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Don’t Leave Your Employees “Home Alone”

By Bethany Whitted

Don’t Leave Your Employees “Home Alone”

By Bethany Whitted

The benefits of remote work are obvious: employees love the flexibility, companies save money, and the talent pool isn’t limited by geography. But what about employee engagement? Can employees truly be as engaged when working from the comfort of their home rather than in the workplace? 

The answer is: it depends. Allowing employees to work from home can be a risk or an asset to employee engagement depending on your strategy. A better question might be: What are you doing to ensure that employees are not “home alone” and struggling to stay productive and committed?  

Let’s take a psychological look at this issue. Humans are social creatures. We are highly impacted by one another. The Hawthorne studies are a famous example of this. Elton Mayo and Fritz Roethlisberger conducted a series of investigations in the 1920s to find out whether tweaks in the atmosphere at General Electric (such as lighting and length of workday) would improve employee performance. They found that regardless of the change they made, performance improved. A widely accepted explanation for this is that the employees performed better because they were being studied. Workers enjoyed the increased attention and feedback they received, which led them to be more engaged and therefore more productive.  

What can we learn from this? Human accountability, attention, and interaction makes us better. We’ve all experienced the Hawthorne Effect in our day to day lives. Perhaps you’re scrolling through Pinterest when all of a sudden your spouse or friend walks in and you immediately switch to working. Maybe a supervisor’s positive feedback encourages you to keep pushing through a challenging task. Or maybe work is draining you, so you take a coffee break, chat with a coworker, and after a few minutes, you feel refreshed and ready to get back to work. People perform better when they receive accountability, attention, and interaction. 

The question then becomes, how can we ensure that accountability, interaction, and attention is secured in a work from home situation? 

Let’s start with accountability.  

Remote workers need clear expectations, deadlines, and touchpoints. Clear and specific performance criteria are key for remote workers. What exactly are they responsible for, and by when? Frequent touchpoints and meetings provide the opportunity to track progress and give employees some structure in the day. While too many (or unnecessary) meetings will decrease productivity, an absence of meetings can bring about a “home alone” feeling, causing remote workers to disengage. 

We all like attention.  

In fact, we crave it. We’re much more likely to put our best effort in when we feel seen and valued. If we want our remote employees to stay engaged, it’s imperative that we find new ways to recognize employees, both formally and informally. Incorporate some formal monthly awards to recognize high achievers. In addition to this, make a habit of providing regular, informal encouragement. This works wonders for morale and productivity. Ensure no one is home alone and going unnoticed. 

Lastly, and most importantly, human interaction is an absolute necessity for optimal performance.  

Research continues to point to the negative effects of social isolation and loneliness for health and wellbeing. Those who are more socially connected are not only happier, less depressed, and more satisfied with life, but socially connected people also have slower age-related declines in cognition, faster wound healing, and even longer life expectancy. 

The effects of human interaction extend to workplace productivity. For instance, a Gallup poll indicated that employees with a best friend at work produced higher quality of work, reported higher well-being, were less likely to get injured on the job, and were 7x more likely to be engaged in their jobs compared to those who did not report having a best friend at work. We are better when we take the time to build relationships with each other at work. 

All of this should encourage us to have those virtual coffee breaks, office parties, and show-and-tells. Far from wasted time, these seemingly small relationship-building activities have major effects on company productivity and employee wellbeing. We seldom consider the ROI on things like human interaction, but it’s there! If you want to make your workplace a more fulfilling and productive place, remember the Hawthorne effect. Specifically, providing workers with accountability, attention, and interaction is a prerequisite for optimal performance. 

The benefits of remote work are obvious: employees love the flexibility, companies save money, and the talent pool isn’t limited by geography. But what about employee engagement? Can employees truly be as engaged when working from the comfort of their home rather than in the workplace? 

The answer is: it depends. Allowing employees to work from home can be a risk or an asset to employee engagement depending on your strategy. A better question might be: What are you doing to ensure that employees are not “home alone” and struggling to stay productive and committed?  

Let’s take a psychological look at this issue. Humans are social creatures. We are highly impacted by one another. The Hawthorne studies are a famous example of this. Elton Mayo and Fritz Roethlisberger conducted a series of investigations in the 1920s to find out whether tweaks in the atmosphere at General Electric (such as lighting and length of workday) would improve employee performance. They found that regardless of the change they made, performance improved. A widely accepted explanation for this is that the employees performed better because they were being studied. Workers enjoyed the increased attention and feedback they received, which led them to be more engaged and therefore more productive.  

What can we learn from this? Human accountability, attention, and interaction makes us better. We’ve all experienced the Hawthorne Effect in our day to day lives. Perhaps you’re scrolling through Pinterest when all of a sudden your spouse or friend walks in and you immediately switch to working. Maybe a supervisor’s positive feedback encourages you to keep pushing through a challenging task. Or maybe work is draining you, so you take a coffee break, chat with a coworker, and after a few minutes, you feel refreshed and ready to get back to work. People perform better when they receive accountability, attention, and interaction. 

The question then becomes, how can we ensure that accountability, interaction, and attention is secured in a work from home situation? 

Let’s start with accountability.  

Remote workers need clear expectations, deadlines, and touchpoints. Clear and specific performance criteria are key for remote workers. What exactly are they responsible for, and by when? Frequent touchpoints and meetings provide the opportunity to track progress and give employees some structure in the day. While too many (or unnecessary) meetings will decrease productivity, an absence of meetings can bring about a “home alone” feeling, causing remote workers to disengage. 

We all like attention.  

In fact, we crave it. We’re much more likely to put our best effort in when we feel seen and valued. If we want our remote employees to stay engaged, it’s imperative that we find new ways to recognize employees, both formally and informally. Incorporate some formal monthly awards to recognize high achievers. In addition to this, make a habit of providing regular, informal encouragement. This works wonders for morale and productivity. Ensure no one is home alone and going unnoticed. 

Lastly, and most importantly, human interaction is an absolute necessity for optimal performance.  

Research continues to point to the negative effects of social isolation and loneliness for health and wellbeing. Those who are more socially connected are not only happier, less depressed, and more satisfied with life, but socially connected people also have slower age-related declines in cognition, faster wound healing, and even longer life expectancy. 

The effects of human interaction extend to workplace productivity. For instance, a Gallup poll indicated that employees with a best friend at work produced higher quality of work, reported higher well-being, were less likely to get injured on the job, and were 7x more likely to be engaged in their jobs compared to those who did not report having a best friend at work. We are better when we take the time to build relationships with each other at work. 

All of this should encourage us to have those virtual coffee breaks, office parties, and show-and-tells. Far from wasted time, these seemingly small relationship-building activities have major effects on company productivity and employee wellbeing. We seldom consider the ROI on things like human interaction, but it’s there! If you want to make your workplace a more fulfilling and productive place, remember the Hawthorne effect. Specifically, providing workers with accountability, attention, and interaction is a prerequisite for optimal performance. 

Post Categories: Insights
Date Published: Dec 22, 2021
Post Categories: Insights
Date Published: Dec 22, 2021