Navigating remote work calls for trust and collaboration

Navigating remote work calls for trust and collaboration

Patrick Steven, director of solutions specialists in APJ at Avaya, based in Melbourne says an alarming rise in ‘bossware’ to monitor employees working from home is not a solution to productivity challenges.

Australia’s corporate landscape has witnessed an alarming rise in ‘bossware’, or software deployed to monitor the keystrokes and movements of employees working from home.

A study revealed 90% of Australian businesses employ monitoring software to track remote employees, the highest of any region.

In a recent example of its consequences, an insurance employee was dismissed for failing to register enough keystrokes during her remote work shift.

The trend reflects a growing sense of mistrust in remote work arrangements.

This is further underscored by a noticeable shift in forcing employees back into the office.

Major banks across the country set the tone by mandating partial returns and a recent study found close to 90% of employers in Australia are mirroring this trend.

This attitude runs contrary to the preferences of local employees.

The same survey found almost a third of respondents reported at least one employee quitting in response to these mandates. Research from IWG (International Workplace Group) even found 72% of workers want the long-term flexibility and 42% of Gen Z workers would even pass on pay rises of between 6 to 20% if it means they get proper hybrid work.

It’s well documented that meeting the needs of employees translates to better outcomes for customers.

A Gallup study found that satisfied employees are three times as likely to solve customer issues and problems than employees that are less engaged or motivated.

And in the context of ongoing skills shortages across a range of sectors and high turnover rates, these preferences can’t be ignored.

To ensure workers are productive under hybrid arrangements, the answer isn’t mistrust and surveillance.

Research from Harvard Business School found that teams with high levels of trust and psychological safety are more likely to admit mistakes, partner up and leverage each other’s skills.

This safety net fosters open communication and encourages risk-taking, both of which are essential for innovation in organisations.

It should also be noted that keystrokes don’t necessarily translate to staff productivity.

This mistrust in action almost encourages employees to set up ruses to trick employers into thinking they’re working – in a similar vein to the bird

Homer Simpson used to type on his keyboard and mark his work presence while he watched television.

Organisational leaders should instead focus on supporting employees to do their jobs across physical locations.

A lot of the criticisms against remote work include diminished creativity, collaboration and mentorship.

But a lot of these can be remedied, as it’s not about where you work, but the tools with which you’re equipped.

Employees need more than just a virtual meeting room to form ideas, retain information and raise their hand to ask for help from supervisors.

While working from home, they should be empowered to connect and collaborate before, during and after meetings in a way that is seamlessly integrated with their digital lives.

This should extend to the use of their personal laptops and mobiles to collaborate, learn and impart knowledge, given the ubiquity of these devices.

To properly set workers up for hybrid arrangements, employers should also be taking steps to support their wellbeing.

In a survey of Australian workers, 85% indicated their wellbeing declined during remote work mandates and 37% considered their employer their main source of mental health support.

Organisational leaders need to encourage consistent feedback loops – backed by technology – where workers can make proactive contributions around their own productivity, health and wellbeing.

If the availability of staff is a concern from a scheduling perspective, employers should give employees control of their workday through presence indicators. This offers the option to disconnect with the virtual time-outs they choose – all based around their unique personal and professional circumstances.

This could be as simple as working parents indicating their absence during the school run so they’re not sent meeting invites and switching back on when they return home to address tasks. This is a much more respectful way to let them set their personal boundaries while also ensuring productivity.

The use of ‘bossware’ and insistence on fixed office days are not the solution to productivity challenges.

In the era of work-life integration, companies should move the needle towards trust and support.

Not only will this translate to increased efficiency and morale, it will mean valuable staff don’t move to workplaces prepared to meet their needs.

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