IBM recent remote work reversal, are you rethinking about it?

By Lim Say Ping For iqDynamics

IBM, a pioneer and strong proponent of remote work for decades just reversed the policy. The reasons given were similar to the ones Yahoo gave when they  did the reversal 4 years ago. They claimed that puling people together in the offices would improve collaboration, productivity and innovation. Does your company employ the same HR policy and are you rethinking about the usefulness of the remote working policy? 

Many companies in Singapore are convinced of the benefits and have adopted the remote working policy in recent years.

  • It provides flexibility and greater work life balance for the employees
  • A survey published in Harvard Business Review shows that employees are more productive and loyal compared with their on-site peers.
  • Technology made it easy and secure to work from home or anywhere and collaboration is also possible.

Moreover the Singapore Government provides grants to companies to further promote  and encourage remote working. As HR managers or professionals, would you like to share with us your observations and experience?

However, there are concerns such as effective management of employee output and performance. This implies that the company must have rigorous performance management process and systems in place. Other possible concerns are the number of hours that employees work remotely. Because of job roles such as customer service staff who must start work at a certain fixed time, and are expected to be on the job all the time. How do you manage and control these time attendance requirements?

While remote work may not be suitable for some employees and some industries, we believe that remote working is here to stay. The challenge is to tailor the program to maximize the benefits and minimize the disadvantages resulting in a good mix of remote and office work.

These are the key considerations:

  1. Remote working is probably not for every staff or every industry. It will work if the services and output are not negatively impacted when the employee is physically away from the office. Tasks that can be performed with remote access to company systems, collaborate through applications and interact productively with customers and colleagues would rely heavily on technology and cloud based software. Eg. Microsoft Office 365, Employee portal and HRIS (human resource information system) self-service applications. 
  2. Rigorous performance management process and appraisal system. With less face to face interactions between employer and employees, frequent interaction, job reviews, coaching and documentations of work performed will help. This will ensure that physical absence from the office does not reduce employee engagement and performance. 
  3. Collaboration should be carried out spontaneously using latest technology, i.e. there should be adequate investment in both technology and processes by the management.
  4. Implementing time tracking process and use of Timesheet software as a tool to document number of hours worked to compliment the performance appraisal process and system as well as any project management application. 
  5. If time attendance management is required for whatever reason, one can look at smartphone apps to integrate the attendance data to the human resource management system(HRMS) and the project monitoring apps.
  6. Having a right mix of modes of working
    Employees should work remotely only some of the time during the week or the month. We believe that employees should be rostered to come to the physical office during some days of the week or month to foster and enhance engagement with the company and other colleagues. Good rostering and absence(physical) management system may help in managing these issues. Face to face meetings will play an important part in fostering good employee relationship and improve morale as well.

The above considerations can be tailored to groups of employees who may be given the permission to work remotely. Most white-collar workers are already doing remote working without prior arrangement with the company as they frequently do work via email, messaging, collaborating, video/audio conferencing etc. while they are away from the physical office during or after  office hours.  With this observation, company management should consider implementing good management processes, HRIS and business information system to ensure that the benefits of remote working can be optimized easily.

If you are interested in finding out more about iqDynamics’s HRiQ and Talent Management System, please contact us here.

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