Does “work-from-home” (WFH), which is here to stay, create an unfair competition between employees at the offices and working from home? How can the organizations get ahead of the motivation and efficiency losses caused by this competition?
- İlkiz ALP

Many firms now normalized WFH and either start to permanently work from home or employ a hybrid system. This disruptive change in fact brought together many different issues as well.

Professionals appreciate the freedom and comfort of working out of office, if not permanently then from time to time, and their loyalty towards their organizations increase as they feel trusted by them. Having said that, some question marks start to arise. Nowadays, the most common worry that we encounter is the fear of being passed over for promotions in favor of the in-office working colleagues.

The act of favoring the ones physically closer to us or the proximity bias in organizational psychology, should be carefully tracked, especially by the managers having hybrid teams, partly working from the office, and partly working from home. The responsibility does not solely belong to these managers individually. Organizations are obliged to create an equal opportunity employment experience for their employees, regardless of the working space. Thus, this should be embedded into corporate culture.

So, how can the organizations walk off from this danger? Unfortunately, there is no magic wand to sort it out. However, there are various methods that would assist the organizations. Let’s have a look at some of them:

1. Training and Awareness: Professionals are not machines; we are all humans. Therefore, we can easily fall into the proximity bias trap. However, the more the issue is mentioned and reviewed in length at corporate trainings and the potential risks associated with it are discussed, the quicker the awareness at management team is created. Afterwards, they can consciously navigate away from such an instinctual bias.

2. Lead by Example: In organizations with a hybrid working environment, the leaders can normalize WFH by regularly working out of offices themselves. In time, all managers would solely focus on performance and not pay attention to their teams’ being at the office physically. Top team’s working out of office would also encourage the professionals wishing to work from home but are reluctant to raise such a demand to their supervisors. This in turn would lead to efficiency increase in the team.

3. Fair Assignment of Projects: We all know that some projects are career builders while some are must-dos with limited added value. Ensuring the career builders are justly distributed within the team would increase the awareness of individual performances and the harmony within the team. Employees’ loyalty to their organizations and their efficiencies increases when they feel they are treated fairly.

4. Objective Performance Management: As organizations give objective, measurable, clear, and irrelevant of workplace targets and measure their performances accordingly, both the working place would lose its importance in the eyes of the managers, and the employees would get rid of the worries of WFH having negative effect on their evaluations and completely focus to their tasks at hand.

5. Inclusive Meetings: Obviously, there is a difference between physically attending a meeting and joining via video conferencing. Connection issues, delays in voice transmission, worries of interrupting others while talking and many more issues pose advantages to physical participants. Having a facilitator in mixed-participant meetings and ensuring each participant is given the opportunity to speak his or her mind would eliminate such inequalities. If the technology permits, having cameras on for the physical participants and holding a full-scale video conference meeting could also be a solution.

6. Regular Catchups: The water-cooler or coffee room chats provide us very valuable information regarding our jobs. In addition, colleagues who do not regularly cooperate establish some sort of rapport between them and intra-organizational communication improves. The organizations are also obliged to ensure remote employees possess the same opportunity. Managers’ catching up with the remote team members regularly, even if online, would keep the relations amicable. Even having face-to-face meetings and activities with all employees, sparing the budget beforehand, would depict the awareness of organizations on this topic.

Yes, the above-mentioned methods and may be the ones specifically designed by the organizations themselves would ensure that WFH would not negatively impact the career trajectory of employees. But what’s more important is to apply these methods consistently. If both the leadership team and the human resources department, as the custodians of corporate culture, keep their fingers on the employees regarding this issue and reflect the awareness regarding the unimportance of working space, then the motivational increase would definitely have its impact on business results.

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