I recently provided a webinar through University of Evansville’s Center for the Advancement of Learning related to engaging remote workers. As organizations navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, many are scrambling to accommodate a remote work environment for their employees. The adjustment can be particularly challenging for those organizations who have maintained a traditional office working environment. I encourage organizations to explore whether there are new opportunities for them as a result of the current remote working environment.
Gallup has been tracking employee engagement since 2000. They categorize employees into the following groups (Harter, 4 February 2020):
- Engaged – “those who are highly involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace”
- Not engaged – “those who are psychologically unattached to their work and company and who put time, but not energy or passion, into their work”
- Actively disengaged – “those who have miserable work experiences and spread their unhappiness to their colleagues”
Gallup reports a record percentage of employees at the engaged level for 2019: 35% (with 52% not engaged and 13% actively disengaged). According to Harter (4 February 2020), engaged employees:
- “produce substantially better outcomes
- treat customers better and attract new ones
- are more likely to remain with their organization than those who are less engaged.
- Engaged employees are also healthier and less likely to experience burnout.”
According to the Remote Work Study (Zapier, 13 November 2019),
- “95 percent of U.S. knowledge workers want to work remotely”
- “74 percent would be willing to quit a job to do so”
- “57 percent” say the option to work remotely is one of the perks they’d most prefer to be offered by an employer.
I was surprised to see the incredibly high interest in remote working, and I think there will be continued desire for remote working after the pandemic.
Gallup (Hickman & Robison, 24 January 2020) has linked the highest level of engagement to those who work remotely three to four days a week (60%-<80%) and work in the office one to two days a week (41% engaged, 48% not engaged, and 11% actively disengaged). It is important to note that employees who worked remotely all of the time had lower levels of engagement (30% engaged, 54% not engaged, and 16% actively disengaged), and these engagement numbers are similar to those who do not work remotely at all (30% engaged, 55% not engaged, and 15% actively disengaged).
Based on the desire for employees to work remotely and the high levels of engagement that can result from a hybrid remote working environment (time spent working remotely and in a traditional office), organizations have the opportunity to reimagine their future working arrangements.
Here are some items to consider regarding remote working:
- Are there cost savings opportunities to reduce office space?
- Will a remote working environment help us improve employee engagement?
- Will a remote work environment help us retain and attract talent?
- Are our leaders equipped with the necessary skills to successfully manage remote employees?
- What work activities can take place remotely and what needs to take place in person?
- Do we need to more fully explore ROWE (Results Only Work Environment) to clearly define outcomes for employees’ work?
As many organizations are developing a plan to return to the office, I recommend strategic discussions about the future of remote working in organizations. This is a great opportunity to gather input and make decisions that could have an impact on the future success of organizations. We are skilled facilitators who have helped organizations navigate complex problem solving. If you need help in this area, please contact us.
Harter, J. (2020, February 4). 4 Factors Driving Record-High Employee Engagement in U.S. Retrieved from https://www.gallup.com/workplace/284180/factors-driving-record-high-employee-engagement.aspx
Hickman, A., & Robison, J, (24 January 2020). Is Working Remotely Effective? Gallup Research Says Yes. Retrieved from https://www.gallup.com/workplace/283985/working-remotely-effective-gallup-research-says-yes.aspx
Zapier Editorial Team (13 November 2019). The Remote Work Report. Retrieved from https://zapier.com/blog/remote-work-report-by-zapier/