Gartner: Get used to work-from-home … but make it work better
By Leon Gettler >>
COMPANIES managing their remote workers need to stop monitoring them and they have to develop policies for remote working, according to leading global consultancy Gartner.
Brian Westfall, Gartner’s principal content analyst said his firm’s Capterra survey found that Australian workers did not like being monitored when they were working remotely.
“When it comes to productivity, what we found through our survey was that no, employees say monitoring has no effect on how productive they are on any given day,” Mr Westfall told Talking Business.
“The first problem is that monitoring productivity is really difficult. If it’s a very simple task, say you are someone who assembles boxes, and that’s all you do all day, you measure how many boxes they assembled and there’s your productivity.
“But the second you add any single wrinkle of complexity – they have meetings, they do multiple tasks, they do more creative work, then companies use a proxy, how much time someone spent doing something and just because someone spent more time doing something, it doesn’t necessarily mean they add more value to the business, as anyone who has been in a meeting that lasted too long will tell you.
“The second problem is it creates an aura of distrust,” Mr Westfall said.
“For those two reasons, I think there is a very limited path to success with monitoring productivity.”
MONITORING CAN INTERFERE, OR HELP
Mr Westfall said monitoring does have some benefits in areas like reducing harassment and theft but it did not provide value for measuring productivity.
The survey also found that Australian workers took well to working remotely. About 43 percent transitioned to working remotely during COVID and of those, 87 percent said they would like to continue working remotely when COVID is over.
“It’s out of the box. Companies can’t put it back into the box,” Mr Westfall said. “They need to adapt some sort of remote work policy and have some flexibility there, or they are going to lose all those workers to those companies that do all for that flexibility.”
Policies would have to specify why the company is monitoring employees. Remote working policies would also have to tackle issues like burn-out as the Capterra survey found employees working remotely were more susceptible to burnout with the blurring of work-life balance lines.
Polices would also have to address perks and benefits to ensure the perks and benefits are equitable for their remote workforce.
He said a lot of companies are not ready for this.
“I think what a lot of companies did when COVID hit was they sent employees home and figured it out as they went, but obviously realising that when this thing is over, employees are going to want to stay at home to some extent,” Mr Westfall said. “So those flexible, makeshift remote work policies that we saw a lot of businesses implement last year, they need a lot of work to become permanent, that work long term, that are scalable with hiring and that’s the real challenge for businesses right now.”
FULLY REMOTE WORKERS?
Mr Westfall said this adaption would also open the door for companies to hire fully remote workers.
“When you hire fully remote workers, that expands your network for talent considerably,” he said.
“All of a sudden, you don’t have to hire people within driving distance to your office. You can hire anyone around the country.
“You can hire anyone from around the world so, for recruiting, the opportunities are limitless there.”
At the same time, however, the Capterra survey found that about one in five workers said they were less productive working remotely, which means companies should not have a one-size-fits-all approach to remote work policies. It needs to be flexible for all workers.
“Employees are different, they have different work-life situations,” Mr Westfall said.
“Some are working parents, some are by themselves, some get more done at night, some get more done in the morning, some people rely more on collaboration and being around other people in an office, some are more solo workers.”
Hear the complete interview and catch up with other topical business news on Leon Gettler’s Talking Business podcast, released every Friday at www.acast.com/talkingbusiness.