Presenteeism sucks—3 steps to crush the bias against remote work

June 21, 20174 Minute Read

If you’ve ever felt silently resentful toward your sick colleague in the next cubicle, you’re onto something. They really should’ve been allowed to work remotely. Presenteeism is beginning to catch some recognition as a major problem in the workplace—and it’s about time. 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.

Presenteeism and absenteeism are a $6 billion annual problem in Canada, which is PRICEY. What are the solutions? Join us as we dig into how IT pros can convince their bosses to let them stay home when they’re hacking up a lung. While the bias against working from home is cultural, shifting this issue definitely has something to do with mobile tech.

“I don’t want to use up my paid sick leave.”

Does your boss want you to get more done? Of course. The secret sauce to boosting productivity is probably 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 your run-of-the-mill head cold and other maladies. A Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) 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.

When the boss isn’t totally sold

While some companies are still hesitant to allow remote work, the tides are changing quickly. Blame it on the IT skills gap or simple cultural change, but 1.7 million Canadians (not including the self-employed) now work 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 SHRM outlines.

When it comes to understanding the reasons why some companies don’t allow remote work, it’s hard to deny that 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 a pretty active role in shifting the tides at their own companies. 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 sanitizer every few minutes.

1. Do you understand specific barriers?

Fast-forwarding your mobility to a place where presenteeism is a non-factor may require IT pros to understand exactly what cultural barriers exist in their workplace. Are your execs 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 video conferencing tools. Information security gaps may require a deep dive into containerization. Accountability concerns may demand smarter project management software. Whatever’s standing in the way, there’s almost certainly a tool to solve it.

2. Can you 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 optimizing 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 containerization solution, Gordon was able to implement policy-based security administration and a stellar 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 calibre to familiar office applications.

3. Can your people actually use your mobile tools?

If your people work remotely and your help desk calls soar, you have a mobility problem. For both in-house and vendor-supplied solutions, the success of kicking presenteeism to the curb requires that 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; mobile professional Craig Riegelhaupt wrote that not only should this incorporate proactive training and feedback loops, but it should also involve a look at your back-end data. Referring to the future as “mobility as a service,” Riegelhaupt believes, “Developers and tech support 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 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 solo, 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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