07Oct, 2021

7 key elements of professionalism which are at stake during WFH


The pandemic struck and initiated a new normal. Of the many things that changed, permanently perhaps, is the conventional work world giving way to a new work pattern called Work From Home (WFH). WFH is the next normal, as per most business leaders. It entails businesses and organizations working out new norms that ensure that their employees work professionally and happily at their productive best. 


Work From Home – the next normal?

Work from Home or remote working refers to the work done away from the physical office. There are various pros of this model – employee flexibility and increased mobility are two important aspects that can influence employee productivity to a great extent. Thanks to cloud technology and various collaborative tools, today, global teams are connected online and working better than they would have ever done in a physical office. 

As per Upwork’s Future of Workforce Pulse Report

  • 25% of Americans are working remotely in 2021.
  • In the next four years, about 36.2 million Americans are expected to work remotely. It is an increase of 87% from the pre-pandemic period.
  • Detailed research by Upwork points out that Covid-19 has left a long-lasting impact on the conventional work pattern. As a result, organizations are rethinking ways to integrate this working style permanently in their work model. 
  • About 68 percent of HR managers in the survey say that WFH or remote working has become seamless now vis-a-vis the pandemic’s start.

The US-centric survey aptly reflects the global scenario as most organizations worldwide adopted the WFH model in 2020 and continue in 2021.


Why has WFH worked?

Some of the reasons stated by respondents in the Upwork survey include:

  • Lesser number of non-essential meetings 
  • The flexibility of work schedule
  • Better work-life balance
  • Zero hassles of commutation
  • Lesser chances of taking sick leaves
  • Lesser distractions at Home or cafe vis-a-vis office, and 
  • More independence 


For employers, it means lower overhead costs, enhanced employee engagement, and the potential to drive better employee productivity. So, does it mean that WFH is a flawless model?


Key Challenges of WFH & Circumventing these

 Just like every other aspect of everyday life, WFH can be a flawed model, provided organizations do not weigh the challenges vis-a-vis the steps that can be taken to counter them. Most organizations have already started to work on the bigger more-visible issues like how to help remote teams collaborate and communicate effectively, especially distributed workforce; building trust and promoting transparency in team members; reducing the risks of working in isolated units, loss of camaraderie, and even reduced visibility of company mission and values, etc.

However, one important aspect that cannot be missed is the employee’s professionalism and commitment. Basic innate values like integrity and ethics are at stake, more than probably anything else. While all other matters can be resolved with advanced tools and technology, human values are corporeal and need a different level of sensibility to handle. 

One additional aspect of WFH is the Indian scenario. Unlike their western counterparts, there are unique issues here – women at home are expected to handle household chores even if working from home, especially in joint families. In nuclear families, things may be better, but issues persist for all genders, care-giving to sick members of the family, managing children, attending to domestic chores the list can go on. . Also, power cuts are something that Indian employees are used to, and WFH can be a challenge in areas where there are regular voltage fluctuations, or regular power cuts, Internet connectivity can be a big issue in many Tier 2 or 3 cities, rural areas, and in some cases, metros too.

1. Communication

WFH means every team member is working at their convenience. In a way, everyone is working differently. Therefore, it may not be easy to get everyone on the same page simultaneously when communicating or sharing information with the team. This can make the path bumpy – employees could feel lost in the absence of communication from team leads and colleagues. Team leaders and managers have the additional burden of stepping in and creating standardized procedures to drive seamless communication between team members.

Many companies have video calls at fixed hours to help remote members align with the larger objectives. Thankfully, technology has the right answers and offers different tools to pick from. 


2. Accountability and adherence to deadlines 

While employees benefit from the freedom of working from home, there is no set rule yet to ensure that they are accountable for their work. Accountability is related to – taking responsibility for assigned work, completing work within the given timeline, ensuring that the output meets the required standards and desired expectations, and ensuring that the employees meet the assigned job profiles and roles optimally. The issue is that there are limited remote monitoring potential and team interactions. It leads to a lack of trust and transparency amongst the team members, with a possibility of a lackadaisical attitude creeping in remote employees. Managers must take this into consideration, checkin frequently and address any issues before they snow ball across the team. 


3. Being organized

Working in an organized manner is an individual choice. Some employees work better when things are planned and organized, while some work more productively impromptu. However, basic organizing skills are expected from every employee. For example, organizers should check everything is in order before the meeting, or attendees can read the prior communication or minutes of meeting before entering the meeting and also to keep any questions ready. Similarly, presenters must settle any possible distractions, keep their presentations open, mikes and cameras ready, and so on. These are bare basic requirements and expected from professionals. In the remote work model, such expectations can go for a toss, and there is no way to ensure that employees adopt an organized methodology to complete tasks and jobs. 


4. The right attire

There have been endless stories (read videos and posts on social media) doing the rounds about people attending meetings in pajamas, shorts, sleepwear, and so on and some getting caught. Understandably, working at Home is equivalent to comfort. Most people could be least bothered about taking a shower before starting an office, leaving alone changing into a formal or professional outfit during the so-called office hours. While no one expects employees to be dressed in business suits while working at home, taking a bath, dressing up, and being presentable is a signal or an alarm for the brain to get into the work mode.  


5. Working from the couch

Another big challenge that seems minuscule on the surface but can have a long-lasting impact on employee productivity is the place from where your employees are working (while at home). Are they turning on to the work mode from their bed, the comfortable living room sofa, the couch, with a mute TV  in the background? While many employees feel no guilt at doing so because their managers cannot see them lying down or watching TV while working, it certainly brings in a lethargic attitude with too many distractions around that can drastically impact employee output. 


6. Being punctual, especially for virtual meetings

There are various ways managers can ensure that their team members arrive on time for business meetings in a physical office. There are endless ways to ensure the same, from one-to-one reminders to physically walking up to the people to prompt them to attend meetings. But, how to ensure punctuality for virtual meetings?  It is a challenge for most organizations. While advanced technological tools can be used to send electronic reminders and alerts, the final decision still lies with individual employees to join the meeting on time, late, or stay off the meeting.


7. Consistency of working hours

Sticking to a fixed working schedule is a consistent challenge. While many continue working till the wee hours of the night, many others look for working for shorter hours. How do employers ensure consistency of the working hours? While some employers are happy as long as they focus on the quality of work, some organizations expect their employees to clock in sharp at 9 AM and work for the required eight hours before clocking out. The trend however, has moved towards an output driven work environment rather than fixed hour of work.  


WFH – Managing the new normal 

The HR and training departments have bigger roles to play. After all, the entire work culture and work mode need to be realigned with modern times. From educating employees about the essence of being dressed properly while working from home or having their cameras on as they work to designing employee manuals that entail strict adherence and the penalties thereof for regular offenders, there is a lot of work to do. In particular, hiring managers need to go overboard to ensure that they recruit employees with a track record of being disciplined and compliance with expected organizational standards.


Here are few possible solutions to devise strategies to ensure professionalism from employees during WFH. 

  • There is the need to organize regular training and team-building sessions to align the workforce with the new working model of WFH. 
  • HR emailers need to go out regularly, mentioning the expectations of employers explicitly. 
  • A stringent policy should be in place, for employees to handhold as they get used to the new work model.
  • Business leaders – COOs, CEOs, CXOs, etc. – need to become role models for their teams with enhanced intent.  They are the custodian of the organizational culture. For example, if the virtual modal is there to stay for your organization, you need to ensure that you join virtual meetings, dressed in the proper attire, on time, etc. It gives the right signals to employees. 
  • Business leaders also need to consider working in a hybrid model where employees are called to the office on certain days to encourage face-to-face interactions and creating emotional connections. But, there are challenges to the hybrid, too, and the top management needs to ponder this well. For example, some employees may have moved back to their home towns because it did not make sense to pay high residential rents in the office locations. While some may be eager to come back, some would still want to continue WFH because they have caregiving responsibilities, and so on.
  • The IT department need to go in for multiple tools and offer a robust IT ecosystem that enables employees to work easily. Such platforms should have powerful analytical features so that it is possible to track employee performance remotely.
  • Introduce platforms for work and for socializing where employees can engage and interact professionally and casually. Let the platform offer employees a channel to express their concerns and feedback transparently. 
  • Managers should organize not just virtual meetings but also engagement activities like virtual games, quizzes, online marathons, etc., in the virtual mode to encourage informal interactions. 
  • HR must send out regular communication like information nuggets, best practices, etc., to employees to underpin the organizational values, mission, and vision.
  • Recognition of employees doing commendable jobs even when remote working is another great way to motivate people to pursue professional ethics and focus on productivity.

It is important to understand that WFH is here to stay. How your business  can ensure professional contribution from employees has to be brainstormed and decided at the top level! There is no ‘one-size-fits-all solution. A digital workplace with the right components could be the best answer now; ensure that you go in for an all-in-one software system that helps tackle employee professionalism issues adequately.

To know more how an employee engagement platform can help you centralise your company culture and connect employees across the nation, connect with us for a demo

1 Comment

  • Shweta November 24, 2021 @ 7:34 am

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