack their former colleagues left them with. In addition, a new study reveals that 63% of American remote workers agreed that there have been negatives in the transition to remote work. Sixty six percent made mention of the increased workload as well. 

Even during the pre-pandemic era, if a colleague was to leave a department, the key tasks would be delegated across the team, adding a lot of stress to the employees. So one can imagine how much pressure employees are pressed with from resignations at this scale.

While workers note that there have been negative effects in remote work, many of them have found solace within the workplace setup. There are always ways to improve the current circumstances. But currently, the more pressing challenge is the workload that prevents employees from improving collaboration, innovation, and creativity. This means that employers now have two choices. Either they hire more workers or they lessen the amount of work for existing employees.

Success in remote work

Since remote work isn’t going anytime soon, maintaining success in a digital workforce should be a top priority for HR and global mobility teams. Forbes states 5 ways to know whether a company and its employees are benefitting from a remote workplace set-up.

Create a remote work committee. Small businesses may not have a designated HR department. What they can do is form a group of employees and assign them the task of periodically reviewing the remote work policies and how they are viewed by the employees. They can ask questions like “Are they helping improve the working environment?”

Use remote work communication surveys. Digital communication isn’t as straightforward as it seems. It can be difficult to ensure the organization’s workforce understands the ropes in handling these different channels of communication. Many leaders assume that their workforce can adapt quickly and know how to navigate them seamlessly. That’s why getting feedback through surveys will help decision-makers on where to improve or identify which communication channels are best utilized.

Initiate casual conversations with team members. Remote work has been thought to be the leading cause of employees’ inability to connect, collaborate, and become creative. So, managers need to make it a point to check in on their team members. We have to remember that employees are human beings. They’re also coping with the changes brought about by the pandemic

Focus on employee engagement. It gets a little bit more difficult to keep track of engagement from employees remotely. But regardless of where they work, employee experience is one of the most anticipated trends in the coming years. Having unengaged employees is indicative of unhealthy morale. Encourage camaraderie among employees to help facilitate collaboration and creativity.

Have regular remote work training. Getting accustomed to remote work can take quite some time. To acclimate employees to this type of environment, regular training can expedite the process. Over time, employees can tend to get complacent and forget to comply with remote work policies. So, it’s better to conduct regular remote work training to remind employees of the boundaries set by policies.