By Tsubasa Nakazawa
With the pandemic winding down across the globe, remote and hybrid work models are no longer a practical necessity. As a result, in many companies, the debate has shifted from ‘how do we work remotely?’ to ‘why should we work remotely?’
Both sides offer compelling arguments. On the one hand, remote work is more flexible, which offers employees better work-life balance, and a broader talent pool for employers. On the other hand, this working arrangement can weaken ties between employees, and fuel anxieties around job security.
While remote work has been beneficial for recruitment, high-earning employees (especially in expensive cities) are facing increased competition on a regional and global scale. For instance, hiring managers in cities such as Singapore and Hong Kong are finding it far more cost-efficient to hire just-as-capable workers in the Philippines, Malaysia or Vietnam, for much less.
Research shows around 50% of professionals are troubled by job insecurity stemming from their absence in the office, as 94% of managers are already working with remote talent to some degree. More than one-third of working parents feel that choosing to work from home will negatively impact their careers.
In fact, 42% worry that bringing up any complaints or challenges about working from home will result in their company reverting to working in person.
With more than 227,000 global tech workers having lost their jobs this year, some employees have burning questions about whether they should willingly give up remote working to safeguard their positions. Managers have to step up and address their employees’ pressing concerns.
For starters, not all layoffs are the consequence of companies replacing expensive employees with overseas workers. Many still see great value in having high-earning, highly competent staff in key markets.
However, high-salaried employees generally have the most influence and presence within the company and are therefore expected to produce higher output. If they are incapable of delivering for the company, regardless of whether they’re working from home, then that’s a cause for concern.
When it comes to managing remote workers, salary doesn’t make much of a difference. What’s crucial is for managers to adapt their management style to the work policies of their company.
Micromanagement and constant monitoring are no longer viable in a remote or hybrid work environment. Managers need to create an environment in which employees can exercise their autonomy and show initiative.
Managers also need to accept to take on a certain amount of risk. Although many managers are worried about productivity, it’s important to remember that skipping work and slacking off have long existed since long before Covid.
Whether or not you have work-from-home policies, people who don’t want to work will figure out ways not to. Managers have to be able to accurately evaluate the people who produce results within their team.
There are benefits to returning to the office, but those who adopt a hybrid approach should do so with common sense and an open mind. The ultimate goal of getting together at the office is to stimulate interactions and foster a sense of teamwork—not to force all of your employees to come in tired and grumpy after sitting in rush-hour traffic.
Flexibility in working hours can go a long way to making office work more pleasant and productive, especially in big cities with heavy road traffic.
Regardless of whether your company ends up going fully remote, hybrid, or full-time at the office, the key priority for management is the same: open communication.
An open and honest conversation between management and employees about the benefits and drawbacks of working from home can go a long way in alleviating concerns about job security.
Once everyone is on the same page, through continuous dialogue, companies can strike the balance that works best for everyone. Any work model can be productive as long as it isn’t imposed from the top down, but openly accepted by all.
Tsubasa Nakazawa is the managing director of Kintone Southeast Asia Sdn. Bhd