Due to COVID-19, there are currently significant numbers of people working at home, many doing so for the first time. Commitment recently surveyed our contacts to see how you’re all feeling about remote working.
We received 73 completed surveys and the results align closely with informal conversations we have had with remote workers since lockdown began.
1) Relationship with the manager
We firstly asked whether you have an effective virtual relationship with your manager.
Encouragingly, 50% of respondents gave the maximum score of 5 points, meaning the relationship with their manager is very strong, informative and inclusive. One person commented:
“I have daily calls with my manager who is located abroad. Even if we are not physically meeting, the relationship is very strong.”
Just 5% of respondents gave a score of 1 or 2, highlighting serious concerns with their relationship. One person commented:
“In 2 months not a single alignment or phone call. I have only received official communications via email.”
A further 25% gave a score of 3, meaning they have some minor concerns about the relationship. For example, one person commented:
“He doesn’t call me often, I have to contact him most of the time.”
2) Remote working process
We next asked whether your manager has set out a clear process for remote working.
40% of respondents gave a score of 4 out of 5, meaning they are content that a process has been set out, and a further 19% gave it a maximum score of 5 points. 18% scored this 1 or 2. One person who gave a high score observed:
“The transition to easy work was certainly bad (not very well communicated and managed), caused by the extreme speed with which the virus spread… Considering that smart working is not even covered by the current union agreements that govern my employment contract, I can certainly declare that it is going very, very well. I have entered into a new and even stronger trust agreement with my company.”
Some comments from those who gave lower scores included:
“We’re pretending everything is just the same.”
“I am used to working on projects and independently… I organised myself.”
The third question was whether your manager has set out their expectations.
45% of respondents gave a score of 4 out of 5, meaning they are content that expectations have been set out, and a further 22% gave it a maximum score of 5 points. Eleven percent scored this 1 or 2.
Many respondents who gave high scores commented that their manager had clarified their expectations before COVID-19 and that these expectations had not changed since then.
“Nothing has changed with home office: role, tasks and goals were and are now crystal clear!”
“Yes, my goals have not changed in the transition to smart working. And the quality standards that I must guarantee in carrying out my work have always been very clear.”
4) Listening and feedback
The fourth question was whether your manager is listening to your views and giving you regular feedback.
The results were very encouraging with 60% of respondents scoring this 4 or 5. A number of people said this was unchanged from before COVID-19.
“Yes, continuously. I see no difference between before and after. Only the method changed: from face to face, to written / telephone / chat / mail communication.”
However, some respondents expressed disappointment with the lack of feedback from their manager:
“In 2 months not even a call. No feedback despite the fact that I delivered 1.5 million euros of savings.”
“Listening and giving feedback is absolutely unregulated.”
What is the most difficult thing for you about remote working?
Perhaps the most interesting part of the results are the responses to the question “What is the most difficult thing for you about remote working?”
Here are the top three difficulties mentioned by respondents:
- 30% of the people surveyed said that the most difficult thing for them was the lack of face-to-face, physical contact.“Lack of physical relation (full body language, informal support) and sense of belonging rituals (coffee break, lunch time).”“Not being able to have warm human interactions.”“Not to have physical presence in a place, look into each other’s eyes, stay face to face.”
- The next most commonly mentioned difficulty was how to maintain a sensible work-life balance, with pressure from trying to juggle family responsibilities with work.“Don’t lose concentration, maintain and manage my working time, devoted space at home, reconciling work, housecleaning and family.”“Difficult to stop and to differentiate working days versus not working days: personal life and working life are almost one single thing.”
- The third area mentioned by a significant number of respondents was the temptation to work much longer hours than they would in the office.“The total working hours, we all are working more than before.”
To help with the first difficulty, one thing that employers can do is to ensure that their people are connecting regularly via videoconference, which may mean enabling workers to use a range of platforms (Zoom, Skype, Webex, MSTeams) so they can stay connected to external stakeholders too.
Secondly, employers should check on workers who may be struggling to balance family commitments with their work, and find ways to offer flexibility where possible.
And thirdly, employers should keep a very careful eye on the hours that their people are working, if they want to avoid the risk of burnout. Commitment has regular contact with staff from a wide range of companies and most of the people we speak with say they are currently working more hours than usual. We feel that long hours is a hugely under-reported problem right now.
Finally, it’s worth bearing in mind that some people are really enjoying this way of operating. Of our respondents, three people said that they were experiencing no difficulties at all, and commented:
“No difficulty. I’m working better than in the office.”
“Being able to choose I would like to keep this method [remote working] for a long, long time.”
In the past, we have seen some employers be reluctant to allow staff to work from home, citing fears that reduced connectivity or reduced visibility will lead to reduced performance. But the resilience and determination shown by staff in the past few weeks demonstrates that many staff are very capable of working remotely and delivering results beyond expectations.
Once the risk of the virus is reduced, smart employers will survey their staff to understand how they coped with the change, and evaluate the success of the changes that were forced on us.
Commitment anticipates that the workforce of the future will include a significant proportion of people who work from home for large parts of their week.