The broad adoption of remote and hybrid working models is a positive outcome of the pandemic for organisations and employees alike—with studies showing this new way of working to have increased employee wellbeing and productivity. Recent research by professors at Swinburne University of Technology, found workers with the greatest level of flexibility were the happiest out of those surveyed.
With increased wellbeing comes the potential for increased productivity, which is supported by a report by the Productivity Commission which found most employees felt at least as productive working from home, if not more.
But despite the indisputable benefits of flexible working arrangements, it’s not always smooth sailing. Remote work has introduced a new set of challenges that business leaders haven’t dealt with in the past.
What challenges has remote work introduced?
Recent research from Adobe found hybrid employees who split their week between the office and home, spend around five hours each week troubleshooting tech issues in order to work remotely. Nearly a whole day a week is spent on issues that wouldn’t exist in the pre-pandemic office environment.
These issues stem greatly from poor home internet connection or computer hardware that is outdated or incompatible with current software. Patchy internet connection has also led to greater difficulty for collaboration and the editing of shared documents in a hybrid environment.
Another key area of concern is lack of IT expertise. Where in the past workers have had easy access to in-office tech support, many employees are now forced to troubleshoot problems themselves.
As a leader, its concerning to see employee productivity suffer to this extent, with loss of time damaging to both an individual’s workload and to the organisation overall.
Solutions for the future
The solution to lack of technical prowess falls on both the organisation and the employee. It’s crucial as an organisation to educate employees with a baseline level of digital literacy, especially where the technical inexperience relates to a specific program used by the organisation. In this case, it’s up to the employer to identify the area of concern and provide comprehensive training. Organisations should consider offering all employees an induction to remote work where workers are taken through relevant software and offered education and solutions around potential roadblocks.
Where workers have a general lack of technical understanding, a level of responsibility also falls on the individual to upskill and remain employable. As the future of the workforce continues down a hybrid path, certain technical abilities have become unavoidable for continued employment. Where in the past—the late twentieth century—workers had to learn basic and adequate computer skills, as technology has continued to evolve, so must a worker’s digital literacy.
If hybrid work is the future of the workforce, employers should consider providing workers with upgraded tech to support a work structure split between the office and home.
Tech issues associated with remote and hybrid work have highlighted the room for growth organisations have. While each organisation will likely need to create a tailored made structure and induction process for continued remote work, all leaders should place a renewed focus on communication with workers to ensure all tech needs are met to create thriving remote work environments.
Employee health and wellbeing in hybrid working models
It’s clear that hybrid work is here to stay so businesses need to embrace it if they’re to remain relevant and attractive to employees. In fact, according to the Productivity Commission, around 40 per cent of employees would consider switching jobs if they weren’t offered a flexible work arrangement.
Beyond the technical, implementing a successful hybrid work structure also includes making sure work policies, like those which address employee health and wellbeing, are applicable to remote work situations.
Hybrid and remote work arrangements may also provide greater cause to develop company policies that do not already exist. For example, businesses and their employees will benefit from the existence of a hybrid-friendly D&I policy. Recent research by WithYouWithMe showed that 25% of Australian businesses still do not have a written policy they consistently follow for diversity and inclusion—showing a much greater need for focus in this particular area.
Managers should use this shift in working structure to review, update and create policies that are relevant to the future of the workforce.
If you're interested in reading more about diversity, equality and inclusion in the workplace, download the industry benchmark report from YouGov.