More and more companies are considering a permanent switch to a work from home (WFH) policy to save on overheads. While this does hold many benefits, a study by the global research organisation Ipsos shows that working from home could lead to a loss of competitiveness, a slump in productivity, a loss of employee motivation and the erosion of team cohesion.
According to many respondents, business growth is placed at risk by WFH, and managers reported that they found it more challenging to manage their teams remotely.
Concerns of WFH
This corresponds with the responses of employees themselves, with more than half (55%) reporting that teams do not collaborate as well, take more frequent breaks (55%) and experience more interruptions at home (49%).
Just over two thirds (67%) said they were spending more time on domestic chores and errands, and close to three out of ten (27%) admitted they were not disciplined enough to work from home.
Respondents also highlighted issues of trust, the absence of on-the-job training and a sense of isolation, which could lead to the decay of the organisational culture that many companies depend on for superior business performance.
“While many people say they prefer their home environment to the office and enjoy the flexibility of working from home, it’s quite clear that their performance can suffer,” said Stella Fleetwood, service line lead at Ipsos.
“Teamwork, especially, becomes much harder.”
Managers indicated that they found it more difficult to monitor their teams’ performance (54%) and that their teams were not fully engaged with each other (52%). It is also more difficult to provide effective training (56%) and execute day-to-day team functions (53%). Managers also reported that team members tended to be less punctual (55%), and teams communicated less effectively when working remotely.
Reaction of different age groups
Younger employees were especially adversely affected by WFH, with respondents aged 18 to 28 reporting that they experienced more distractions and interruptions at home, lacked discipline and motivation and found themselves to be less productive.
Those aged 30 to 44 said working in an office built trust and made them feel more important to the business, while late-career respondents, aged 45 to 55, found working from home easier.
Women vs men
Female respondents indicated that they struggled with balancing routine and other commitments, took more frequent breaks and felt less important.
Due to inadequate communication, teamwork was more difficult for male respondents. They also spent more time in meetings and had difficulty keeping teams motivated.
Men and women alike found completing tasks more difficult and labour-intensive.
“Executives should consider what employees are experiencing while working remotely. The new way of working does not necessarily mean a better work-life balance, or a happier, more motivated workforce,” said Fleetwood.
“We could also see higher churn within the workforce as employees lose their organic connection to colleagues and the business culture, and experience a loss of motivation, feelings of isolation, lower morale and stunted career development.”