To work from home or not?

It’s become a familiar sight in the workplace, arriving at one’s place of employment only to be ‘greeted’ by the following notice: “Please refrain from coming into the office when displaying any Covid-19 symptoms.”

Although part of safety protocol in response to the coronavirus outbreak, it’s a statement that is very easily abused, says Juliette Fourie, the founder and CEO of accredited training company, Metro Minds.

Writing for Freight News, she says many things have been learned from the pandemic and opportunities revealed in a time of crisis and uncertainty.

In relation to the effect on the mental health of a company’s workforce, Fourie says, studies indicate a 38% rise in anxiety and depression. The reality of anxiety and depression is the effect it leaves behind – on personal competency, productivity, resilience, and general health.

“Many people are left with no income, less income, more family dependencies, and loss of loved ones. This reality makes the discussion so much more difficult because the world needs to continue and ‘life goes on’.”

Current debates about working from home or not, Fourie emphasises, cannot continue if we do not understand the realities of our workforce.

“By no means are we saying that organisations must change every employee’s circumstance, but acknowledge the new world they might find themselves in. Before we assume people are too lazy to come back to the office, let’s understand their circumstances and plan our future workforce around this to get what we want – higher productivity.”

Thought should also go into flexible working hours, she says.

“Hybrid working policies might be good for some but detrimental for others. Like anything in life, we row our own boat and must gauge what works well for you and your organisation. Much research indicates that productivity has gone down for them where the others are saying it works well.”

As for the ongoing debate about working from home or not, the emphasis should fall on making better decisions, Fourie says.

“We must recognise that the pandemic caused chaos first and then, as we acted, sensed, and responded to it, it moved towards complexities whereby in unclear and ambiguous times, a lot of probing and research had to take place to make decisions.

“We moved from an unknown world into a known world and business practices emerged differently from this. This is a typical example of transitioning through different stages to land up either dysfunctional or in a comfortable, known space.

“This model refers to the Cynefin Framework developed by David Snowden. The new emerging practices will outlive the pandemic, and it is a matter of how engaging leadership can ensure easy transition into a model that works best for the organisation as a whole – its people (employees, suppliers and clients), processes and systems.”

* This is the first of a two-part series penned by Fourie exclusively for Freight News on the Covid-related topic of working from home or not. The follow-up report, focusing on the pros and cons of the current norm of working from home, will be posted tomorrow.

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