It is important to give credit to the efforts by government in trying to fight the pandemic. Since the first declaration of the pandemic, we have seen increased efforts by government and other key players to put measures intended to minimize the spread of coronavirus. Some of the citizens including employees have been jabbed up to second jab. There are also others who are still sitting on the fence and might need encouragement to be jabbed. There is also unconfirmed research circulating on the social media about the effects of being jabbed. Yes, it is unconfirmed and must be condemned, in the absence of substantive evidence. There is need for increased awareness among citizens.
In the past two days the 26th of May 2021, 115 cases were recorded, and 2 deaths were also recorded. On the 27th of May 2021, 35 cases were recorded, and 3 deaths were also reported. The statistics show that we are still experiencing the pandemic and we need to be very extra careful about our attitude towards the pandemic. We are beginning to see some form of negligence in the way we observe healthcare requirements. If you go into high density areas and at times middle to low density areas, people move around without putting on masks. This is very dangerous. What is also shocking is that in some places like Barbour-shops, hair salons, informal shops to mention a few, there is no social distancing, no masking, no temperature checking, no sanitization. We all need to be responsible for our health and that of others!
Zimbabweans have experienced remote working since March 2020 when the first lockdown was declared. What can we learn about remote working as Zimbabweans? What are our views about calls for return to work? What has gone well and wrong? How can we improve the systems that have been put in place during lockdown? ALl this can be monetized if there is cost benefit analysis in terms of savings for organizations. Companies also need to make sure that this is not a wholesome call but a staggered approach towards a return to possible normalcy. The decision should not be rushed lest it bring back the usual costs-there are no two ways about this.
Despite what is circulating on social media about negative performance due to remote working, tried, and tested research shows a different direction. According to Gallup research, much of the research indicates that remote workers are more productive than on-site workers. It is probable that, between the higher engagement and increased productivity of remote work, off-site workers offer leaders the greatest gains in business outcomes. And those outcomes are significant. Is Working Remotely Effective? Gallup Research Says Yes and this is a fact. 54% of office workers say they would leave their job for one that offers flexible work time. However, it is agreed that there are different jobs which need physical presence at workplace, and we cannot do anything about it.
Job Flexibility Engages Remote Employees — Which Drives Performance
Engagement is not an exercise in making employees feel happy — it is a strategy for better business outcomes. It is true that engaged employees are more enthusiastic, energetic, and positive, feel better about their work and workplace, and have better physical health, but engagement is not a perk for leaders to dole out, it’s a way leader can improve KPIs. As decades of Gallup research shows, when employees are engaged their performance soars: Highly engaged workplaces can claim 41% lower absenteeism, 40% fewer quality defects, and 21% higher profitability. And job flexibility increases engagement.
Employee Engagement for Remote Workers
The statistics show that those who work remotely are more engaged than those who are physically at workplace.
The productivity increase among remote workers is equivalent to an extra day per person per week.
Gallup’s workplace research shows that to get the best out of a remote worker, managers must:
According to Gallup survey, some remote workers feel isolated by working alone, while others feel liberated. Some love 24/7 access to work; others need to have a real boundary between office and home. Some do their best work in the middle of the night, while others keep strict office hours. Accepting a remote worker’s method and reasoning helps managers coach to the individual on behalf of the company, promoting the corporate benefits that characterize off-site work. Individualization helps remote workers “feel cared for as a person,” which is a fundamental element of engagement and enhanced productivity.
- Define expectations.
Gallup research shows that people learn a lot from context, and the less time they spend in the office, the less context workers have about their manager’s expectations. So, managers need to be explicit about what the remote worker must produce. The parameters, deadlines and metrics of tasks must be crystal clear, but so should the manager’s personal feelings. If a manager needs weekly progress reports, for instance, or prompt replies to emails, the manager must say so and hold the employee accountable.
- Build trust.
Managers build trust through individualization, keeping their promises and frequent conversations. A good bit of face time during onboarding helps, as well as weekly, monthly, quarterly or annual in-person meetings once the worker is established. These meetings can be more social than not, but there is always a business case to be made for face-to-face conversations. Building lines of sight for the remote worker builds trust too. Knowing whom to turn to for help enhances productivity and aids development, but remote workers lack that perspective. Managers who make themselves a proxy in their remote worker’s network prove themselves both trustworthy to the worker and indispensable to the worker’s success.
- Believe in talent.
More than any other trait, talent is the key to performance. The worker’s CliftonStrengths report, which identifies their internal drivers and areas of potential excellence, can be a tremendous asset to the manager. Still, it may take diligence, creativity, resourcefulness, and a great deal of conversation to develop that talent over a distance. Assignments aligned with the employee’s talents help the individual develop those talents into strengths while improving business outcomes. And while managers should always seek out the opinions of remote workers — distance often offers valuable perspective — asking opinions informed by talent can yield especially useful feedback.
The Most Important Thing a Leader Can Do
The basic elements of an engaging workplace, which the Gallup Q12 measures, are necessary for all employees to do their work well. And the best managers share a few basic qualities that increase engagement, productivity, profitability and a host of other bottom-line issues.
To be fair, not even the best manager of remote workers does all that every day with every worker. But effective managers have the innate talent for it.
Leaders should consider such talent the boon it is. According to Gallup’s latest bestseller, “It is the Manager”, 53% of employees say greater work-life balance is very important to them when considering a job, 63% of millennials would change jobs for flextime, and if given the choice between a small raise and remote work, most workers would choose to work from home.
Currently, just 44% of employees say their workplace offers flextime. As the labor market gets tighter — already, 51% of workers say they would quit their job in favor of one that allowed flextime — remote work is becoming less of a perk and more of an expectation that leaders must accommodate if they want talented workers. And there is no sense putting a talented remote worker under an inadequate manager.
True, there is never any sense in pairing a worker with a bad manager. The impact on business outcomes is just too severe. But managing remote workers effectively requires an approach recalibrated to fit the worker. Leaders need to keep that in mind as they select their managers.
Nothing has a greater long-term impact on a business than the people who have an immediate impact on its employees — no matter where they work.
Dr Phil Chitagu (PhD) is the current IPMZ President and writes in his own capacity.