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The results of an Atlassian study examining how working remotely has impacted knowledge workers during the COVID-19 pandemic provides valuable insights into how to lead a fragmented workforce.
The three-monthly long global study, which surveyed over 5,000 employees, found an employee’s readiness for remote work was based on three key factors:
- Household Complexity – the level of care duties a person has responsibility for and the density of the household both impact a person’s remote working experience.
- Role Complexity – the complexity of an employee’s workflow and the level of social interaction required to perform the role successfully influences his or her performance and satisfaction.
- Network Quality – access to personal and workplace networks contributes to a person’s sense of belonging and support.
As well as concluding that everyone experiences working remotely differently, other key findings include:
Everyone is ‘managing more’
People working remotely report a higher ‘coordination cost’ in their work, with 77 per cent of respondents spending much more time coordinating with others via email, SMS and other messaging platforms.
Over half of respondents – 51 per cent – are spending more time in meetings, and 53 per cent are spending more time coordinating with others. Forty-two per cent of people are working longer hours.
Takeaway question for a business owner/manager: Should role expectations be changed in response to the higher coordination cost of remote work? If so, how?
Remote work may lead to an innovation drought
More formal connection and structure communication is currently limiting the serendipitous encounters that spark new ideas. Thirty-one per cent of respondents report spending less time talking informally to colleagues, although they are attending more pre-organised meetings.
Takeaway question for a business owner/manager: How can current remote work practices, policies and toolsets be adapted to foster innovation?
People are closer to their teams but more distant from their organisation
Teams are closer – 38 per cent of people believe their teams are getting along better than before the pandemic – but connections to colleagues and the wider organisation are weaker. While 73 per cent agree that the pandemic has improved their satisfaction with their company’s leadership, globally, 33 per cent of people are uncertain that their organisation will support their new work style preference.
Takeaway question for a business owner/manager: How can the business foster a meaningful and appropriate cross-team connection?
Working from home reveals previously invisible inequalities
Personal circumstances are now far more important in determining the experience of work – and not everyone benefits. Workers with larger, more private workspaces or less complex householders are the winners. The losers are those who are new to an organisation, or young employees with less established networks. Unsurprisingly, parents found it more challenging to be effective when working from home.
Takeaway question for a business owner/manager: What does it mean to support an equitable and safe workplace when that workplace is someone’s home?
People fear remote work may prevent career progression
Respondents are anxious to demonstrate their effectiveness and are worried their managers don’t see evidence of their value. Forty-three per cent of people are more concerned about their job security.
Takeaway question for a business owner/manager: What new tools, rituals or ways of working can I develop that help employees demonstrate their effectiveness in a remote work context?
Women feel liberated from the ‘status game’
There are fewer ways to communicate status or dominance in a digital world, and women are enjoying the change. Forty-six per cent of women say their confidence in their ability has improved since the move to remote work and 39 per cent of women want to continue to work fully remote.
Takeaway question for a business owner/manager: How can you help women remain confident and assured if they return to the office.
Remote work is new to many, and most prefer the choice
While 72 per cent of respondents work for companies that had some form of flexible work policy in place pre-COVID 19, 43 per cent of respondents never had, or very rarely, worked from home. Many now find working from home preferable to office-based work and most prefer at least one day on non-office-based work in the future.
Takeaway question for a business owner/manager: What conditions or activities are best suited to office-based work and collaboration?
People need help balancing new choices
As organisations implement changes to workplace policies, employees are still learning how to design their routines, schedules and home environments. Most people are clear that they need a better workspace, but there is less consensus about other needs.
When working remotely, 29 per cent of respondents want greater clarity in their role, 28 per cent want more emotional support, and 8 per cent want support to manage care or household demands.
Takeaway question for a business owner/manager: How can you help workers reflect on their needs and implement the right kinds of support?
Takeaway question for a business owner/manager: How can the business ensure equal career opportunities and acknowledgement to employees who continue to work fully remotely?