In light of the fast developments over the weekend – including the cancellation of any events or gatherings of more than 500 people, 14-day self-isolation for overseas arrivals and more stringent travel restrictions – many Australian businesses have opted to shut down their offices due to COVID-19.

Most staff now work from home (WFH), as a result.

At the time of writing, the Federal government has not advised businesses, nor schools, to shut down.

While WFH arrangements is not a new concept, the scale of employees doing it amid the climate of the global pandemic is unprecedented.

In addition, organisations aren’t always geared up to have the majority, or all, of their workforce working remotely. This could be due to the physical equipment itself (desktop versus laptop) and/or software (only works within the office or no offsite access). Furthermore, it can’t be assumed that all home environments are suitable for WFH (space, ergonomic office setup, safety, lighting, internet, software, equipment et cetera).

The real test and what we’re all closely watching, however, is the responsiveness of employees as the circumstances change day-by-day, and the output of an en masse WFH workforce.

WFH agility is key

Workplace agility goes beyond the idea of just working quickly. It’s a matter of several factors combined: efficiency (again, not necessarily about speed), seamlessness and cohesion.

So in the context of WFH, engagement with your manager and colleagues is crucial to having an agile team. As a unit no longer sitting in the same workplace or a close physical environment, the ability to evolve and act nimbly in these uncertain – yet also rapidly changing – times will be the key to ongoing success.

In addition, anticipating change and embracing spontaneity are strong qualities of successful agile workers and leaders. This shouldn’t diminish due to a change in workplace settings. If anything, it should be increased.

RELATED: How to deal with the downsides of working remotely

Assessing WFH performance

The expectations of output and value produced when WFH will be dependent on the business.

Companies and models that have utilised modern technology, for example, may not anticipate any impact on workforce performance as this has always been the norm.

Other businesses, on the other hand, may anticipate a drop in performance and productivity, due to the challenges of WFH arrangements for such a high number of its staff. However, it shouldn’t cause great concern because past studies have, in fact, revealed the opposite outcome – that productivity is boosted when WFH.

Why? It mainly came down to less distractions and better concentration at home.

Regardless of whether performance expectations change, leaders and managers should maintain as much structure in their team’s days as possible. Plus, regularly checking in with video calls helps to continue engagement, allows the opportunity to listen to any concerns and encourages collaboration.

WFH benefits implemented into the workplace

Going forward, businesses need to commit to supporting their people as they choose to WFH in the current climate. Those that do it successfully could ultimately see the benefits and efficiencies of WFH returned to the physical workplace, creating better processes for everyone.

Alternatively, once we see the end of the pandemic, more staff may volunteer to WFH and, in turn, produce better results and outcomes for the business.

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