Covid-19 has accelerated the shift to remote working for businesses and their employees, but there are many limitations of remote working. The Drum finds out from American tech giant Dell on how it makes remote working a success.
As people globally continue to work from home in line with their various nation's Covid-19 guidelines and regulations, a common misconception is that virtual culture means businesses can place less emphasis on employee communication or engagement.
A recent Dell Technologies Remote Work Readiness (RWR) Index found encouraging levels of optimism towards the future of remote work, with 84% of employees surveyed in Singapore feeling prepared to work from home in the long-term.
However, they also acknowledged the potential for challenges when it comes to productivity as they continue to work remotely through the circuit breaker (Singapore's official term for the lockdown which came into place last year.)
This suggests that while employees need technology to work efficiently, access to HR-related resources such as communication with employers and best practice training for remote work is desired. From their experience of working remotely during the circuit breaker, employees felt that their companies need to be more supportive of remote working because it is here to stay.
Eric Goh, the vice president and managing director for Singapore at Dell Technologies explains that along with providing tech solutions, there needs to be more emphasis on offering a suitable working environment and building a flexible culture.
“HR teams must work closely together with business leaders to provide holistic and continuous learning platforms so that employees can keep up with the skills they need to grow and compete. This could come in the form of mentorship and virtual collaboration programmes,” he explains.
“We see this transition as an opportunity for us to create a stronger customer and team member experience. We have seen our teams find creative ways such as virtual happy hours and yoga sessions to stay connected and productive.”
He adds: “As leaders, keeping the communication line open is very important. Outside of video calls, there are plenty of other ways to engage with the team, such as participating in virtual happy hours or coffee meet-ups.”
The RWR Index found less than four in 10 (39%) felt that their employers were fully supportive of long-term remote work. When it came to technology, nearly half (49%) believe that their employer was not doing everything they could to support effective remote working.
Only 38% agreed that their employer is doing everything they can to provide them with the HR support needed to successfully work remotely.
Goh notes that while many businesses have turned to their employees to mutually decide a working style that can ensure employee’s safety, well-being and productivity, people have different preferences and giving them a choice or opportunity to voice their opinion empowers them to deliver their best work in an environment that suits them.
Employers planning to adopt a hybrid or remote working culture for the long term need to carefully evaluate their employees’ needs and look for any requirements to update policies, he explains, by creating open communication channels and provide a platform where employees can discuss issues related to their mental well-being.
As the work environment changes, he says employers should be conscious that the factors that most commonly induce stress are also changing. For example, job security is more of a factor than ever as 29% of employees were worried about their job security due to a lack of interaction with their employers.
To ensure that employees continue to feel connected with the team, Goh stresses the importance for employers to preserve ‘company culture’ in whatever way possible.
“Gen Z, more than any other age group, feel that they perform better in an office environment. This may be because they are in the early phase of their career and find that they can better learn and upskill around their colleagues who are physically close to them in the office,” he explains.
“As we shift from response to recovery, our learnings from the overnight technology transformation are significant, and they should reshape the future of work. Organisations must embrace innovation and allow it to happen anywhere. Our role is to give people the tools they need and offer flexibility as a permanent fixture where roles allow.”
Dell is helping its customers through their digital implementation to enable their employees to be an effective remote workforce. It has also been sharing its remote and flexible work expertise and best practices from its Connected Workplace programme with customers and partners around the globe.
The programme encourages a change in how people think about work, where work is not anchored to one place and time and is focused on outcomes instead. Goh says technology readiness, leadership and a resilient culture are critical to helping Dell’s teams do their best work.
What about Dell itself? Goh says the through the Connected Workplace programme, the company is able to share resources to direct team members to resolve their inquiries and dedicate time to resolve any serious tech issues that team members face.
"Our Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) have also helped to keep the company culture alive regardless of where team members are working. For example, Conexus is focused on connecting our remote team members. It has stepped up to help us all feel more successful when working remotely, sharing blogs with tips and tricks, hosting virtual hangouts for all team members and offering ongoing, completely virtual, volunteer opportunities."
He adds: "We have also established a working parent forum as we know team members with children are struggling to balance work vs home life.”