Article | June 4, 2020
I’ve been given the opportunity to speak to a number of high school and college graduating seniors. The one common question from both groups, I get frequently, is “how can I get my dream job?” It’s a simple question, with about one million possible answers. Which makes it a tough question to answer in front of a group.
I think I might have found the perfect answer to this question. From Penn State football coach, James Franklin, when asked at a conference how does a graduate assistant move up in the college football coaching ranks:
“It comes down to people and opportunities for growth. I always tell people to stay broke for as long as possible. When you have a car payment and other things like that, it becomes a factor. Keeping money out of it allows you to chase your dreams longer.”
Article | June 4, 2020
We currently find ourselves living in rather suddenly altered times. The way we work has dramatically transformed, and all of us have now lived through some form major personal and professional disruption. Even what we must collectively prioritize in our work has shifted dramatically in many cases as well. Organizations are also discovering themselves spending much of their energy managing the consequences of a global pandemic as well as emerging worldwide societal issues, all while coping with a very uncertain and impossible to ignore global economic outlook.
Article | June 4, 2020
The concept of remote work has been an alluring one in modern workspaces. A quick search on Google Trends shows that terms like remote work, work from home, and telecommute have steadily gained more interest from early 2000s and peaked during the height of the pandemic in March 2020.
The rising popularity of remote work has made employees take note too. As working from office became impossible in early 2020, over 90% of global businesses moved base and switched to remote mode. But is it only a solution for the pandemic or are there other benefits of working from home that you need to consider even after the pandemic has left the society? Before that is explored, take a look at where it started.
A History of Remote Work
Believe it or not, remote work is the default state in which humans worked before the industrial revolution. Only few people like ministers, clergymen, and royals would go to a separate place of work. Others like the potters, blacksmiths, jewellers, and cobblers worked outside their houses all day and knew the benefits of WFH.
As the industrial revolution took place, factories and industries were set up. And people started ‘going to work’. This was a big shift from the traditional money-making practices. As modern offices started showing up in the ‘60s, people became more acquainted to the ‘offices’ as we know them today. But still, the biggest game-changer was the invention of internet.
As technology developed with the help of internet, services like WiFi became widely available and allowed people to work from anywhere with the new found connectivity. The preference for remote work grew slowly and steadily as people started seeing the benefits of WFH, but remote work was catapulted into fast drive as the pandemic hit the world this year in 2020.
Benefits of WFH for Employees
Working from home is one of the most appreciated perks at a job as per a survey conducted by Fractl. There’s no doubt that employees covet the idea of remote work but it is not just a matter of convenience. According to a recent study by Stanford, there are also various benefits of working from home for the employees.
Higher Job Satisfaction
The best thing about working from home is that remote work offers a lot of flexibility to your employees, which is impossible to achieve when working from office. Employees are responsible for their own productivity, they aren’t worried about their superiors watching over their shoulders, and most importantly, they still have time to have a life outside of work. All of this adds up and results in higher job satisfaction among employees. A satisfied workforce is one of the strongest benefits of WFH.
Commuting takes a big chunk out of people’s expenses. Even if your employees use public transport, working from home will save them a significant amount of money. Among other benefits of WFH, as there is no need to step out every day, expenses on food, clothing, cosmetics, etc. will also reduce significantly. Fewer expenses mean more disposable income for your employees, and who doesn’t want that?
Better Work-life Balance
Working from a place of convenience allows you to take care of a lot of small things that you wouldn’t be able to do in an office. For example, taking care of a child while working, preparing a healthy meal, getting in a quick workout in the break time or even just closing your eyes and enjoying music for five minutes are all great benefits of WFH. The WFH experience offers a good worklife balance than otherwise.
As employees save a ton of time on commute, meetings, and even obligatory niceties, all the time that they put into work is now productive. According to a Flexjobs survey, 65% of the respondents mentioned that they’re more productive in a remote environment over an office one and see it as one of the primary benefits of working from home. Moreover, time dedicated to work, is solely utilized for work as employees feel more responsible for their performance when working from home.
Lower Stress Levels
Many studies have found that working from home can impact stress levels positively and reduce them. Experts believe that the reason for this may be associated with working in a familiar and comfortable environment. Benefits of WFH like lower stress levels affect efficiency and creativity at work. A laid-back employee will be able to offer a lot more than a stressed one.
Benefits of a WFH Policy for Employers
So yes, a WFH policy is great for the employees and is widely preferred. But what’s in it for you? With the exception of government mandated remote working, why should you offer WFH? This employer’s guide may help explain the details.
The truth is that there are just as many, if not more, benefits of working from home for the employers. Remote work, even if partial, can give you a big edge when it comes to productivity, competition, as well as employee retention. So what are these benefits of WFH?
Space Optimization and Cost-savings
As many companies have noticed, expenses have gone down significantly during the pandemic. The cost of office spaces is one of the obvious ones. But there are utilities, snacks, stationery, toiletries, cleaning supplies and a lot more that you save on when you offer a WFH policy. IBM alone has reportedly saved over $100 million in snacks since they started their WFH policy.
This is not the only benefit of WFH, partial WFH can help you optimize your office spaces and let you use techniques like hot desking that’ll help you reduce costs as well as let you use office space efficiently.
With all these feel-good effects and several other benefits of WFH, it is no wonder that employees stay longer with organizations that offer remote working opportunities, even partly. According to Global Analytics Workforce, over 72% of employers stated in a survey that remote working opportunities greatly impact employee retention. And it is no secret that the longer an employee stays with a company; the more loyal they are to it.
One of the biggest benefits of a WFH policy is that you get to pick your team from across the world. There are no location specific restrictions and you can hire the best members for your team without having to compromise too much on your budget.
Progressively more companies are now open to hire for completely remote positions from across the world as they see this as an opportunity to improve the quality and diversity of their teams.
There are several surveys and studies, including institutions like Harvard, which have found that remote work improves productivity in employees. There can be several reasons for the improved productivity such as fewer distractions, little or no commute, and comfortable environment. But whatever may be the reason, if you want to switch the gears on your operations, you may want to consider the benefits of WFH on productivity.
Absenteeism is a big problem when it comes to working in a team, especially if the project requires multiple collaborations. A large amount of absenteeism is tied up to logistical or minor issues such as vehicular breakdown, sudden change in childcare routine, or a minor sickness.
As all of this can be easily averted when working from home, employees prefer not to take leaves for minor issues. When working remotely, there are fewer logistical errors, household responsibilities can be tended to simultaneously, and minor illnesses don’t bother them too much in a comfortable environment. This leads to a more planned workday, and higher availability of employees which all adds up to the several benefits of WFH.
Longer Working Hours
At this point, it might seem like a stretch that there are so many benefits of WFH. But studies have shown that when employees work from home, they put in extra hours. It could be the result of KPIs switching from punctuality to results. But whatever the reason, employees are willing to put in more effort and longer days when given the chance to work remotely.
Several companies like Twitter and IBM have made headlines with their lenient WFH policies. IBM has been offering remote working opportunities for years now, and Twitter recently announced that it will allow its employees to work from home as long as they want even after the pandemic has subsided.
Just a minor change in the policy has earned Twitter a ton of goodwill, and no doubt the preference of potential employees. That’s how powerful remote work can be as a tool. A good WFH policy can bring you good PR as well as great candidates for future positions.
Better for the Planet
Business operations aren’t just costly, they are also a big source of carbon emissions. From the daily commute of all your employees, to the electricity consumed and toilet paper used, your office has a deep impact on the planet. In fact, the highest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. is the burning of fossil fuels for electricity, heat, and transportation.
When you switch to a remote mode, you lower the emissions for your organization by a considerable amount. It may be a small percentage globally, but every drop in the bucket counts and is an added benefit of WFH that you can use by adding this to your branding.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the pros and cons of working from home?
No hiring restrictions
Feelings of disconnect
Very little contact with co-workers
Why is work from home good?
There are several benefits of working from home including a better work-life balance, improved performance, lower stress levels, and higher efficiency.
How does working from home benefit a company?
Organizations see a big improvement in employee relations as employees are happier, more satisfied, and more efficient when working from home. Another benefit of working from home for the company is the reduced costs.
Article | June 4, 2020
Around the world, and throughout almost every sector, the fourth industrial revolution is ushering in a new era – an age of digital disruption and automation, in which the very essence of how humans work is being redefined.
When we refer to the fourth industrial revolution, we refer to the digital transformation of processes, tasks and jobs that have traditionally been undertaken manually. At its core, the digital transformation process involves implementing specialist technologies that ‘digitalise’ operations.
Digitising operations – which can include fully or partially automating them - makes them far more efficient, cost effective, and more enjoyable for human workers. The digitising process also reduces risk, streamlines processes and allows more efficient allocation of resources. Ultimately, it enables businesses to work smarter and faster and leads to more fulfilled personnel – all at a lower cost.
From the chatbots used by an insurer’s customer service departments to the increasingly automated KYC checks undertaken by investment banks, industries of all shape are already on the path of digital transformation. There remains, however, considerable concern, confusion and miscaption over how this new era of automation will impact traditional jobs, skills, training and wider company culture.
In recent years, reading some of the tabloid newspapers in the UK would make you believe the worst. Headlines such as “nearly nine million British jobs could be lost to AI by 2030” and, more recently, “Covid pandemic is ‘accelerating the rise of robots’ which will lead to loss of millions of hospitality jobs” would imply digital transformation will lead to a dystopian future in which humans will become redundant (a doomsday scenario referred to as the ‘jobocalypse’).
In reality, many automation tools such as Robotic Process Automation (RPA), for example, simply don’t have the capacity to ‘think’ for themselves (unlike AI); their ability lies in automating repetitive, manual, mundane high-volume tasks that require a lot of processing time but little human expertise.
Given RPA cannot function or be configured without human intelligence, it has not yet been a direct driver of unemployment. Rather, the technology is there to enhance human thinking, and work side-by-side with humans, not replace them.
Research from McKinsey shows that 40% of workers spend at least a quarter of their work week on repetitive tasks, whilst 60% estimate they could save at least six hours a week with greater automation of their role. University of London research also shows that employees at organisations augmented by automation get a third more done with their time, freed from the ball-and-chain burden of monotonous repetition.
There will still be a need for human input and decision making in processes, but RPA is able to do the heavy lifting; and for those whose job would have previously seen them manually do the heavy lifting, they in turn can be upskilled or transferred to new, more engaging roles.
In the summer of 2021, the British Commons Work and Pension Committee concluded as such, when it published a comprehensive report into the fourth industrial revolution. The report stated that: “The evidence we have heard does not suggest that new technology will lead to mass displacement of workers: instead, it is likely to lead to the creation of new jobs alongside the loss of others. Automation may also result in the transformation rather than the loss of existing jobs.”
Where the greatest impact of digital transformation will lie, from a human and personnel aspect, is not therefore in redundancy – but in the skills and culture change that the process of transformation involves.
Contrary to a common misconception, digital transformation is not simply about implementing technology and flicking a digital switch. It is first and foremost about change within and between people, and for change to be effective, a proactive culture – that is, a mindset that positively embraces the opportunities afforded by digital transformation – is vital. Instilling a positive culture of change will therefore be one of the greatest challenges HR departments face in the coming years.
Another area that human staff will feel the greatest change as a result of automation is in upskilling and reskilling. It is already becoming increasingly important for staff to be digitally savvy and native, to understand how digital transformation is transforming the workplace, and – on a practical level – to be able to operate many of the new technologies that are being implemented.
Currently, there is a considerable tech skills gap in the global workforce, with companies unable to source the tech expertise they require; there will, therefore, be considerable pressure on HR departments to ensure that existing staff are sufficiently trained and equipped with the right skills for the automated age, and that recruitment is better angled towards hiring those that are technologically fluent and capable.
For any programme of transformation (be it digital or otherwise), there are five key stages to successfully implementing digital transformation which HR change makers should base a programme of transformation around. Known as the ADKAR model, the five stages are: awareness; desire; knowledge; ability and reinforcement.
These stages involve effectively communicating why digital transformation is necessary; having a desire to undertake transformation; knowing how a digital transformation strategy can be implemented; having the right and capable people to implement this strategy; and ongoing reinforcement through culture and investment.
The time for companies to digitally transform is now – and as the previous three revolutions have demonstrated, technology doesn’t replace – but complements and optimises human processes, paving the way for a whole host of new skills and experiences to be unlocked for those involved. Through upskilling, retraining, education and culture change, HR departments will be the key drivers of transformation.
Dr Zeynep Hizir, Doctor of Digital Transformation and intelligent automation (IA) implementation academic.