According to a recent report, 16% of organisations worldwide work entirely remote, 40% cannot offer or do not allow working from a location other than the office, and hybrid models exist in the remaining 44% of organisations. What telework strategy does each company follow to achieve optimal results and maintain a motivated and satisfied workforce?
What will I read about in this article?
- The main teleworking strategies that companies are implementing
- Implementation of teleworking strategies in the Demerouti case study
Top 4 teleworking strategies that companies are implementing
Remote work is undoubtedly becoming more and more widespread in organisations and in its many versions, most often combined with face-to-face work. In particular, positions such as data analysts, sales managers, software engineers, etc., teleworking affects a wide range of roles.
In the face of this new and growing normality, which implies less direct supervision, higher standards of organisation and capacity for autonomous work are required. This new situation provides the worker with more self-management, transferring new opportunities. But some risk as well, such as the inability to switch off when not in the office, which can lead to a feeling of burnout, or also, sometimes, the occasional loss of focus on what’s really important for the team. It’s therefore necessary to reflect on which strategies will make remote work more efficient and less strenuous. According to some new studies we can distinguish four strategies.
It’s the ability to identify in oneself physical, emotional, cognitive or behavioural symptoms that can impact positively or negatively on one’s work. It’s about knowing how to capture in oneself the physical, mental and emotional state of the moment.
In short, more than knowing oneself (which is always important), this telework strategy is about knowing how you are at any given moment and what the implications might be: How do I feel about energy? Am I overtired? Do I feel happy? Do I feel overwhelmed? Do I feel like I am not getting there? Do I feel like I’m overcoming challenges without too much effort? Do I feel like I’m not switching off? Am I doing well? What tasks do I perform better when working face-to-face in my office?
This telework strategy is based on the ability to adjust to work demands with the resources at one’s disposal. It’s what is now called job crafting, which could be translated as a personal reconfiguration of work, in order to achieve the goals set beforehand.
This self-regulation involves the ability to activate different resources when necessary. Some examples of it could be asking for advice in a complex situation, optimising diverse processes — for instance, setting how and when to answer e-mails—, analysing what kind of tasks are best suited to work in the office with my colleagues and which ones are best suited to teleworking days…
It’s the return to a basic state of energy and attention that allows us to become active again. For this “return” to an active state there are daily, weekly and annual recoveries. These are sleep, weekends and holidays. Breaks should also be added throughout the day to “recover”. We talk about this topic in depth here.
There’s no doubt that we all need daily, weekly and annual recovery periods. This strategy can become more complex during telework, as the management of this recovery is delegated to some extent to the employee. It happens at the end of the working day, when many workers don’t know when or how to stop and disconnect as the transition from one physical space to another disappears.
“With remote working, many workers don’t know when or how to stop and disconnect as the transition from one physical space to another disappears.”
Managing work-life balance
The last teleworking strategy is the management of the balance between family and personal responsibilities and work duties. Remote work makes it difficult to manage roles by sharing a physical space. This is why transitions from one role to the other are increasingly important. Rites of passage (rites de passage) that mark the “change” from one role to another (e.g., changing slippers, or putting away work materials until the next day), are increasingly important.
Implementation of teleworking strategies in the Demerouti case study
To test whether these strategies are really effective for remote workers, Professor Evangelia Demerouti conducted an intervention in two Dutch organisations. An intervention is nothing more than a growing methodology in the social sciences that consists of conducting an experiment on one group (intervention group), and comparing the results with another group (control group) that has not been intervened in order to understand the effects of such interference.
In the case of Demerouti’s study, his intervention consisted of a four-week online training based on four modules, one for each strategy presented above. Both the 66 participants who received the training and the 77 participants in the control group took a pre-test to understand not only their capacity in self-recognition, self-regulation, recovery and balance management, but also to capture their level of fatigue, work-life conflict, productivity and happiness. Once the pre-questionnaire had been completed, the intervention group received the four-week online training.
Every Monday morning, the 66 participants were given 3-minute mini-lectures on one of the strategies, and on Tuesdays and Thursdays they were asked to do a reflection exercise on the telework strategy being implemented.
* For example, in the self-recognition module they were asked to identify their physical, emotional, cognitive or behavioural symptoms at the time, as well as the events that have marked these symptoms.
* In the case of self-regulation, the reflection exercise consisted of identifying possible resources they have but do not use, as well as looking for new resources or challenges.
* For recovery, reflection was based on identifying strategies so as to recover energy during the week or adding 10-minute breaks for every 90 minutes of work.
* Finally, in the balance management module, participants were asked to think of transition rituals for moving from one role to the other when finishing work at home, to establish a schedule for personal and professional time, as well as to identify three benefits of remote working.
After the four weeks of online training, along with the reflection process, a post-training questionnaire was administered to both the 66 participants who took part in the training and the 77 who did not, and it was observed that the small intervention had positive results.
It was found that those who had received the training and enjoyed the reflection process reported improved self-recognition, as well as a lower level of work-life conflict and fatigue, and a higher level of productivity and happiness. At the same time, there were no significant changes in recovery, motivation or work-life enhancement.
However, the results suggest that efficient teleworking strategies can be trained. The author of the study reminds us that organisations can and perhaps should have the capacity to indirectly facilitate tactics that allow the remote worker to efficiently manage the autonomy they enjoy. Among other implications, organisations can:
* Provide training to implement efficient strategies for remote workers. These strategies seem to involve improving self-recognition, self-regulation, recovery and work-family balance management.
* Encourage spaces for reflection on remote work with key questions to understand areas for improvement.
* Carry out (if necessary) interventions such as those presented by the study to test in situ the impact of training and reflection on the employees themselves.
Implications for remote employees would include:
* Identify and reflect on the benefits of remote working.
* Reflect on the emotions generated by remote working and identify which events trigger them.
* Seek daily recovery times other than sleep.
* Close the working day with a specific rite of passage (e.g. change of clothes, putting away materials), which facilitates the transition from one domain to the other.
* Establish a full schedule that includes work, personal and family time.
Demerouti, E. (2023). Effective employee strategies for remote working: An online self-training intervention. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 142, 103857.