CEO and Co-Founder Worksome
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Company culture: Why HR must not penalise remote workers

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As some organisations introduce financial penalties for those who choose to work from home, Morten Peterson argues the importance of fostering a working environment that's centered around a culture of trust rather than presenteeism.

7th Sep 2021
CEO and Co-Founder Worksome
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For too long, inflexible work cultures that kept everyone in the office five days a week benefited just a small minority of people – those with no dependents, little responsibility outside of work, and those who benefitted from an extroverted personality.

In some respects remote working through Covid-19 proved to be a great leveller for those less fortunate with health problems, who are carers, parents, and introverts who found office life energy sapping and disadvantageous to their careers.  

The plan to pay less to those working remotely could mean that for the first time ever carers, parents or introverts who work better from home, could end up getting paid less for doing the same job and delivering the same quality of work.

The issues with Google’s approach

The recent news that Google has a company pay calculator which means employees who want to permanently work remotely, and are based further away from the office, will be paid less, will be a blow for those workers who felt on more of an even keel with their less burdened colleagues.

It’s not just Google that has mentioned this approach. The Business Minister Kwasi Kwarteng hinted that if civil servants did not want to return to the office, their chances of promotion could be affected (before quickly backtracking). 

If other employers follow suit, the plan to pay less to those working remotely could mean that for the first time ever carers, parents or introverts who work better from home, could end up getting paid less for doing the same job and delivering the same quality of work.

Considering your employees strengths, responsibilities and personalities

It’s clear that people with other responsibilities outside of work are not in the minority. In the UK, 5 million people are juggling work with caring responsibilities, which equates to one in seven of the working population. Meanwhile, according to ONS, 73% of the 6.2 million couple families in the UK have both parents at work, trying to juggle childcare around working and the commute to the office.

In terms of suitability to the office, it is not surprising that introverts, who find busy offices energy-zapping and who might deliver well on projects but frequently miss out on praise, have benefitted from remote working. During lockdown, the value of work done well has increased, and face to face skills like presenting and networking more suited to extroverts have become less important.

A new era of work

As we go through another working revolution, transitioning back to the office, workplaces need to adapt fairly and on an individual level to employees with different lives and different personality types, instead of penalising them. Worksome recently hired a ‘Head of Hygge’ as our own workforce transitioned back to the office. Hygge is all about promoting comfort, wellness and contentment.  One of Patricia’s first roles was contacting all of our team individually to find out what worked best for them in terms of returning to the office.

A culture of trust over presenteeism

As companies start transitioning back to the office, the best employers will have a culture of trust with their employees, and leave it to them to decide what works best for them and what is the most efficient way of working.  

When working remotely was unimaginable for many employers pre-pandemic, it was also common to have a culture of presenteeism and micromanagement that added up to a position of employer control. The pandemic and remote working forced these employers to develop a culture of trust in their workers since they could no longer see what their workforce was doing every minute of every day.  

Ironically the old-style culture of control over workers doesn’t appear to have benefited employers or productivity in any way - research indicated that workers are on average 13% more productive whilst working from home.

As companies start transitioning back to the office, the best employers will have a culture of trust with their employees, and leave it to them to decide what works best for them and what is the most efficient way of working.  

Playing to your employees strengths to drive productivity and increase wellbeing

Ultimately, to retain the best workers, employers will need to maintain the trust they built through Covid-19. The successful companies of tomorrow will be those that play to the strengths of their workers individually to ensure they get the best from them instead of creating carrots or sticks for returning to the office.

Enabling workers to at least mostly work in the way they want has the potential to be the biggest productivity driver of the 21st century. Not to mention the profound positive impact it would have on individual happiness and society as a whole. 

The pandemic led to one of the biggest revolutions in how we work since the industrial revolution. But we are now poised to tackle the next major step of how we adapt this into our long-term working habits. We must ensure that the future of working is inclusive and works for everyone. Let’s not mess this chance up.  

Interested in this topic? Read: Talent optimisation in the hybrid workplace

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