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Remote working: is this the end of 9 to 5

Written by aliciaharris - 28 Mar 2018 Category: HR news

Remote working and working from home isn’t a recent phenomenon as many believe.

Remote working and working from home isn’t a recent phenomenon as many believe. In fact, for as long as people have had homes, there has been the ability to have a common area whereby people both live and partake in business ventures also, such as cottage industries.

 

But following the industrial revolution which led to the establishment of multiple factories and production centres across the country, rates of home working reduced due to the increased demand for workers in the factories and large mills. It wasn’t until nearly two centuries later, in the 1970’s that the term “remote working” came back into the working lexicon. Thanks to technological advancements, ever since the 70’s and increasingly so in the past five years, remote working is now ubiquitous with many employers offering flexible hours or hiring satellite workers across the world.

 

Defining remote working

Remote working describes when employees fulfil their job role and its duties away from a centralised office. It is also known as telecommuting and telework. As working remotely has become increasingly popular, let's investigate the positives and negatives of this way of working, both for the employees and the organisation.

 

Pros

1.     Reduces stress levels

Remote working can reduce the stress levels of individual employees as well as the overall stress levels of the company. With remote working, people can work in a way that suits them,  be this from the comforts of their duvet, starting late and working into the evening, or in a local coffee shop with a friend. This flexible structure can bring many advantages to the organisation as well as it can increase productivity and boost happiness levels, mainly because employees are free from the monotony of a commute.

2.     Remote workers are better connected.

How can that be, when they're working away from colleagues? Well, the widespread presence of smartphones, social media and wireless connections means you don’t have to be in the same room as someone or even in the same country to be able to communicate with effectively. Also, with the creation and progression of remote administration, cloud-based project management and video conferencing, it has become easier than ever to get in touch with you colleagues without being physically present.

3.     Lower costs for firms

It is so expensive nowadays to find available office space and meeting rooms for reasonable rent prices. So, by hiring remote staff,  the organisation can save money on property costs.

4.     Creates new types of  jobs

New ways of working require developing new roles in the organisation. This could include roles such as “remote workplace manager” whereby the person ensures that the remote workers “touch base” with the workplace and update remote workers with relevant changes and progressions in the organisation.

 

Cons

But are these all beneficial?  How about some of the negative implications of remote-working:

 

1.     Lack of routine and order in day-to-day life

Some people need a structure to their day to be able to get motivated and be productive. Working remotely with a lack of structure or direct accountability can mean some people won’t be as efficient with their work and produce less work than they would do if they were in a ‘natural working environment’ such as at a desk in an office.

This potential risk depends on the type of job, personality type of the worker,  and the way the organisation structures their remote workers’ days. One tip for encouraging engagement would be to hold short daily meetings first thing and at the end of the day. This would mean that workers have to be up and ready to meet,  and also have a deadline for when they need to discuss the work that they have been doing that day with the rest of the team. This can aid motivation when people are at home with lots of distractions.

2.     Distractions

Working from home means distractions from an employee's personal life. There may be small children that demand attention or the temptation to turn the TV on in the background can make employees lose concentration for an hour or two during the day.

Also, not working with other people can be demotivating and also mislead. Employers might think they are productive, but without the focus of an office space surrounded by other workers, it can be hard to gauge productivity and keep to a working routine.

3.     No workplace social life

Even though technology facilitates constant contact with co-workers, virtual interactions are not the same as face-to-face physical relationships. There are no opportunities for banter or office chats - conducive to building strong working relationships -  or for getting lunch together as everyone’s working in different places.

Quite often, remote workers say they feel isolated at home without an office to go into. However there is a medium. Many workers have a balance between the two, remote-working three days a week, and going into the office 2 days, meaning they still get that social balance we as people need to carry on.

 

The path to success

As long as the right people are working in the role (organised, reliable and motivated, with a strong work ethic), there’s no reason why remote working shouldn’t be a success for your organisation. The top four considerations :

  • Stricter management style, with forward-thinking and trust between both managers and staff.

  • Virtual and in-person meetings are a way to maintain the closeness and efficiency of the team.

  • Strict scheduling, having set times for meetings so that people still have a structure to their working day

  • Communication! The most important of them all. Even though workers aren’t physically in the same place, the organisation and employees are working toward a common goal and want the same thing - a happy, productive work environment. Keep in touch! 

Psychological Safety in the Workplace

Written by Charlotte - 21 Mar 2018 Category: HR news

Psychological safety refers to a workplace environment in which people feel safe, assured and able to express themselves.

Psychological safety refers to a workplace environment in which people feel safe, assured and able to express themselves. First defined by Professor Amy Edmondson of Harvard Business school, it is the belief that it’s okay to speak up with concerns, questions and ideas, and admit to mistakes when at work.

Edmondson’s research in hospitals has shown that, contrary to her initial expectations, teams that perform the best actually make the most errors. Further investigation showed that it wasn't that the best teams were making the most errors, but that the best teams were admitting to errors and discussing them more often than other groups did. In other words, what distinguished the best performing teams was psychological safety, which facilitated a "climate of openness.’

Why it matters

Creating a safe working environment in which employees are able to take creative risks and still feel valued -  even if those risks turn into failures - is the key to great teamwork and is conducive to a positive, productive and profitable business environment. Google considers psychological safety to be the most critical trait of successful teams; the recent conclusion of a two-year study found that the highest performing teams at Google all had one thing in common: a sense of psychological safety.

When people don’t feel safe at work,  they are less inclined to take risks and are not accountable for their mistakes. They are more likely to miss opportunities for fear of being reprimanded over any failures  and, eventually, feel resentful towards their employer and disengage from the organisation. Such negativity and reticence is something we most definitely we want to avoid.

How to increase psychological safety in your own workplace

Working through Edmonson’s model,  Laura Delizonna recommends the following steps to establishing psychological safety within your organisation:

1. Approach conflict as a collaborator, not an adversary. Conflicts at work are inevitable. But if mismanaged, they lead to unhealthy competition, criticism and disengagement - highly unhelpful emotions in the workplace. Avoid pointing the finger and approaching conflict head on as this ignites the ‘fight or flight’ response and discourages clear thinking. Instead, collaborate: ask how you can work together to achieve a mutually desired outcome.

2. Speak person to person. Beneath the blame and negativity that drives confrontation are universal needs such as respect, competence, social status, and autonomy. Recognising that everyone experiences these deeper needs and ultimately wants the same outcome helps to promote positive language and behaviours.

3. Anticipate reactions and plan countermoves. Skilfully navigate difficult conversations within the workplace by preparing for possible reactions. If you know there’s a change coming that will have consequences for people, plan your responses to all possible scenarios so that everyone feels listened to and communication channels are kept open and transparent.

4. Replace blame with curiosity. If team members sense that you’re trying to blame them for something, you trigger their fight or flight response: they’ll run terrified from you, helpless and unproductive, or they’ll be difficult to work with, confrontational and defensive. Research shows that blame and criticism escalate conflict which eventually leads to disengagement. Instead of pointing the finger, establish a culture of curiosity. Adopt a learning mindset, knowing you don’t have all the facts.

5. Ask for feedback on delivery. Opening yourself up to constructive criticism by asking for feedback disarms your opponent, illuminates blind spots in communication skills and, most importantly, shows that you too are able to be open and vulnerable in the workplace. Being open and admitting fallibility has been demonstrated to increase trust in leaders.

 

If you take steps to increase psychological safety within your organisation, it makes sense to measure the effectiveness of these actions and to identify areas of strength and weakness. Conducting a survey is one such way to measure impact and get some perspective on how your team feels.

Creating a climate of openness does not mean you have to trade excellence for errors; encouraging employees to open up and make mistakes allows for full engagement and the space for employees to commit 100%, with no fear - a vital component for teams to achieve their full potential. Some view psychological safety as ‘the glue that binds employee engagement and inclusive leadership.’ If you manage to establish a culture of all three within your organisation, then you’re undoubtedly on the way to success.

Employee Engagement as a Strategic HR Tool

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Written by Charlotte - 12 Mar 2018 Category: HR news

Employee engagement is arguably the most critical component to achieving company goals and creating a harmonious working environment.

Employee engagement is arguably the most critical component to achieving company goals and creating a harmonious working environment. You can spot engaged employees from a mile off - they’re the ones that go above and beyond to get the work done, are committed to the job, feel satisfied with their work and see a direct correlation between their career progression and the success of the organisation. But given that it plays such a significant role in business success are organisations doing enough to encourage employee engagement, and could HR play a more prominent role?

Why engagement matters

There are many reasons why having engaged employees matters. Staff engagement helps to drive the company forward, encourages teamwork and helps to create a pleasurable working environment. In contrast, working in an organisation where people would rather be somewhere else and show apathy towards business outcomes builds resentment, lowers morale and distracts from the task at hand. As a result, productivity is lowered, problem solving is non-existent and staff turnover rates skyrocket.

How HR can foster employee engagement?

Firstly, it’s good to get feedback on current levels of engagement. This can be done using a variety of metrics, such as sending out a survey to gauge current opinion. Improvement efforts are then easily strategised and actioned by focussing on those aspects of engagement with low scores.

HR cannot facilitate change alone; true employee engagement needs action from leaders at all levels. The CIPD identifies line managers who motivate, empower and support their employees as being a central driver of employee engagement.  Once HR has a clear idea of the areas that need improving, the next step is to make managerial support a central part of the engagement strategy.

Embrace Digital Solutions

Communication is a crucial aspect of employee engagement. Clear communication channels between leaders and staff helps to keep employees informed, encourages transparency and reinforces the organisational purpose and vision.

Using digital solutions can help to open up active channels of communication and disseminate the organisation's ethos so employees feel more aligned with business outcomes and that they are working towards a unified purpose. In particular, cloud-based task-management tools make collaboration easier,  further encouraging teamwork and accountability.

HR software can also prove invaluable to increasing engagement because it facilitates the full participation of line managers, allowing them to manage recruitment processes, action employee leave requests and oversee appraisal processes and task delegation. Within these moments, it’s the little things that over time can make a big difference: even something small like quickly commenting ‘all done, have a great time away’ when approving a leave request  can make an employee feel more valued. That one sentence starts a dialogue which then encourages further communication and, ultimately, more engagement.

A well-thought-out and effective engagement strategy is worth the effort as it ultimately achieves increased productivity and fulfilment for staff across all levels of the organisation, making it essential to long-term business success. Improved engagement corresponds to increased employee happiness and an overall boost to the work environment. In short, it’s a win-win situation for all.

About CiviHR

CiviHR is a project to create affordable HR software for non-profit organisations. By developing open source technology the benefits can be shared with non-profits everywhere.

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CiviHR is a project to create affordable HR software for non-profit organisations. By developing open source technology the benefits can be shared with non-profits everywhere. 

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