The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in the entire world finally embracing the internet as the real place to transact, host events as well as work and this has prompted numerous companies to allow their employees work from home.
A recent research showed that more a staggering 98% of workers wants to continue working remotely throughout the entirety of their careers and this trend is expected to continue even through to the year 2021 and beyond it.
“I think the genie is out of the bottle to be honest,” says Mark Gannon, director of business change and information solutions at Sheffield City Council. “I think people have realised the benefits of working remotely and the work/life balance that comes with it.”
But despite the fact that remote working seems to be the new-norm, research also showed that the current home-working situations are “far from wonderful” which showed some deficiencies in management as well as outputs of employees.
Due to the impromptu situations which came about during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic prompting governments in numerous countries around the world to force their citizen to stay socially distant from one another, there were not proper strategies put in place to ensure that remote working can be as efficient as reporting to offices on the daily basis.
One of the prominent aspect of working remotely includes getting glued up to the computer at all times as well as meeting virtually which analysts think could eventually bring about the fear of isolation and team cohesion. That is not to also mention situations such as distractions at home as well as loneliness.
While working on-site would usually include a manager constantly standing over your shoulder to ensure you are doing what you’re supposed to do which has both advantage and disadvantage, working remotely can bring about the comfort of choosing what time is best to work though this can also lead to some commitment issues.
There have also been reports of virtual-meeting burnout which is also referred to as “Zoom fatigue” which report showed that some 27% of employees stated they are “trying to pay attention but often zone out” during these phases.
Another senior executive at a blue-chip business reported to a ZDnet correspondent that her colleagues had simply desisted from using video-conferencing technologies. “We were sick of seeing each other,” she says and added that she and her colleagues now prefer to simply communicate over instant messengers.
There have also been report that stated that 75% of workers have experience burnout with some 40% saying this is a direct impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on working remotely. Then another survey showed that some 68% of professionals are already feeling burned out staying at home compared to while they worked in offices while some 60% report that they were working more hours than they were before the pandemic.
IT professionals have been under more pressure, too. It’s been tough work to keep IT running in extreme circumstances.
Despite the burn out, some business professionals still try their possible best to ensure the growth of the businesses they work on. That is the case of Capital One Europe CTO, Joe Soule who had showered praises for the way his IT team had been able to manage the business’s operation to meet customer’s fast-changing demands.
Tech professionals at the bank pivoted at short notice from long-term strategic priorities to more immediate customer-focused concerns, such as ensuring mobile and web channels were stable and resilient. The great news for Soule is that – despite the challenges endured – workplace surveys suggest IT workers at the bank are now more engaged than ever before.
Yet Soule also recognises IT leaders might face longer-term challenges when it comes to keeping employee experience high. “I do worry about people’s personal development, and whether they’re investing as much in themselves as they are in the organisation right now. Because I have no question that they’re investing a lot in the organisation,” he says.
The impacts of IT team members is what has kept a number of business afloat despite the harsh situation the pandemic has put everyone into. As the pandemic continues and there seems to be no cure or vaccine in the sight for now, businesses are still preferring their employees work remotely.
That request is going to be taking place at a time when many IT professionals might have been expecting to return to the office. While people have enjoyed the freedom to WFH, evidence suggests that isolated and burnt-out employees would now relish the opportunity to see colleagues IRL.
One thing that could further enhance the morale of workers is for business leaders to re-engage with their staffs and keep them connected. The chief digital an information officer at the British charity organization Anthony Nolan stated that connectivity is as much about culture as it is about tech. “CIOs must guide their organisations through the adoption of new ways of working,” he says.
This is why it’s important for many CIOs and HR managers to understand the use of exiting office work spaces which can be to create an approach in which working system can be mixed whereby workers get to occasionally meet in order to collaborate while also spending time working remotely.
But the reality is that social distancing is still the norm until governments are able to figure out how to curb the coronavirus much better as well as doctors and researches coming up with much better solutions to the crisis which already has Europe slipping back to 2nd wave of the pandemic with hundreds of thousands of cases already being reported.
But despite the psychological impact of the outbreak resulting in working from home, CIOs needs to be able to ensure their colleagues are able to work harmoniously as well as enhancing their skills which will be of use to the company.
Professor and academic Randall S. Peterson who is also the director of the Leadership Institute at London Business School stated that business leaders needs to ensure that they’re present: “The perfect boss is empathetic, understanding, asking questions and open to feedback from their staff on how to manage them differently.”
Being present is much easier in a physical space, where bosses can walk down the hallway and read non-verbal clues, such as body posture. Business leaders in our socially distant world must focus on ensuring – regardless of communication channel – that they are doing things that help their workers feel better and more productive.
“Ask questions about people’s personal mental health and their sense of belonging,” he says. “If you’re not already doing it, re-engage the employee in key decisions and get people back involved and re-committed. Provide clear, transparent communication, otherwise your people will drift in different directions.”
Peterson added that the best ways by which bosses can avoid the medium and long-term negative effects of the WFH system is by avoiding disengaging and demotivating people as this approach is all about ensuring employees are “feeling things” and the boss is also paying attention to employee engagement.
“We’re not paying enough attention to people’s feelings of belonging to our organisations,” he says. “You need to ask people where they are right now, and then understand and meet their needs. Focus on ensuring that people feel that what they do matters to the organisation and the world. If you can get people down that road, you’re much more likely to have a better outcome.”
Working alone can be a pretty daunting thing to say the least but as an employee, you also have your own responsibility in order to ensure that you’re highly effective despite being off-sight which is one of the values that can help the company’s growth.