Remote Workplace Success - Survey Results
In early June, Harbinger and Alavetta came together to discuss the implications of Remote Working success and the impact of these changes on organizations and their people.
See our original article here.
Thank you for taking our survey! We’ve since compiled the results and presented them here, along with some guidance on how to address specific issues if you have weakness in a particular area.
Click the diagram to expand.
First, we want to recognize that this survey was developed as a “rough and ready” diagnostic tool. We understand that we engaged individual participants from various organizations instead of organizations in their entirety, so it does not fully represent the whole of organizations, but just what everyone is feeling during this time. We felt a collection of these impressions would give us the general insights we were looking for.
We’ve received a total of 48 completed surveys. We acknowledge that it’s a bit of a long survey, and appreciate the time spent by those who made it through to the end.
Here are some key demographic data on our participants:
About 42% of participants work in the public sector and 44% work in the private sector
The top 5 industries that participants work in are Educational Services, Professional, scientific and technical services, Finance and Insurance, Manufacturing, and Public Administration
Half of our participants work for organizations with more than 500 people across all locations where their employer operates, and only a small fraction of participants work for organizations with less than 5 total employees
An overwhelming majority of respondents felt that they were thriving in the Remote Working environment. All but 4 landed in our “Excelling” quadrant, and only one would be considered “Under Achieving” according to our Remote Workplace Success Map.
Click the diagram to expand.
While many of our respondents landed high on the Culture and Capabilities scale, there are a few factors to consider when analyzing the abundance of positive results. Looking back, it's pretty much a given the survey suffers from a massive selection bias, and not fully indicative of the general population:
We shared the survey through our industry connections and via LinkedIn. Between Harbinger and Alavetta, our own network of professionals are guaranteed to slant towards organizations that are more technologically mature. Users of LinkedIn inherently may also have this slant.
Half of the respondents are from companies of over 500+ employees, where one might expect more capability and cultural maturity.
In a voluntary survey, there is always the potential for self-selection bias (e.g. those who are not excelling in the remote workspace may not wish to respond or are too busy to complete the survey).
And the good ol’ Dunning-Kruger effect, when individuals overestimate their ability in a specific area, preventing them from accurately assessing their skills.
Despite the shortcomings of the survey, we felt there was great engagement and hope it made for a good opportunity for participants to reflect.
These results are based on an average of our respondent’s scores, which means that while some participants are “Excelling”, there are still a few areas where we saw repeated weaknesses.
Here are some suggestions on how to improve in a given area. While we can’t provide an exact answer in the context of your organization and role, below are some recommendations you can try:
Recommendations for Capabilities:
Click a Survey Question below to expand recommendation.
Recommendations for Culture:
Click a Survey Question below to expand recommendation.
Many of our respondents shared their specific thoughts as well. A few themes arose:
Shifting to the remote workplace means more than having the technology in place to do so. Tools need to be aligned to a strong culture of communication and trust to combat resistance from organizations and their people.
"My employer has a very conservative and traditional culture and lacks digital documentation and communication collaboration tools. Unionized staff comprise a large percentage of all staff. Trust and alignment between departments is lacking. I believe transitioning in a careful and thoughtful manner to a blended remote / office workplace could be quite effective. Modern collaboration tools, policies, etc. would help support this along with stronger alignment across all organizational divisions."
"Clear boundaries/rules might be needed on hours/availability. I feel I start my days earlier (due to no commute) and stay on longer, and at times do some more hours at night. Difficult to set limits and avoid 'burn out' without a change of scenery for me personally."
It's important to find the right balance of boundaries in the virtual landscape to help you balance work and home life when they're both happening in the same space. This includes identifying personal boundaries (e.g. how you manage or structure your workday) and interpersonal boundaries (e.g. your colleagues know when they can expect to reach you).
"I think for large public organizations working from home would force institutions to adapt and become flexible. We have been bogged down by bureaucracy and red tape for so long that I truly believe a shift if work spaces would lead to a shift in work culture and productivity."
Although there’s no telling when the crisis will be over, we can make some reasonable predictions on what we think will happen next. Will some organizations choose to stay remote or will they develop a blended approach instead? What will employees prefer most?
When we asked our respondents to select a scenario that they think is the most likely to happen at the end of the Covid-19 crisis, a majority of respondents (68.75% or 33 participants) selected “the workplace environment will be a blend of ‘remote’ and in-person”. A smaller fraction of our respondents chose that the workplace will either remain exclusively remote or return to what it was before.
Q24: Of the following, select the scenario you think is the MOST likely to happen to your workplace environment at the end of the Covid-19 crisis:
Additionally, 83.33% or 40 respondents selected that they would prefer to work in a blended workspace, with the option to work remotely sometimes. Only a small fraction of participants would prefer to either work exclusively in the workplace or have the option to choose where their permanent workspace or location would be.
Q25: What would you LIKE to see happen to your workplace environment, at the end of the Covid-19 crisis?
When it comes to making the permanent transition to a full or blended remote workforce, there are many elements needed to support a successful transformation. According to the data we collected, respondents felt most strongly about two specific components.
Q26: On a scale of one to five, rate your agreement with each of the following statements, given your place of work decides to go fully remote or adopt a blended model after the Covid-19 crisis.
What do you think is needed to support a “permanent” transition to a full or blended remote workforce?
They frequently agreed with:
“Employees would need additional ways to feel connected to the workplace”
“New employees would need different tools and methods to get to the know the workplace and its people”.
Thus, reinforcing one of the common themes that arose throughout the survey, the need for organizations to align their remote working technology, tools, and best practices, to a strong culture of communication and trust.
A full return to business-as-usual and fully staffed physical offices is unlikely. The future of the workplace is a blended or hybrid environment, as 69% of our survey respondents believe it to be and 84% would prefer it to be.
As employees begin returning to work, many limitations are put in place. Offices are limiting capacities typically to 20-30% of their pre-COVID 19 capacities, or employees only come into the office on specific days or shifts. This results in a hybrid team structure, where some employees work remotely, and others work from the home. Organizations will continue to evaluate permanent remote working arrangements as a way to meet expectations, but fully remote teams where all staff are exclusively working at home, where there is no office to meet your teammates in person, will be rare. Merely replicating the physical environment into a remote environment will invite the worst aspects of the workplaces left behind and lose the opportunity to improve the way you work; to cut back on length and number of meetings, to cut back on the number of people that need to be involved in any decision, or giving staff more flexible work hours and autonomy.
There are numerous new opportunities to pilot approaches like deep work, the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task, improved productivity, work satisfaction and personal life balance.
“If you threw a guitar at me, and I’ve never played a guitar before, everyone would understand that I’m going to suck. It’s the same thing for remote work. If people haven’t practiced before, they’re going to suck for a little bit. My hope is that people look back at this time and see that they ended up getting a lot done and people enjoyed it. It will spur companies to revisit the way they work.”
Josh Fried, CEO, Basecamp.
Hybrid creates two fundamentally different working experiences to manage. Smaller organizations that have one physical office location will have relatively simple transition challenges. In contrast, large organizations with multiple locations and divisions of operations will find the complexity and nuances of the transition, significantly more difficult to design and manage. Maintaining and improving the corporate culture and the employee experience is essential to ensure organizations achieve the outcome to thrive. A culture built on physical office interaction that acts as a glue for culture and as a stopgap for inefficiencies in communication systems will need to be fully re-examined.
Also, creating parity between the remote and in-office experience will be a concern. New compensation and expense policies will take time to develop and implement. Remote work expenses traditionally have not been reimbursable as optional work-from-home programs are at the employees' convenience, and such employees continue to have the option to work in their employer's office and use company equipment and supplies if they desire. However, we would expect proactive employers to consider the business case of redirecting real estate costs to reimbursing expenses for a more remote-enabled employee, for efficiency reasons (e.g. home office expenses, which may include a portion of the expenses associated with internet, mobile devices, personal computers or tablets, office furniture and other associated software or hardware). Furthermore, the employment landscape will also evolve, creating more opportunities for job-seekers geographically. Employers can now search from a larger pool of candidates for the best fit but may need to compete for talent on how robustly they enable these prospective employees to work remotely. (We’ll refrain from going down the rabbit hole of remote employee experience and retention here.)
We are still in the middle of a massive transition. Over 85% of our respondents believe that they still need more ways to connect to their workplace and teammates, and that better methods and tools are still required to feel connected to their workplace. Remote working will continue to evolve and organizations will further define their best practices, but the learning curve for many is still very steep.