With more Australians expected to work from home, what should managers do to support the business and staff morale? Macquarie Business School associate professor Dr Yvette Blount outlines her eight top tips.
As a growing number of Australians are being asked to work from home amid the coronavirus outbreak, managers need to consider a series of measurements to ensure business continuity and that staff remain supported.
The ability of an organisation to provide services to customers is essential for achieving service level agreements, fulfilling contracts and orders and mitigating supply chain disruption.
Unexpected issues can arise, including extreme weather events such as the recent Australian bushfires, cyclones and floods, that can impact on a business’ ability to provide services to customers.
The spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) has forced the quarantine of thousands of people globally who are either in isolation, unable to travel or in hospital.
By February and March 2020, as a response to containing the spread of the virus, many businesses in China, Europe and Australia have asked their employees to work from home.
Working from home (also known as telework, telecommuting) has many benefits, including better work-life balance, less commuting time leading to less congestion on the roads and improved productivity.
The negative impacts of working from home include loneliness (social and professional isolation), reduced creativity and inability to form strong social bonds necessary to solve complex problems.
For example, one paper[i] on a pilot study of call centre employees in China who worked from home found that productivity increased, staff turnover decreased and employees reported feeling happier with their job.
However, when the work from home policy was rolled out across the whole organisation, it was unsuccessful. The main reason reported by the employees was loneliness.
Organisations that had previously championed working from home, such as Yahoo in 2013 and IBM in 2017, brought employees back into the physical office, believing that proximity is the key to collaborative efficiency. Therefore, working from home is not a matter of just working in a different location.
Tips for managers
Management competencies[ii] and skills to manage flexible workers are critical for realising the benefits and mitigating the risks. The research shows that managers should consider the following for successful work from home arrangements to encourage an employee’s engagement.
This article was first published on the Macquarie University Lighthouse.
Dr Yvette Blount is an Associate Professor at the Macquarie Business School and a member of the Centre for Workforce Futures at Macquarie University.
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