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Managing challenges and issues of WFH during the Covid-19 pandemic

The sudden outbreak and onset of Covid-19 has been sweeping the world and disrupting the global workforce by restricting them to work onsite. This has generated urgency for employers and employees to seek alternative working arrangements and this has led to the demand for remote and Work from Home (WFH) business culture. However, this sudden change and shift in business processes create complexities for management to tackle the work discrepancies and stabilise the work disruptions effectively (Markey, 2020). It is identified that to plan and control the overall business process in the new normal business environment has created a wide range of management issues. Thus, the following section is going to provide a brief evaluation of the managing issues in terms of the topic “planning and controlling the WFH shift during and beyond lockdown”. Critical evaluation of the selected topic will be made with the help of topic-related media articles and scholarly articles.

Starting from lack of employee engagement, enhanced working hours, lack of effective communication, and others, management of different business entities has been trying hard to control these challenges by perceiving alternative strategic approaches. In the context of the following figure, the demands, and preferences for WFH have increased dramatically by 44% after the outbreak of Covid-19 as compared to the 17% of the demands before the pandemic situation (Alexandra Sava, 2022).  

Growth of WFH

Figure 1: Growth of WFH

(Source: Alexandra Sava, 2022)

A news article published in 2021 underlines the outbreak of Covid-19 has forced different businesses along with workers to adjust themselves to the WFH culture. This is evident that after the outbreak of Covid-19, almost 90% of the workers are required to perform their professional activities remotely or from home (PC, 2021). On the other hand, the article also underlines that management of different businesses has fitness challenges in the new normal business environment that negatively affects organisational productivity and business performance.

For example, employees who are working from home often witnessed challenges like musculoskeletal damage due to non-ergonomic or inappropriate workstation furniture. In contrast, another media article underlines that due to the lack of face-to-face interaction, it negatively affects upon workers' mental health, which leads to the generation of issues such as burnout, stress, long working hours, and others. This, in turn, hinders the chance for companies to gain proactive commitment and engagement of their workers towards their respective field world (Alexander et al., 2020). These issues can be interlinked with the planning and controlling issues as during the Covid-19, initially managers or leaders fail to develop proactive planning to tackle the uncertain situation that hinders the chance to improve performance and accomplish the organisational goals.

Chen (2021) has drawn a similar perspective in other news media, where it is mentioned that companies in different industries irrespective of their size have been showing their concern towards crisis and control management approaches to adapt to the changing business environment. The new normal business guidelines, specifically the emergence of WFH culture, have negatively affected upon different corporate characteristics including corporate performance, planning and controlling approach, working methods, along with the corporate culture (Alexander et al., 2022).

Demand and preference for WFH culture

Another perspective has been underlined in the McKinsey report, where it is mentioned that the WFH culture is likely to be continuous beyond lockdown. The key reason behind this statement is that employees are found to show their commitment and concentration towards their work while they work from home as compared to working from the office (Lund et al., 2021). WFH offers a flexible working schedule for employees that help them to maintain balance between personal and professional life that generates job satisfaction as well.

Similar aspects have been identified in the field in BBC's news article it is mentioned about the future working arrangement in the new normal business environment. It is mentioned that in case of management try to shift office-centric work culture, then employees can obtain opportunities in terms of reducing the long working hours, ineffective process, lack of engagements and others (BBC, 2022). However, the massive shift to WFH culture may generate issues for the management if they want to close this WFH opportunity. The key reason behind this statement is that the growing new employee expectations need for work flexibility, demands for work-life balance, and others can create complexities for the management in case they try to return to full-time office work in the future (Boland et al., 2020).

The demands and preferences for WFH have increased dramatically after the outbreak of Covid-19 and likely to persist in the post-Covid era as well. The author Marzban et al., (2021) in the article tries to answer the question regarding the experiences that workers have experienced in the WFH culture during the lockdown in Australia. The author is found to conspire both during and post-Covid era to analyse the differences in workers' perspectives towards WFH. The author has utilised primary methods to conduct surveys by considering workers from the targeted Australian organisation. The finding of the article revealed that management of companies had witnessed challenges regarding maintaining work culture, productivity loss, health and safety concerns, and others. On the other hand, workers have shown their concern towards increased workloads, social isolation, and others due to which they would prefer to return to the office after lockdown. The findings of the articles generate an interesting fact about the opportunities for management to shift their existing WFH to office work that will help to minimise the existing identified issues accurately.

On the other hand, Birimoglu Okuyan & Begen (2022) try to highlight the evidence regarding the challenges of WFH along with the control measures that companies could undertake to strengthen their work performance and growth. The findings of the articles underlined that WFH is one of the most effective and preferable alternative workforce arrangements across the world during the Covid-19. On the other hand, the author also handles the key challenges such as distraction, long working hours, health risks, work-life balance, and others that create complexities for the management to sustain their business productivity and growth during the midst of Covid-19. Along with this, the authors underline that it is important for management to implement best practices to minimise the issues and maintain an effective level of business productivity.

Impact of WFH on organizational productivity and performance

Waizenegger et al., (2022) highlight the need for team collaboration in WFH culture to drive business productivity and success during and beyond lockdown. With the help of a qualitative approach, the author has underlined the way affordance shifts during Covid-19 directly influence upon team collaboration and their performance.  

affordance shit impact on team collaboration before and during Covid-19

Figure 2: affordance shit impact on team collaboration before and during Covid-19

(Source: Waizenegger et al., 2022)

The sudden outbreak of Covid-19 has negatively affected upon the global business environment. Management functions including planning and controlling have been negatively impacted by the shift from traditional working process to remote or WFH approach (Jenkins & Smith, 2021). In the context of planning, after the outbreak of Covid-19 leaders or managers of different business entities are required to act proactively and respond appropriately to prevent the dramatic work disruption. In order to maintain business survivability and productivity, a shift to WFH culture was found to be one of the effective ways that business leaders had perceived. However, a sudden shift to a new business process generated unprecedented challenges including a lack of employee skills to work remotely, to the loss of business productivity (Green et al., 2020).

From the selected media articles, initially, it was difficult for managers or business leaders to execute their required operational activities smoothly with the WFH approach. Gradually, employees along with employers have adjusted themselves and have found this working arrangement appropriate to maintain balance between personal and professional life (Corpuz, 2021). Changing this perspective of employees also creates challenges for management in case they want to return to office work completely in the upcoming years.

The perspective underlined by Marzban et al., (2021) can be interlinked with the selected management issues as the articles outlined the way organisations, managers, and leaders have responded to the identified issues. For example, the author mentioned that it is important for the companies to incorporate alternative arrangements for meetings, alternative working hours, provision of flexible work schedules, and others to maximise employee engagement in their respective fieldwork during and beyond lockdown. On the other hand, shifting from exit singing hierarchical organisational structure to the team or network-based structure can also serve as beneficial for the organisations to address the identified challenges and maximise their productivity in the post-Covid era as well.

From the perspective of Birimoglu Okuyan & Begen (2022), it has been identified that the author provided clear evidence about the effectiveness of undertaking best practices to maintain performance efficiency and productivity after the lockdown period. For example, the author mentioned that it would be important for the companies to undertake best practices for WFH to maintain an effective productivity level. Along with this, the pandemic has shown the need for strong WFH infrastructure to prevent the occurrence of security issues. In this regard, the author mentioned that companies would be required to take preventive measures against the challenges related to digitalisation, cyber security, reliability, and others.

Similar aspects is being underlined by Waizenegger et al., (2020) where the author mentioned the benefits of renegotiation, reconstruction, and rearrangements of working space that can dovetail business success in the WFH culture.

Considering the perspective of the selected authors, it can be mentioned that based on the business requirements in the management function such as controlling and planning, managers or leaders should be required to take proactive measures (Dubey & Tripathi, 2020). This, in turn, will help them to deal with uncertain events like sudden nationwide lockdown due to Covid-19 that enhance the chance to maintain business stability after the lockdown as well.

Based on the discussion and the identified issues in the earlier section, the following recommendations can be considered by organisations to tackle the organisational performance in the new normal business culture after the lockdown as well.

Recommendation 1: Expansion of Contingent Workers

Considering the perspective of Marzban et al., (2021), it can be mentioned that the expansion of contingency workers could be effective for minimising the WFH management issues and improving the overall productivity. The key reason behind this statement is that contingent workers will help companies to maintain more workforce flexibility and can improve the overall organisational performance after the lockdown.

Recommendation 2: Expansion of Workers' Data Collection

Before Covid-19, managers or leaders are found to track their employee performance with the traditional performance management approach such as face-to-face meetings, internal communication, providing feedback, and others. Birimoglu Okuyan & Begen (2022) suggested companies take best practices, and utilisation of technology-based performance monitoring tools could be effective to review employee performance while they work from home. This will help managers to collect employee performance-related data in real-time in accordance with which optimal business decisions can be undertaken.

Recommendation 3: Provision of Work Flexibility

Waizenegger et al., (2020) underline the demands for flexible working arrangements among the employees and employers. In this regard, companies will be required to plan employee policy by providing them with a flexible working schedule that will maximise employee engagement and drive business success. 

Conclusion

In the context of the overall discussion, it can be mentioned that the sudden outbreak of Covid-19 has entirely changed the way business entities performed their required operational activities previously. It has been identified that the demands for WFH culture have created difficulties for the management of different business aspects such as lack of employee engagement, inadequate communication, conflicts, and others. On the other hand, due to the changing working demands for employees and employers, it would be difficult for companies to return to complete office work.  In this regard, it identified that companies, managers, and leaders have been struggling hard to cope-up with the new normal business environment. Different perspectives of the authors from the selected articles also signify that companies are required to undertake proactive measures for their future business sustainability after the lockdown. Along with this, the companies to address the identified issues and maximise their productivity in the post-covid-19 era could adopt the identified recommendations. 

References

Alexander, A., De Smet, A., & Mysore, M., (2020). Reimagining the postpandemic workforce. [Online].

https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/people-and-organizational-performance/our-insights/reimagining-the-postpandemic-workforce

Alexander, A., De Smet, A., Langstaff, M., & Ravid, D., (2022). What employees are saying about future of remote work. [Online]. https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/people-and-organizational-performance/our-insights/what-employees-are-saying-about-the-future-of-remote-work

Alexandra Sava, J., (2022). Remote work frequency before and after COVID-19 in the United States 2020 [Online].

https://www.statista.com/statistics/1122987/change-in-remote-work-trends-after-covid-in-usa/

BBC, (2022). Coronavirus: How the world of work may change forever. [Online]. https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20201023-coronavirus-how-will-the-pandemic-change-the-way-we-work

Birimoglu Okuyan, C., & Begen, M. A. (2022). Working from home during the COVID?19 pandemic, its effects on health, and recommendations: the pandemic and beyond. Perspectives in Psychiatric Care, 58(1), 173-179.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8242705/pdf/PPC-9999-0.pdf

Boland, B., De Smet, A., Palter, R., & Sanghvi, A., (2020). Reimagining the office and work life after Covid-19. [Online].

https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/people-and-organizational-performance/our-insights/reimagining-the-office-and-work-life-after-covid-19

Chen, Z. (2021). Influence of Working From Home During the COVID-19 Crisis and HR Practitioner Response. Frontiers in Psychology, 12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8495417/

Corpuz, J. C. G. (2021). Adapting to the culture of ‘new normal’: an emerging response to COVID-19. Journal of Public Health, 43(2), e344-e345. https://academic.oup.com/jpubhealth/article/43/2/e344/6158063

Dubey, A. D., & Tripathi, S. (2020). Analysing the sentiments towards work-from-home experience during covid-19 pandemic. Journal of Innovation Management, 8(1), 13-19. https://ijooes.fe.up.pt/index.php/jim/article/download/2183-0606_008.001_0003/399

Green, N., Tappin, D., & Bentley, T. (2020). Working from home before, during and after the Covid-19 pandemic: Implications for workers and organisations. New Zealand Journal of Employment Relations, 45(2), 5-16.

Jenkins, F., & Smith, J. (2021). Work-from-home during COVID-19: Accounting for the care economy to build back better. The Economic and Labour Relations Review, 32(1), 22-38. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/1035304620983608

Lund, S., Madgavkar, A., Manyika, J., Smit, S., Ellingrud, K., & Robinson, O., (2021). The future of work after COVID-19. [Online]. https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/future-of-work/the-future-of-work-after-covid-19

Markey, R. (2020). The impact of the COVID-19 virus on industrial relations. Journal of Australian Political Economy, The, (85), 147-154. https://www.ppesydney.net/content/uploads/2020/06/22_Markey.pdf

Marzban, S., Durakovic, I., Candido, C., & Mackey, M. (2021). Learning to work from home: experience of Australian workers and organizational representatives during the first Covid-19 lockdowns. Journal of Corporate Real Estate, 1-23. https://rest.neptune-prod.its.unimelb.edu.au/server/api/core/bitstreams/b5c42eb0-c128-56cd-b47f-b8ff7060fc0c/content

PC, (2021). Working from home. [Online]. https://www.pc.gov.au/research/completed/working-from-home/working-from-home.pdf

Waizenegger, L., McKenna, B., Cai, W., & Bendz, T. (2020). An affordance perspective of team collaboration and enforced working from home during COVID-19. European Journal of Information Systems, 29(4), 429-442.

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/0960085X.2020.1800417

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