This article is about how working from home can damage your corporate culture. The money saved on sending people home because of COVID19 can easily be lost due to lover employee – and customer satisfaction. Read on

The Excitement

Many office workers around the world have been sent home to work from home because of COVID19. There has been some excitement from both employees and employers, but for very different reasons. Obviously, employers are excited because we know that people working from home tend to work more and therefore are more productive.

Employees are excited because they get more flexibility, save commuting time and don’t have their boss around all the time.

Recently we see more and more companies moving towards working from home a permanent solution and not just an emergency solution because of COVID19.

In Gugin we have worked with developing and “fixing” corporate cultures all over the world for the past 19 years. As the excitement is understandable we are also certain that working from home as a permanent condition can have some very negative consequences. Consequences, that eventually will affect the operational performance of the company in a negative way.



Working from home – What can possibly go wrong?

We know from our assessments and interviews with employees throughout the world, that working from home is not for everybody. We human beings are either intrinsic or extrinsic motivated. That is, we get our motivation from either within ourselves or from our surroundings. For people who are predominantly intrinsic motivated working from home might be considered a blessing, if they are single and live alone. People who are predominantly extrinsic motivated might burn out very quickly and rapidly become a nuisance to their surroundings.

As we all have a preference for intrinsic or extrinsic motivation it is also true that the opposite serve as a de-motivation factor.

People who are predominantly intrinsic motivated have already found working environments where they get motivated. So for that group, it is not big deal working from home and may even be seen as an extra bonus.

For the other group, the group who are predominantly motivated by extrinsic factors, like colleagues, customers, social interactions, etc., it is a different story. They lose their motivation rapidly because get frustrated over the lack of social interactions, lack of motivation from people around them. 


COVID19 – A party for the introverts

There is no doubt that COVID19 is a party for the introvert, and it is primarily that group of people who are pushing the agenda of “A new normal”. A new normal where we shouldn’t return to being together with other people all day long. The introverts have a good case. It is easy to point out the short-term financial benefits of making people work from home permanently, but not many are thinking about the long-term negative consequences it has

The long-term negative cultural consequences of working from home

When assessing the negative consequences we have to separate them between the negative consequences for each employee and for the company.

The negative consequences of working from home for the employees

Apart from the negative consequences mentioned above there some severe negative cultural consequences as well. We human beings are social creatures. Even introvert people need an affiliation with social groups. It is one of the core functions of a culture, any culture to give each member a strong feeling of affiliation. And affiliation makes us feel loved and appreciated and it makes us feel safe and secure, even when we make mistakes. 

We know from hundreds of interview we have made over the past 9 months that many people working from home are developing anxiety because of lack of instant feedback from their peers and other stakeholders. Remember that more than 80% of our communication is non-verbal. Feedback is often a smile, a thumbs-up, a hug, applause, a f*** finger, an invitation for a drink, intonation in a conversation, etc. We lose all that when we are working from home, even if we are sitting in zoom-meetings pretending that everything is fantastic.

It is not! And technology cannot and should not fix it!

The negative consequences for the company

There are a number of negative consequences for the company when suddenly a large part of the workforce is working remotely. We know that from many of our clients who over the years have tried out different models for giving people more flexibility,

Firstly, many companies have over the past decade invested a lot of resources to become as attractive as possible for current and future employees. Attractive office spaces, a wide range of services for the employees on-site, home-like environments, etc. In fact, we have previously raised concerns that some companies are in direct competition with the employees’ families in creating the most attractive place to be. Unfortunately, the companies have often won that competition. These companies have created an all-inclusive culture, which particular attractive to employees who are single or those where are not that keen on being at home with spouses and children (And there are quite a lot of those our research has shown).

When suddenly the company is asking the employees to work from home, it feels like the opposite for a lot of people. For many, home is the workplace and the preferred place to be. For people feeling that way, they now have the feeling of being kicked out of home back to their residence where they really don’t want to spend too much time.

From the surveys, we have conducted so far it shows clearly that the short-term excitement about working from home is replaced with a long-term frustration, dissatisfaction and even depression.

So the company might save some money in the short-term, but it will in many cases end up with a large pool of employees, who feel betrayed, depressed and very demotivated.

And as there is a clear correlation between employee satisfaction, customer satisfaction and profitability, the company will suffer financially in the long run because of its unique culture, the glue has changed dramatically

What can a company do, when the employees have to work from home because of the pandemic?

Initially, the company has to assess how the employees perceive the new reality. It is wrong to assume that the employees share the CFO’s excitement. For the CFO it is money saved, while for many employees it is a cornerstone of their life that is cut away. Gugin has conducted a number of these assessments over the past 9 months. There is very often a very wide gap between how the management sees the situation and how the employees see the situation. Therefore the assessments have to be anonymous and you have to ask the correct questions in order to get the answers you can use to make the necessary changes to the corporate culture.

Remember, your aim as a management team is to create an environment, where employees feel as motivated in a new environment as they did in the original one. You do that by conducting a cultural due diligence, where the true values (not the brain farts in most corporate presentations) are discovered and then re-engineer a new corporate culture where the same values are promoted but in a different way.

That is the only way you can keep your workforce motivated in the long run. 

We will be happy to speak with you about the best strategy for your company

  • We align your corporate culture with your strategy.
  • We take you safely through major changes in your organisation.
  • We develop the crucial cultural intelligence in your organisation by training your employees and leaders
  • We help you develop a competitive advantage with a unique corporate culture

Gugin has helped more than 600 companies around the world creating a winning corporate culture.

Contact Gugin

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