Work-From-Home Woes And Work Design Wins

by | Sep 11, 2023 | Employees, Productivity, Technology, Work Design, Work-From-Home

The Covid pandemic reshaped the way we work, thrusting work-from-home policies into the limelight. As companies transitioned their workforce to remote setups, it became apparent that ensuring employee motivation and productivity in a virtual environment posed new challenges. And companies continue to experience challenges with return-to-office policies.

Enter motivational work design, a powerful framework that can help companies unlock the potential of their remote teams. Motivational work design can be utilized to enhance work-from-home policies and decisions, fostering a culture of employee engagement, customer focus, and high performance.

Tensions Rising

Today, nearly 9 in 10 workers considering a job change (87%) are interested in hybrid or fully remote positions. Many workers are willing to take a pay cut to work remotely. Nearly one-third of workers (32%) who go into the office at least one day a week would earn less for the ability to do their job remotely – all the time.

More than three-quarters of professionals (77%) who can work where and when they are most productive are putting in more hours now than three years ago. And despite those longer workdays, a remarkable 46% report higher job satisfaction. Business units with engaged workers have 23% higher profit compared with business units with disengaged workers, according to Gallop.

Perhaps ironically, Zoom, the company that arguably became synonymous with working from home during the COVID pandemic, has issued a return-to-the-office mandate for the majority of its workers. Part of the rationale is that remote work doesn’t let employees be as innovative.

As we see from current headlines, employee preferences are running directly into a renewed push by employers to compel people back into offices: a staggering 9 out of 10 companies will require employees back to the office sometime in 2023.

Help or Hinder

Does working from home help or hinder productivity? Remote work may not be as productive as once thought, recent studies show. The number of people working from home has increased 5 times in the years from 2019 to 2023, with 40% of US employees now working remotely at least one day a week. While arguable, fully remote work is associated with 10-20% lower productivity than fully in-person work.

On top of that, a record low 28%, of remote workers felt their company’s mission made them feel their job is important—down from 32% last year and 37% in 2020, according to a new Gallup survey.

Enter Motivational Work Design

Motivational work design focuses on designing job characteristics that stimulate employees’ intrinsic motivation, resulting in higher engagement, job satisfaction, productivity, and enhanced customer outcomes. Mountains of research show it is possible and desirable to design motivating work, resulting in positive consequences for both individuals and their organizations.

Key components of motivational work design include meaning or purpose, autonomy, feedback, task variety, entirety, and oh, and let’s not forget technology:

  • Purpose: The outcome of the work is important, and the employee knows why.
  • Autonomy: The ability to use one’s judgment and discretion.
  • Feedback: The work itself provides feedback – direct visibility to outcomes.
  • Task Variety: Being able to apply a range of one’s skills.
  • Entirety: Being responsible for an entire work product.
  • Technology: The technology deployed is fit for purpose.

Designing The Future of Work

These steps can advance the work-from-home innovations needed for today’s firms:

  • Recognizing Meaning and Impact: Employees are more likely to be motivated when they understand the meaning and impact of their work. Companies can promote meaning in remote work by regularly communicating the purpose and goals of projects, sharing success stories, and illustrating how individual contributions contribute to ultimate value realization – and the organization’s success. This sense of purpose instills a greater sense of meaning and motivation in remote employees—and all employees.
  • Assessing Employee Needs: To optimize work-from-home policies, companies must understand their employees’ needs and preferences. Conducting surveys, interviews, or focus groups can provide valuable insights into the specific challenges employees face while working remotely. This information serves as a foundation for tailoring motivational work design strategies to address individual and team requirements, within the context of customer success and organizational goals.
  • Job Crafting for Remote Work: Job crafting involves redesigning tasks and responsibilities to align with individual strengths and preferences. For remote work, companies can encourage employees to assess their work environments, identify areas for improvement, and propose changes. This collaborative approach allows employees to tailor their tasks and roles to their skills and interests, leading to increased motivation and job satisfaction.
  • Empowering Autonomy and Flexibility: Remote work provides a unique opportunity for employees to exercise autonomy and take ownership of their work. Companies can foster autonomy by establishing clear performance objectives, granting decision-making authority, and allowing flexible work schedules. Additionally, providing remote workers with the necessary tools, resources, and support systems is essential to empower their autonomy and ensure seamless collaboration.
  • Cultivating a Feedback Culture: Effective feedback is a powerful motivator for remote employees. Implementing regular feedback mechanisms, such as virtual check-ins, performance evaluations, and recognition programs, can provide remote workers with valuable insights into their progress and performance. Constructive feedback promotes growth, strengthens engagement, and maintains a sense of connection between employees and their supervisors.
  • Promoting Skill Development: Remote work offers an opportunity for individuals to enhance their skills and expertise. Companies can support employee growth by providing virtual training programs, e-learning platforms, and opportunities for professional development. Investing in skill-building initiatives not only benefits individual employees but also enhances the overall capabilities and adaptability of the remote workforce.

Adapt and Achieve

As remote and hybrid work continue to influence the future of work, organizations must adapt their policies to optimize employee motivation, engagement, and productivity. By embracing motivational work design principles and tailoring them to the remote and hybrid work context, companies can produce an innovative environment that empowers and engages employees, fostering collaboration—driving both customer and company success!

View original post at Forbes.com, where David Henkin is a contributing writer

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David G. Henkin

I serve as an advisor to corporate and nonprofit leaders and their organizations in the areas of innovation, work design, business and technology, teams, and leadership. An expert in designing and implementing innovative business strategies and solutions improving performance, profitable possibilities, and developing organizational capabilities through a collaborative-growth approach. My most recent book is Fixing Work: A Tale about How to Design Jobs Employees Love. My work experience includes Chief Innovation Officer at Vertex (VERX), also serving as Executive Vice President. In addition, launching and leading their public cloud business and Managed Services and Outsourcing practice. I was a board member at Wheelhouse Analytics from startup through successful strategic acquisition, served as Chief Operating Officer at Coates Analytics also from startup through successful strategic acquisition. Prior to that I was a Corporate Officer and Principal at Vanguard.