In the spring of 2020, a great deal of the office workforce transitioned to remote stations. Over the next 18 months, the playing field leveled in regard to physical office space and home office operations. Today in early 2022, employers are looking at the long-term effects on productivity with the company and it’s employees.
Certainly, there are fewer distractions at the office and reported longer work stretches from the home workers, which are calculated into the increased output. There is less lost time from checking weather or traffic patterns or even early departures in anticipation of the commute home. A significant downside is the inability to stroll to another cubicle to ask an opinion on how to resolve a situation. The other party’s previous experience or perspective can be a solution unrealized previously. Texts, emails, and Zoom calls are just not the same. Also, a loss is a social aspect that builds strong teams.
Electronic conference calls don’t generate the spontaneity that comes from an in-person meeting. So it is possible that the distance will foster less learning and possibly duplicate efforts unnecessarily. Less shared information reduces the awareness of trending or unusual events.
The next concern for the staff is the ability to be recognized for the extra effort if no one is looking at your daily performance. This can affect salary increases as well as promotions. Without face-to-face encounters, listening to exchanges, and general observations, it makes the managers’ jobs more difficult and can result in less satisfied employees. Assigning someone more difficult clients generally results in more complaints on customer satisfaction surveys.
It also means that the more difficult customers are taking more time to resolve issues and that employees will show fewer calls completed than someone who is dealing with common issues that are easily solved. When comparing just the statistics of resolved issues and client retention, the person who is working harder is likely to get less recognition for the increased amount of effort.
Research on this subject reflects that employers have seen a decline in employee energy levels. This means management must find creative ways to keep their staff engaged. This will depend on the industry and the most pressing concerns. Early in the pandemic, Adobe issued a no lay off pledge, conducted “town hall” meetings, videos to educate employees on the effects of Covid-19, and eventually an extra day off per month. Tapping into the resilience of the workforce has allowed their employee satisfaction scores to increase.
At this point, it is not possible to guess the long-term productivity results. A number of factors, including the line of business and company efforts, will determine whether in-home work will continue to be a viable alternative. It is most likely that some hybrid will evolve that will combine live interchange in a traditional office setting combined with remote stations. For some companies, it may indicate a greater reliance on independent consultants who accept or reject projects on a case-by-case basis to supplement a traditional in-office staff.