Keeping Up With Digitization: How Do We Cope With Working From Home?

4 Jun, 2021Renske Start

This past year has ensured that the way we work has fundamentally changed. Or was this a change of pace that actually started much earlier? And more importantly, how can we keep up with new changes such as working from home?

Change is best accepted when it happens gradually. Unfortunately, sometimes we have no influence on changes and we simply have to undergo them. Due to the pandemic, it was suddenly necessary to adjust our way of life. With only room for a stroll and a trip to the supermarket, working in the office turned out to be completely out of the question from one week to the next.

This shift has ensured that most of us started working remotely. Workplaces were set up at home and meetings took place digitally. One organization turned out to be somewhat easier to adapt to this than the other. Completely based on how digital their service already was, of course. Young organizations turned out to be more digitally mature than older organisations. (1)

Young companies are best at converting new technologies into organizational improvements and new strategies and are therefore better able to create value with them. There are, however, major differences between sectors. Digital maturity is highest in the information and communication sector and lower in trade, culture, hospitality, recreation and sports, among others.

It proved easier for young organizations to adapt, and this makes sense because most of their services already took place online. The trade, culture and catering sectors are branches that are definitely capable of offering their products online, but still this is far from ideal. Because watching a theatre play online really does not provide the same experience as watching that same play in the theatre. In addition, employees in these sectors find it difficult to work from home. Football training really cannot be given from the football trainers’ balcony.

The other sectors had to adapt to a difficult but certainly not impossible change. Of course sometimes we are tired of online meetings, but didn’t we already have those feelings towards normal meetings? And many organizations will return to the office soon enough. But the question is: will they return full-time?

Working from home means work is always just a click away

Microsoft talks about the ‘great disruption’. After the pandemic, many employees will no longer go into the office every day. The change initiated will more likely translate into a hybrid form of working. A blended model where some employees work in the office, and some at home. A mix!(2)

We won’t go back to a ‘normal’ way of working. Luckily for all organizations, a survey by Microsoft shows that this is not at the expense of productivity. Productivity has even increased significantly in the past year. However, it is noted that this change will be at the expense of the employers themselves.

This barrage of communications is unstructured and mostly unplanned, with 62 percent of calls and meetings unscheduled or conducted ad hoc. And workers are feeling the pressure to keep up. Despite meeting and chat overload, 50 percent of people respond to Teams chats within five minutes or less, a response time that has not changed year-over-year. This proves the intensity of our workday, and that what is expected of employees during this time, has increased significantly.

As an employee you are basically always on, because you often have your mobile with you and your laptop is more often than not only inches away. It is possible to answer work apps and emails all the time; from anywhere and at any time of the day. This was already a recognizable trend before the pandemic.

So the fact we work a lot from home now is only adding to an already continuous pressure of being always on. Because digitization started much, much earlier. The fact that we now work from home has added to this that the dividing line between work and private life is becoming just that little bit more blurred.(3)

Burn-outs have been a major problem for years, with almost 1.3 million Dutch people struggling with these complaints. (4) So how to avoid burnouts with all this added pressure? The key is: mental resilience. Because when employers focus on the mental resilience of their employees, employees will train flexibility and will prove likely to handle the continuous pressure of digitization and working from home.

In addition, due to the rapid trend of technological developments it has become an outdated concept to work your entire career in a position that matches your education. Employees nowadays will have to switch skills more quickly and therefore also their roles. In order to increase their employability, employees must therefore demonstrate a certain degree of flexibility and agility.

So with our way of working and the overall landscape changing, how can we keep up with digitization and cope with the pressure?

Train the right skills for employees working from home

Working from home a lot, having all those digital impulses and skills quickly losing relevance means employees as well as employers need to adapt. Because if we want to stay productive and relevant it is incredibly important that we continue to pay attention to ourselves and our employees, and that we focus on skills that help us cope with fast changes; such as flexibility and resilience. Luckily you can train that! With a focus on the right power skills you and your employees can go a long way. If you train stress management, burnouts will happen less quickly. Employees will stay more productive, cope with changes and of course be much happier at work as well as home.

Start with smaller steps in order to make a big impact.