Eliminate presenteeism by allowing employees to work remotely

08/03/20194 Minute Read

If you’ve ever felt silently resentful toward your sick colleague in the next cubicle, you’re onto something. They should’ve been allowed to work remotely. Presenteeism has caught some recognition as a major problem in the workplace for a few years now: Not only are people about one-third less productive when they’re forced to show up to work sick, but it’s also really costly.

While some commentators say presenteeism “seemingly has not posed a problem in Singapore so far,” the common employee knows they’ve been guilty of this practice on far too many occasions. In fact, a study by the Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore found that presenteeism costs employers here $12.1 billion a year.

Let’s dig into how IT pros can convince their bosses to let them stay home when they’re coughing and sneezing. While the bias against working from home may be cultural, shifting this issue definitely has something to do with mobile tech.

Should employees use up paid sick leave?

Does your boss want you to get more done? Of course. The secret sauce to boosting productivity is scrapping presenteeism: A Global Corporate Challenge (GCC) study revealed that presenteeism is 10 times more expensive than absenteeism. With the average employee taking just four sick days each year, there’s a good chance your office is a virtual cesspool of germs most of the time.

Surprisingly, working from home is actually a reasonable solution for the common cold and flu. A Society for Human Resource Management study revealed that teleworkers are 77 percent more productive than their on-site counterparts and more likely to get stuff done when they’re sick or on vacation.

Change the tides of remote work

While some companies are still hesitant to allow remote work, the tides are changing quickly. Blame it on the expectations of younger IT workers or simply cultural change, but more people are now working from home at least some of the time. Aon Hewitt partner, Carol Sladek, says “most managers become believers” in letting people just stay home when they see the remarkable productivity gains.

When it comes to understanding the reasons why some companies don’t allow remote work, it’s hard to deny it’s largely cultural and based on an old-school mindset. Even though your tech portfolio has advanced beyond legacy applications, your HR department might still require physical presence. Short of a PowerPoint presentation filled with data on why presenteeism sucks, IT can take an active role in shifting the tides at their own company. If you’ve got the tech in place for people to get stuff done at home, that’s one significant step toward a culture where you don’t need to bathe in hand sanitiser every few minutes.

Know the barriers to adoption

Fast-forwarding your mobility to a place where presenteeism is a nonfactor may require IT pros to understand exactly what cultural barriers exist in their workplace. Are bosses afraid of a lack of accountability, information security gaps, or poor collaboration? Understanding the “why” behind presenteeism can allow you to invest your mobility budget wisely.

Collaboration fears may necessitate investment in videoconferencing tools. Information security gaps may require a deep dive into containerisation. Accountability concerns may demand smarter project management software. Whatever’s standing in the way, there’s almost certainly a tool to solve it.

Duplicate the desk experience

Simply providing data access to employees who aren’t physically present isn’t the same as duplicating the office experience. Achieving true mobility means optimising IT for your employees’ workflows, no matter where they’re situated.

For Needham Bank VP James Gordon, fast-forwarding his company’s mobility to the present required a focus on more than just compliance and security. With a homegrown containerisation solution, Gordon was able to implement policy-based security administration and a stellar user experience (UX) design. Within their solution, Needham’s users can securely annotate PDFs and edit documents from personally owned mobile devices in a way that performs closely in caliber to familiar office applications.

Smooth out the use of mobile tech in the office

You’ve got a mobility problem if your help-desk calls soar when you’ve got people working remotely. For both in-house and vendor-supplied solutions, the success of kicking presenteeism to the curb requires your users are comfortable and familiar with your mobile solutions—even and especially if they weren’t planning on staying home sick.

Productivity is the top mobility focus for 49 percent of CIOs. Get proactive about user adoption for tools that support remote work by incorporating proactive training and feedback loops, and take a look at your back-end data. You’ll benefit enormously from understanding usage patterns and common user issues. Even if you’re in a leadership role, creating transparency around how people are interacting with your mobility solutions can allow you to create better mobile experiences—and quantify the potential of work-from-home productivity to your boss.

IT may not be able to take on the cultural bias against a work remotely policy alone, but they can certainly play a huge role in bringing mobility to a place where remote work is possible. By adjusting your mobility strategy to address specific cultural barriers and working to improve UX, you can look forward to a future where your coworkers’ germs stay at home with them.

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