With remote working becoming ever-more-common in the business world, the aged idea that such arrangements are detrimental to productivity is being thrown out of the window. Instead, employers and employees alike are warming up to the idea of home-based working and looking for the best way in which to optimise the situation to the advantage of all involved. To this end, a new study conducted by Nick van der Meulen of the Rotterdam School of Management at Erasmus University (RSM) gathered data from 1450 employees across four public and private organisations in which remote working arrangements are in place, in order to ascertain the best methods of management and increasing job performance.

The study involved asking employees and managers a series of specially-designed questions including topics such as the frequency at which they work from home, their job performance, the frequency of communication with their manager, peer monitoring, and the trust and overall relationship displayed between manager and employee.

By analysing the answers given, the researchers were able to identify the primary factors influencing job performance in home-based workers, which are revealed to be employee self-regulation and decision-making freedom, along with the level of trust awarded to them. This is in stark contrast to the previously-held belief that in order to ensure reliability from home-workers, managerial or peer control is vital. Rather, employers should treat such workers like the responsible adult they are assumed to be, and allow them some control over how to best achieve their targets within the company. If awarded this freedom, the vast majority will perform as well as if not better than those in the office daily. Of course, the occasional individual may try to take advantage of the situation and shy away from work, but that’s down to them, not the working arrangement.

Study author Nick van der Meulen said of the results, “The boundaries of the office structure have changed and with it management has had to shift its approach. The results of our survey showed that managers need to offer trust and freedom to get the most from their employees in return. Any failure by managers to offer this was found to be highly detrimental.

“Practitioners and management experts alike tend to refer to trust as an unavoidable prerequisite for telework: without it, telework would not be possible.

“We found that managers need to support employees through frequent communication, ideally several times a week. This will help to maintain a trusting relationship with their employees, which forms the basis for the provision of employee self-determination or autonomy. We advocate that managers provide employees with absolute freedom to decide for themselves how to best do their jobs. This triggers increased teleworker job performance and prevents negative work behaviours.”

The research also extended as far as to make some recommendations as to which common practices should be avoided if you are to get the most out of home-based workers. These include inequitable treatment, the use of ICTs for work monitoring, and short- to medium-term target setting. Nick van der Meulen asserts that such actions “would simply curb opportunistic behaviour and thereby constitute a breach in healthy working relationships with employees.”

Sam Bonson

Sam is an aspiring novelist with a passion for fantasy and crime thrillers. He is currently working as a content writer, journalist & editor in an attempt to expand his horizons.
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