Organizational and HRM Strategies for Virtual Workplaces and Remote Workforces

Why Work from Home is the Future and How we Should Get Used to It

In a world gone digital due to the Covid 19 outbreak, corporates are now increasingly asking their employees to work from home as a means of following physical and social distancing.

With the uncertainties surrounding a return to normalcy, or for that matter, a new normal where such arrangements are permanent, appropriate strategies have to be put in place to ensure that organisational productivity does not suffer and that organisational goals are met.

At first glance, remote working and virtual workplaces seem cool and trendy.

However, there are real challenges for managers and others supervising their teams to ensure that the workflow continues in a seamless manner and to avoid “disconnect” (literally and figuratively) as far as the links that bind workforces are concerned.

Indeed, right from procuring laptop and desktops as well as providing high speed broadband connectivity at the homes of the employees, to the overarching issue of maintaining data integrity and security of the confidential work done for clients, and including inspiring employees to perform as they would do in physical offices, challenges galore for HR (Human Resource) and Line Managers necessitating an entirely new work paradigm.

Why Some Firms Have Made the Transition to WFH Seamlessly Whereas Others Are Not

Of course, going by the present trends, WFH or Work from Home Arrangements seem to be going well for some corporates such as the Indian IT (Information Technology) majors, Infosys and TCS or Tata Consultancy Services.

Indeed, both these firms report that they intend to follow WFH models even after the lockdown is lifted and also state that they are working at the same pace as they would have done so before the lockdown.

On the other hand, there is no dearth of firms that are reporting problems in making the transition from physical to virtual with many BPOs (Business Process Outsourcing) firms and Mid Size IT firms complaining about the myriad challenges that they face.

For instance, cost is a key challenge as transitioning to WFH models entails provision of devices, routers, and broadband connections.

While the biggies have deep pockets and can spend liberally, smaller firms are not that lucky and hence, they are calling upon the governments to subsidise them in this regard.

Moreover, many financial services firms deal with extremely sensitive client data that can only be handled within Firewalls and hence, they complain about how clients are hesitating from giving them permissions for WFH arrangements.

What the Human Element of WFH Looks like and Challenges Due to Virtual Workforces

Moreover, it is not only the physical assets, but, also the other aspects such as motivating employees to perform at optimal levels that pose significant challenges.

Indeed, fresh joiners and entry level staff have to be supervised for a few years before they become self sufficient and autonomous to do their work and this poses a challenge for line managers as well as the HR managers.

Moreover, multitasking is never good for productivity and when WFH, employees have to be necessarily juggle a great many tasks even when one excludes personal tasks.

When one considers how employees with children and dependant parents have to achieve Work Life Balance, it becomes a headache for both the employees as well as the organisations. In addition, team meetings conducted virtually might not have the same gravitas as face to face interactions and this can become a significant challenge as well.

On top of it, in countries in the developing world, there can be additional challenges in terms of breakdown of power and disruption of internet services that can add to the problems arising from WFH.

An often neglected aspect of WFH is that it liberates employees and enslaves them in never ending tasks.

Digging in For the Long Haul with a New Work Paradigm and New Policies and Laws

Therefore, what is needed is a new work paradigm for organisations as they navigate the challenges of an uncertain future.

This is where business leaders have to step in and provide Pep Talks and Inspiring Speeches as well as Comforting Words for the employees who are WFH.

Moreover, they must also draw up an action plan that would be longer term dealing with the challenges of the New Realities and also budgeting (both financially as well as strategically) for a future that would be both radical and uncertain at the same time.

In other words, it is important that corporates dig in for the Long Haul given the prevailing uncertainties.

As mentioned earlier, this requires the active cooperation of the governments at the various levels and a good starting point can be a summit (virtual, of course) where all stakeholders can come together and decide on a common strategy.

Moreover, there needs to be more coordination at the global level as well that can include a set of protocols regarding WFH and Virtual Workforces implementing New Policies and who knows, maybe, New Laws as well.

This is the need of the hour for BAU or Business As Usual to prevail.

Concluding Thoughts

Last, there is also a need for the human touch and the healing touch as well as a humanitarian approach from all stakeholders.

This is especially the case for Middle Managers who have to adjust and move away from brash and tough team management methods to a softer and understanding leadership.

Indeed, if we have to cross this together, we might as well ensure that we have each others backs and those we are all on the same rope that is holding us together.

To conclude, WFH might become the New Normal and we better get used to it.

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Human Resource Management