Working from Home – Resignations in the pipeline?

In my last blog we looked at the current trend to create either a part time or full time role as Chief Remote Officer. Your feedback has been interesting. James, in Australia expressed interest in developing this role in his (6 partner) accountancy business admitting that plans are still evolving on an ad hoc basis. While Chin in Singapore shared how their approach has been to allocate remote worker responsibilities over to existing heads of departments. This is an approach that evolved from March 2020 but with ongoing “waves” maybe reducing there are now plans to bring the technology aspect of WFH under the umbrella of one partner.

Are there resignations in the pipeline?

Anthony Klotz, associate professor of management at Texas A&M University is quoted by Bloomberg as saying, “The great resignations is coming.” Why? These comments were made following a study by Microsoft that found that 41 per cent of workers worldwide were planning to hand in their notice. In the UK research by Personio found that 4 in 10 employees were looking to change their role in the next 6 to 12 months once the economy has strengthened. This rises to 55 percent among 18-34 year olds.

The news worsens as the survey reveals that this trend is being set by those between 25 and 40, who are highly educated with professional careers. This is despite the risk of increasing unemployment driven by the pandemic and an ongoing backdrop of economic uncertainty. 

Professor Parry, head of the Changing World of Work Group at Cranfield School of Management comments, “I think for virtually everyone it’s been a career shock, and we know that when people experience career shocks, it makes them reflect on their lives and their jobs.”

Good news

The good news, to the extent that there is good news is that Parry goes on to observe that “historically there isn’t a clear link between intent to quit and actually doing it and we are of course living in unprecedented times”. She then goes on to say, “It’s a fallacy that this generation are not loyal and that they don’t stay in jobs long. But, what we do know is that they’re more prepared to leave if they’re not satisfied with what they’re getting.

Key risk: There is substantial evidence that staff may seek alternative employment – maybe even outside the profession. Complacency and burying heads in the and is not a recommended management strategy. In most countries staff shortages in the profession had been a challenge for many years.

Key point: Remember that your greatest assets goes home at night – or to be more topical stays home all day!

A global perspective

Let’s take a quick tour to see what trends are emerging in a world where there are now so many approaches to lockdowns you could write a book about it – no, please that is a really bad idea.

UK: In the UK 50 of the biggest companies have urged the Prime Minister to make it clear that WFH should not be the default when Covid-19 restrictions end. They asked the government to announce clearly and unequivocally that home is no longer the default. The UK sees the relaxing of most of the Covid rules on 19 July, so time will tell. My view is that there is adequate evidence that companies are embracing WFH as they recognise the threat of denying employees this “right”.

Singapore: Meanwhile in Singapore WFH remains the default over the coming weeks. Employers are continuing to exercise flexibility in their employees’ work arrangements as Singapore emerges from this period of heightened alert. Minister of Trade and Industry Gan Kim Yong has recently said.

Mr Gan has appealed to employers to introduce more flexibility in their work arrangements.

“Even if we come out of work from home as a default and allow more workers to go back to the workplace, we want to continue to encourage employers to allow their workers flexibility,” he said.

However, there is now much greater optimism spreading around Singapore with only 78 cases reported last week.

Canada: Most Canadians wish to continue with WFH. Currently, 32 percent are working from home, as many workspaces are temporarily closed, or people have been afforded the option by employers.

It is reported that over 3 million people say they are “temporarily” working from home and view the pandemic as having created a worldwide social experiment.

A recent Canadian survey suggests that 90 percent of employees feel they are as productive, or even more productive while working from home. In total, 58 percent say they are equally productive at home, while 32 percent actually say they get more work done. Only 10 percent of those surveyed say they are less productive at home.

Germany: Here, the working life of millions of Germans is set to become more flexible after the coronavirus pandemic. Large companies, in particular, say they’ll continue to rely on WFH. Software giant SAP will in the future give its employees complete freedom to work from home, on the go, or in the office. Julia White, the firm’s chief marketing and solutions officer, told the Reuters news agency that “we want to give our employees the choice.”

The DAX-listed group sent an e-mail to its roughly 100,000 employees on June 1, promising a “100% flexible and trust-based workplace as the norm, not the exception.” In an employee survey, 94% of workers supported the move, White said.

By making work more flexible, SAP is going one step further than many other corporations. Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank, for example, say they’ll introduce only partial homeworking schemes.

Here are some tips from the New York State branch of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

The events of 2020 have led to an increased interest in mental health as rates of depression and anxiety rise, and it is no secret that stress can exacerbate mental health issues. Regardless of whether that stress is a result of personal or professional concerns, they can still exhibit in the workplace. Mental health issues can significantly affect employees’ performance and productivity.

Firm owners can have help managing your employees‘ mental health by creating a culture of wellbeing in the workplace. Some of the steps an employer can take to encourage the office environment to be more mentally healthy are:

  • Show your subordinates you appreciate their work. Each employee makes a contribution to the company’s success, and acknowledgement of that contributes to their feeling of value.
  • Listen to them-show them that you care about their overall wellbeing.
  • Be aware of the environment you are promoting: are employees receiving unreasonable demands? Is Management being transparent? Do employees have discretion around their work?
  • Learn from other companies how they are addressing the mental health needs of their employees.
  • Ensure employees have access to mental health services through their healthcare plans and other resources, both within and outside the company.
  • Understand that mental health issues impact the whole family-be sympathetic if an employee needs to address a loved one’s mental health issue, just as you would for any other medical issue.

Co-workers also play a role in promoting a culture of mental wellbeing. During this time of imposed isolation, it can be difficult to gain awareness of how your colleagues are coping. Some tips to keep in mind:

  • If you see a change in a colleague’s mood, don’t be afraid to ask if everything is ok.
  • Don’t be afraid to be honest-it is ok to say if you are having a bad day.
  • Really listen when someone opens up to you (and reserve judgement).
  • Don’t be afraid to express concerns and offer to help when you perceive someone struggling.
  • Don’t allow mental health issues to become contagious-if anyone reacts to you in an uncharacteristically negative way, stop and ask why this it is happening before reacting.

Some of the signs that an employee may be struggling with mental health issues can include changes in mood, difficulty concentrating, fatigue, missed work, anxiety, depression and decreased performance. Like many physical health complaints, without treatment and support, an individual’s mental health condition will continue to deteriorate.

Survey Insights

  • 74% of people feel that WFH hinders their progression in the workplace
  • 48% of people feel that WFH left them feeling isolated or undervalued
  • UK employees WFH spent an average of two additional hours a day logged on, compared to before the pandemic

10 Tips for Successfully Managing Remote Workers

Well worth a read of the full article:
In an excellent and insightful article by Kathy Gurchiek

She highlights that stay-at-home orders create a workplace challenge like we have never seen or experienced before. She finds that nearly three quarters of employers are finding it a real challenge even 18 months on from the first lockdowns. In her article for the Society for Human Resource management she researches and reports in the following areas:

  1. Set expectations early and often. 
  2. Be organised and flexible. 
  3. Adapt the length of your meetings. 
  4. Track your workers’ progress. 
  5. Emphasize communication. 
  6. Remember to listen. 
  7. Build connections and be available to your team. 
  8. Provide a way to collaborate. 
  9. Resist the urge to micromanage. 
  10. Celebrate success. 

Key Questions: 

  • 18 months on from Lockdown 1 how do you assess the situation in your own accountancy business? 
  • How about your clients? How can you help them develop appropriate policies?
  • What are your next steps in your WFH policy? 
  • What decisions need to be taken? 
  • Who will be responsible for enacting these decisions? Enforcement?
  • What decisions taken thus far need to be reviewed? 
  • Do you have structured feedback from your staff? If so how does this inform your next steps?
  • Are there mental health issues that need to be addresses?