When you read articles in business magazines or watch the evening news, you can come away believing that every working person in the U.S. will soon be working remotely – either from their homes or from other locations that are not owned by their employers.
But is that really going to happen? Will every single employee in America soon be practicing Work From Home (WFH) or Work From Anywhere (WFA)?
Probably not, and here is only one reason why:
According to “What 800 Executives Envision for the Postpandemic Workforce,” a study just released by McKinsey, at least 60% of American workers can’t work remotely at all – and they won’t be able to in the future either. According to the study, “It is important to keep in mind, however, that more than 60 percent of workers in the US economy cannot work remotely. Their jobs require at least some physical presence such as standing on a meat processing line, helping customers in a store, or providing healthcare services. In less economically developed countries, the share of workers unable to work remotely is even higher . . . The potential for remote work depends on the nature of tasks conducted; workers in jobs requiring interaction with machinery or in outdoor spaces, for example, are less likely to be able to work remotely than those using computers to do their work.”
The authors of the McKinsey report also point out that if remote work becomes more widespread, company leaders are going to have to redesign many of the jobs within their organizations – how those jobs are done, who does them, where they are completed, and more.
Those Are the Trends . . . But What about Your Job?
It’s nice to read that report and find out what those 800 executives are thinking. But let’s step back a moment and ask a fundamental question about a simpler, more immediate question . . .
How will your job change?
Because when all is said and done and you take a look at a room full of individuals who are already working remotely, you see that a lot of people are finding it hard to do their jobs. They are experiencing some very fundamental challenges that those 800 executives might have missed while they were searching for the “big picture” of the future.
“I’m cut off from tech support.” Yes, an employee carries a new company-supplied laptop to a remote office that is equipped with excellent Wi-Fi. What could possibly go wrong? Often, a lot of things. Despite the fact that the company tried to give that employee everything she needs to turn in a day of productive work, everything goes wrong. She can’t access her files remotely, she can’t log onto Outlook, and on and on it goes. (Also her company-supplied phone just died, and she needs to spend an hour talking to your help desk, but let’s not go into that.) Meanwhile, the company is paying for work that isn’t getting done.
“Where the hell is what’s his name?” In other words, people are sometimes difficult to find when most of them are working in a number of locations. Sure, that 11:00 meeting is “on everybody’s calendar,” but at video meeting time, three key people are just not there. (One is in his car and trying to log in using his phone, another is in her country house, where electrical service just died.) Despite all the best efforts, people are finding there is no substitute for being able to have on-site employees walk down the hall and meet in a conference room. And that ability is gone.
“I’m supposed to be happy, but I’m not.” Company leaders have done everything they can to address employees’ desires and needs. They set up remote locations where people can work, they no longer require employees to commute long distances, they help employees spend more time with their families. And employees are not happy anyway. Are they just never going to be pleased?
That is not the issue. Despite everything that companies do to give people what they say they want, those employees are not always delighted with the results. That’s because in the new world of remote work employees often experience the following problems, which smart company leaders need to recognize and address:
- Employees who work close to home can experience work/family conflicts even more acutely than they did before. Working closer to home can require parents to feel more pressure to attend events at their children’s schools, to prepare meals more often for the family, to get the car serviced, to run more errands. You see, working near home can add to the conflict of balancing a home and a job.
- The new world of work can bring employees face-to-face with career problems. As one man explained his situation recently, “Until the pandemic, I thought I was only passing through this job for a few months until I could find something better. Now, the job has become my new self-definition and I am not going anywhere.” Of course, a variety of companies really are hiring people during the pandemic. But it has also forced many workers to confront the shortcomings of their current jobs, and in new ways.
Are You Happy About the Way You’re Working? Are Your Employees?
Those could be the famous “million dollar questions.”
Maintaining a workforce of employees who are happy to be working in the new Covid-19 world of work isn’t easy. You need to talk to them, and you need to ask the right questions.
Call KettleSpace today to talk over the changes you are making in the way your people work. We have the experience to reshape your work settings in ways that address the deeper factors that can help employees like – and even love – working for you in this new world of business.