The shift to work from home (WFH) as a result of the current coronavirus pandemic has transformed work, and the workplace, in ways that most people couldn’t have imagined just a few short months ago. In our recent survey of more than 450 end-user organizations, Nemertes found that 91% now support WFH, up from 63% prior to the pandemic. Perhaps more importantly, the percentage of the workforce that is now home has more than doubled from 34% to 71%. The WFH phenomena isn’t likely to abate any time soon: 35% of organizations definitely plan to continue to allow WFH even after the pandemic and associated workplace restrictions ease, while another 35% are likely to do so.
With these rapid changes in the workplace come a redefinition of the relationship between facilities, HR, and IT, and an opportunity for IT to demonstrate new value to the organization.
Likely short- and long-term challenges include:
- A large push to reduce real estate costs as companies realize that much of their back-office work can be accomplished at home
- A growing challenge in keeping remote workers engaged and motivated
- A challenge supporting those working in remote areas where network connectivity is poor
- An increasing challenge in developing, communicating, and instilling business culture
In all of these areas, IT, HR, and facilities must find new ways to work together. For example, IT and HR must be able to identify individuals for whom WFH can continue to be the primary means of work.
HR can be especially helpful in measuring employee engagement to address potential issues with employees who are struggling to use provided collaboration tools. Here, IT can engage with home workers to understand what needs aren’t being met by the current suite of collaboration and workstream applications. IT can also leverage efforts by HR to measure employee satisfaction.
In addition, both IT and HR should work with lines of business to understand impacts to business metrics such as deals won, leads generated, customer satisfaction, order and fulfillment rates, and so on and try to both identify best practices that are leading to success (e.g., higher rates of videoconferencing utilization leading to an increase in sales close rates) as well as areas that are declining since the shift to home work (e.g., longer times to respond to customer inquiries).
IT can benefit from the increasing availability of management capabilities from vendors of team collaboration and video meeting services, as well as from third-party management platforms that measure performance and utilization. For example, understanding who is, and isn’t, engaging in team chat spaces, or turning their cameras on during video calls, is critical information to better understand the state of home worker engagement.
HR should also consider developing programs that leverage virtual collaboration tools to support engagement and culture. Examples include training managers to identify those who aren’t participating in remote meetings. Additionally, HR and lines of business can create opportunities for social engagement such as virtual happy hours, games, and chat channels focused on non-work topics. In conversations with IT leaders I am now frequently hearing of companies setting up chat channels for topics including recipe exchanges, work-at-home tips and tricks, home schooling, COVID-19 news, and prayer. Many organizations schedule virtual happy hours in the late afternoon, or game times during lunch.
Additionally, many companies have set up virtual training and/or guest speaker sessions during lunch times to ensure that employees can stay engaged with one another, and potentially even benefit, from WFH.
The new reality of WFH requires a change to the relationship between facilities, HR, and IT, one that will continue to evolve as both the pandemic impact changes, and as workers and management adjust to this new dynamic. Plan now to implement management capabilities that allow for gaining insight into new ways of work, and that take advantage of the ability to leverage collaborative applications to foster engagement and culture.