Virtual Work – force : Challenge for HR?

According to a survey titled ‘The Future of Work: A Journey to 2022’ more than half of its respondents think that technology will bring about major changes in the way we work in the near future. About 10000 people from India, China, Germany, the UK and the US participated in the survey. Out of these numbers only 14% of the UK employees said that they had a desire to remain within a traditional office environment. So this poses a challenge for Human Resource Departments all over the world to be able to retain their employees in the office work place instead of letting majority of them get reduced to remote employees.

Although majority of the respondents wanted a virtual workplace, they also need to be aware of the disadvantages of working in one. With the feasibilities of working virtually come many major downsides. Not only does it come off as a challenge for the Human Resource Department, it is an equal challenge for the employees to work in an environment devoid of professionalism.

The biggest challenge while working in a place other than an office would be the distractions that could be caused by the surroundings. Typically, offices are known to be quiet places where people can effectively work in a calm environment without any major hindering factors. Plus, when an employee is distracted, his work suffers thus lowering the overall productivity of the company. Unproductive employees are not desired by firms and thus this adds to the employee’s own disadvantage rather than act as an advantage.

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Since an office is a purely professional environment, it becomes easier for an employee to separate his personal life from his professional life. Thus, drawing a line between the two becomes a challenge for one working as a remote employee. This is because when one works at an office, his working hours are fixed whereas it becomes difficult to stick to a schedule at home as there are no restrictions or time limits. Also, taking into account a study by researchers at University of Akron, it was proved biologically that home is a more stressful environment for mothers than the office. While one is working at home, the distance from the workplace may cause anxiety and isolation in the mind of the worker. This again hinders the overall work by affecting his concentration and focus on the work.

When an employee is working at a place other than the office, it makes monitoring the work ethics another real challenge for the Human Resource Management. For example, a firm XYZ may be known for ethics because of the constant supervision and vigilance of its Human Resources Department. This is possible only when employees are physically present and not located far away. Consequently, the employees may resort to unfair means of working and it might even go undetected thereby reducing the credibility of the company altogether.

Employees should realize that face-to-face communication facilitates the work dynamics better than online or virtual communication can. Certain activities can be performed better in a team rather than being handled individually. Plus, interacting with one’s teammates not only makes work more interesting but it also enables the person to establish close relations with his colleagues. It becomes possible for him to maintain good relations with his peers. Also, working together induces a sense of team spirit and belonging in the company rather than causing a feeling of alienation one might counter at home. It has been noted that working at home can cause a sense of monotony due to which the employee loses all motivation to work. Additionally, in an office the presence of senior authorities invokes a sense of comfort and they also act as guides in times of need.

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To make employees willing to work in the office instead of them preferring to work at home, their time spent in the office needs to be pleasing. For this the environment that they work in has to be friendly, productive and relaxing. Recreational activities should be allowed for employees, enabling them to take regular breaks. Another aspect most Human Resources Managers need to make sure of is to not make their employees overwork every single day. In certain situations the employees should also be allowed to choose alternate ways to work instead of dictating every aspect of their work. However, the rules for their freedom should be exercised in such a way that it yields maximum output from them in a disciplined manner. Most productive are those employees who work within the given time frame and in an appropriate manner.

For making the employees feel valued, it is necessary for the employer to be able to communicate it effectively. If majority of the workforce is not present, it poses a potential problem wherein lack of communication will hinder the relationship between the employer and the employee. Or, even if the appreciation for their work is carried through online means the extent of gratitude will not be felt as deeply. Plus, when working with his colleagues the employee could feel more motivated to do his work rather than when he works alone.

Even though the virtual workspace is becoming increasingly common for industries like the IT industry there are sectors like the manufacturing industry which cannot function solely in real-time environments. Working in a physical environment can lead one to become an effective employee which would be difficult to do so at home. This is because we can give a homely feeling to the office but it would not be appreciated to turn a home into an office. . Therefore, those opting for virtual workspaces need to realize the importance of working in a physical environment are far greater and more suitable.

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Virtual Work – force : Challenge for HR?

by Sumati Pingala time to read: 5 min
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