The COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 and beyond was a once-in-a-lifetime event with far reaching ramifications on commerce. It is likely the only phenomenon that can be said to have affected every single business on the planet, as many found their organizations shut down for months only to reopen under a litany of new health rules and restrictions.
One surprising development was the sudden arrival of remote work. Though the technology that made this type of work-from-home scenario practical had been developing for some time, experts believe that the COVID crisis sped up its implementation by five to 10 years. Faced with no other option, executives and managers allowed employees to fire up work laptops right from their living-room couches and crossed their fingers that workflow and productivity would remain somewhat intact.
To the surprise of many professionals, it largely worked! Most employees remained productive and efficient working from home. [In fact, the author of this WorkForce blog works 100% remotely: I’ve never seen our HQ!] More importantly, the workforce saw a lot of benefits to remote work—enough so that even after businesses re-opened their offices, many workers insisted that they’d be much happier retaining at least some work-from-home options. This led to hybrid work, incorporating partial work-from-home into standard business practices.
For all the benefits that have come with remote working (worker satisfaction, reduced overhead costs, lack of commute), there have still been some negatives that must be identified and corrected to keep operations running smoothly. WorkForce Software CFO Bob Feller recently spoke at the Deutsche Bank Technology Conference, for an event titled “The Future of Work,” discussing how to smoothly incorporate some of these new structures into everyday operations without sacrificing employee connectedness or productivity.
Here are some of the issues Feller touched on in his speech:
The Cost of Fragmentation
In the current competition for talent and profit, it’s important to support not only employees but their families and communities. Remote and hybrid work, while a lifesaver for many during the pandemic, has proven difficult for other workers. Research suggests that remote work will raise average turnover by 20% for companies who continue to practice it.
The effects of remote and hybrid work show higher incidence of “fragmentation,” a general sense of disconnectedness that occurs when not working onsite. It’s projected that in the current job market, 81% of the eligible workforce is performing at least partially remote or hybrid. While many workers prefer this approach, some studies show some negative results, such as:
- Fewer and weaker emotional relationships formed with managers and co-workers
- A general lack of trust, with only 43% of remote or hybrid workers reporting that they trust their employer
- Significant time spent switching between various apps used for working remotely (9% on average)
Pre-pandemic, the major concerns of employers and managers related to burnout, disengagement, and dissatisfaction. But now the big worry is that physical isolation is interfering with normal levels of attachment among colleagues and between employees and managers. Gartner surveys found that employees feeling fragmentation are:
- 57% less likely to be high performers
- 83% less likely to be on a highly collaborative team
- 68% less likely to stay at the organization long term
Gartner believes that modern workforce management solutions (such as WorkForce Software) can be used to counter fragmentation, pulling workers together and pushing them ahead. With improved communication tools, barriers to collaboration and connection can be overcome with omnidirectional messaging, putting all workers and managers in contact with one another with fewer obstructions and less friction in between.
In addition to communication, digital workforce management solutions address other issues these remote and hybrid workers face. Organizations often implement a large number of apps and programs to enable remote work, which means more time is spent simply shuffling through all those different platforms. Digital solutions like the WorkForce Suite can keep your workers’ entire connection to the workplace on one helpful app for scheduling, payroll, communication, clocking in, and much more. Our platform also allows for easier training: rather than having to schedule group training meetings featuring a live presenter, employees can instead access digital videos and files whenever and wherever they need to.
The Deskless Worker
The circumstances are different for the so-called “deskless worker.” These are the workers, like teachers, healthcare professionals, manufacturing plant employees, retail associates, and more, who perform their primary job responsibilities away from a desk or computer. Due to the necessary “in-person aspect” of these positions, deskless workers never had the same options to carry out their roles remotely.
However, they are now in large numbers looking for their own boost in work/life balance in the form of flexible scheduling. Most deskless worker roles operate on multiple shifts, unlike the typical “9 to 5” office workday. Such schedules can fluctuate from week to week and can, even when stable, interfere with getting kids to and from school, other family commitments, and even sleep.
Much as workforce management solutions can be used to fight fragmentation, these same tools can be used to improve the deskless workers’ plight. Whereas manual scheduling can be extremely complicated, a robust workforce management solution can balance even the most convoluted of restrictions. By keeping employee data on file denoting schedule preferences and regular conflicting events for individuals (for example, standing monthly or weekly doctor appointments, a second job schedule, or the occasional PTA meeting), it’s easier than ever to develop a schedule that benefits all your workers. This ensures that workers want the shifts they’re working and are supported wherever and whenever the work is happening.