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Go Back       IAR Journal of Business Management | IAR J Bus Mng, 2021; 2(1): | Volume:2 Issue:1 ( Feb. 28, 2021 ) : 211-215
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DOI : 10.47310/iarjbm.2021.v02i01.030       Download PDF       HTML       XML

Challenges in Virtual Workplace Management

Article History

Received: 20.01.2021, Revision: 01. 02.2021, Accepted: 13. 02.2021, Published: 25. 02.2021

Author Details

Prof. Rajani Sunkara*1 and Dr. Venkateswarlu Karumuri2

Authors Affiliations

1Professor & Principal, Department of Management Studies Gayatri Vidya Parishad College for Degree and PG courses Visakhapatnam Andhra Pradesh-530045, India

2Assistant Professor Department of Management Studies Gayatri Vidya Parishad College for Degree and PG Courses, Visakhapatnam Andhra Pradesh-530045, India.

Abstract: Covid outbreak scenario in the entire world has made the organisations to rethink about their functioning with adoption of technology, Artificial Intelligence(AI). The role of HR department has become significant in designing and implementing HR policies that suit to the organisational needs arising due to pandemic situation. The workplace/employee management virtually has become significant priority to increase the effectiveness and efficiency. At this juncture, HR departments are focussing on identifying operational difficulties and challenges and formulating strategies to handle them effectively. HR strategies to a large extent focus on interpersonal relations, establishing effective communication mechanism, leadership development, performance and continuous improvement for keeping the employees engaged on a sustained basis. During pandemic, new and different challenges have emerged in these areas. Managing all these issues, managing teams virtually, engaging the employees virtually to make them feel that they are not socially isolated from their company, handling the stress among employees arising due to continuous virtual meetings and seminars are big challenges for HR managers. The major objectives of this study are to identify various virtual challenges and operational difficulties faced by HR in the organisations. The study will be primarily based on primary data. The study tries to analyse how these challenges are dealt with. The study also tries to offer suggestions to handle the challenges.

Keywords: Virtual engagement, work from home management, HR policies, challenges of HR.

Introduction

Covid outbreak scenario in the world has made the organisations to rethink about their functioning with adoption of technology, Artificial Intelligence (AI). The role of HR department has become significant in designing and implementing HR policies that suit to the organisational virtual working needs and requirements arising due to pandemic. The organisations quickly adopted technology enabled working approaches in their work to ensure efficiency and effectiveness. At this juncture, HR departments started focussing on identifying operational difficulties and challenges and formulating strategies to handle them effectively. HR strategies to a large extent focus on interpersonal relations, establishing effective communication mechanism, leadership development, performance and continuous improvement for keeping the employees engaged on a sustained basis. When it comes to virtual jobs, it is human resource management that strikes a balance between employers’ concern that they won’t be able to control their employees unless they are physically present and they can actually see them, and the need for flexibility as the sine qua non of innovation, creativity and growing employee productivity.

Doing business in a virtual context, defines a set of new requirements before any employer such as hiring the right talent, prepared to immerse in innovative technologies and transforming the functioning from the traditional work concept to a flexible, virtual business environment, recognizing the traits of the upcoming generation of employees (Millennial Generation, Generation Z), to whom geographic parameters, the location or time, do not matter very much in doing any given job, identifying the appropriate method of communication and the extent of flexibility to be given on in assignments and schedules, identifying the new trends happening in the industry and recognizing the advantages of new technologies in view of organisational needs . The question arises as to what kind of a role the HRM function plays, and in what way this vital managerial segment needs to be transformed to make “the virtual” a hallmark of the environment in which HRM strategies, policies and procedures are implemented. As face to face interactions are not possible in virtual working, there is a need for HR departments to identify and add different elements to enrich the communication system in the organisations. There is a dire need for HR in stressing more upon providing the information on the given works or policies designed as in virtual working non-verbal cues are missing. The HR has to choose right method of personal communication that includes empathy, trust that influences the communication to a significant extent. Another fundamental ingredient to add is the existence of common goals between HR managers and employees, as the only way to create a cohesive environment and determination to implement a corporate strategy.

As the firms started working virtually due to pandemic, new and different challenges have emerged for HR in their functioning. Some of the significant challenges faced by HR are managing the teams virtually, engaging the employees virtually to make them feel that they are not socially isolated from their company, motivating the employees for better work performance, handling the stress among employees arising due to continuous virtual meetings and seminars. Another important challenge before HR departments is ensuring the connect between employee and organisation.

Objectives of the study

The major objectives of the study are

  1. To identify various virtual challenges and operational difficulties in HRM in the virtual context.

  2. To analyse different strategies adopted by different companies to deal with these challenges

  3. To offer suggestions to handle the challenges effectively.

Methodology of the study

The study was conducted with the help of both primary data and secondary data. The primary data was collected with the help of a structured questionnaire that was exclusively designed on a five-point scale with assigned weights (Strongly agree – 5, Agree – 4, Slightly Agree – 3, Disagree – 2, Strongly Disagree – 1) and distributed to 38 employees in various capacities in HR departments across different organisations such as Amazon, Reliance Jio, More retail Pvt ltd, Medha Servo pvt ltd etc. Their responses have been collected and analysed with the help of simple percentages, Weighted average method. To supplement this, secondary data has been collected from different research articles published, reports and websites.

Analysis and Discussion

The data that is collected with the help of structured questionnaire was distributed with the help of google forms. The data was analysed, tabulated and presented in the form of table with table No.1

Table No.1: Challenges faced by HR in virtual workplace management

Statement

Strongly Agree

Agree

Slightly agree

Disagree

Strongly disagree

Total

Mean Score

Rank

Information communication via Phone/WhatsApp/ technology is a challenge

11

(28.94)

11

(28.94)

2

(5.27)

5

(13.15)

9

(23.70)

38

(100)

3.26

17

Network difficulties make the communication worse than earlier

23

(60.52)

7

(18.42)

2

(5.27)

6

(15.79)

0

(0.00)

38

(100)

4.24

3

Continuous con calls/meetings are making the individuals more stressful

22

(57.90)

7

(18.42)

7

(18.42)

2

(5.26)

0

(0.00)

38

(100)

4.29

2

Engaging employees virtually is a difficult task

18

(47.37)

6

(15.79)

8

(21.06)

3

(7.89)

3

(7.89)

38

(100)

3.87

8

Continuous remote working is a drainout of physical energies

21

(55.27)

7

(18.42)

6

(15.79)

4

(10.52)

0

(0.00)

38

(100)

4.18

5

Continuous remote working is a drain out of psychological energies

22

(57.90)

8

(21.06)

3

(7.89)

5

(13.16)

0

(0.00)

38

(100)

4.24

3

Delivering maximum productivity with virtual working is a tough task

12

(31.57)

8

(21.05)

8

(21.05)

4

(10.52)

6

(15.78)

38

(100)

3.42

15

Virtual working has increased working hours than in the regular days

26

(68.42)

6

(15.78)

4

(10.52)

2

(5.26)

0

(0.00)

38

(100)

4.47

1

Collaboration of team members virtually is difficult to manage

16

(42.10)

8

(21.05)

4

(10.52)

6

(15.78)

4

(10.52)

38

(100)

3.68

12

Virtual motivation of the employees is a challenging task

18

(47.37)

8

(21.05)

2

(5.26)

6

(15.78)

4

(10.52)

38

(100)

3.79

10

Managing employee attendance/ leave issues is a challenge

5

(13.15)

7

(18.42)

14

(36.84)

3

(7.89)

9

(23.68)

38

(100)

2.89

18

Careful observation of work processes and systems is a challenge

16

(42.10)

10

(26.31)

2

(5.26)

3

(7.89)

7

(18.42)

38

(100)

3.66

13

Defining autonomy and accountability for each employee via virtual mode

6

(15.78)

20

(52.63)

6

(15.78)

2

(5.26)

4

(10.52)

38

(100)

3.58

14

Identifying the right talent on virtual platform is a challenge

17

(44.74)

7

(18.42)

6

(15.78)

4

(10.52)

4

(10.52)

38

(100)

3.76

11

Looking after the training and development activities virtually takes long hours than usual days

16

(42.10)

11

(28.94)

5

(13.15)

2

(5.26)

4

(10.52)

38

(100)

3.87

8

Stress handling among the remote working employees is a difficult task

21

(55.27)

7

(18.42)

4

(10.52)

3

(7.89)

3

(7.89)

38

(100)

4.05

6

handling grievances related to pay & perks, other work related issues is a tough task for HR

10

(26.32)

14

(36.84)

2

(5.26)

4

(10.52)

8

(21.05)

38

(100)

3.37

16

providing proper guidance and support to employees whenever needed is possible virtually

23

(60.53)

7

(18.42)

0

(0.00)

3

(7.89)

5

(13.15)

38

(100)

4.05

6

Note: Figures in brackets indicate percentage to row total

(Source: Primary data)

All the 18 variables were assigned ranks with the help of weighted average method to understand the significant challenges or operational difficulties perceived by HRs in the organisations.

It has been observed that the statement “Virtual working has increased working hours than in the regular days” was assigned with first rank with the mean score of 4.47 as the major challenge faced by HR in the organisations. During normal days as the workforce are available at workplace mostly, the continuous following up and allocation of work is quite easy and work gets completed in the work hours but when workforce is working mainly through WFH it will become a tough task for to continuously follow-up and update about the work in a coordinated way as it takes so much of time to get the feedback on the assigned work.

The variable “Continuous con calls/meetings are making the individuals more stressful” with the mean score of 4.29 was assigned with second rank. As the workforce is continuously on Concalls/meetings make individuals more stressed as they have to manage two things simultaneously like attending the calls for long hours and delivering the work parallel at the same time.

Two variable namely “Network difficulties make the communication worse than earlier” and “Continuous remote working is a drain out of psychological energies” with the mean score of 4.24 were given equal ranks and shared third rank respectively. The next significant operational difficulty faced by HR is “Continuous remote working is a drainout of physical energies” loaded with the mean score of 4.18 and got fifth rank in the study.

On the other hand, “Managing employee attendance/ leave issues is a challenge” was perceived as least difficulty faced by HR with weighted mean of 2.89. Though it was assumed generally that managing employee attendance and leaves is a tough challenge for HR as the workforce use to work with WFH and work from remote locations, surprisingly the study revealed that managing employee attendance and leaves is a small challenge and it can be handled with the help of proper establishment of systems and processes. The second least significant difficulty opined by HR is “Information communication via Phone/WhatsApp/ technology is a challenge” with the mean score of 3.26. The reason for this would be that the employees have adopted to it quickly as people are already have good acquaintance to this type of media. The third least significant difficulty perceived by HR is “handling grievances related to pay & perks, other work related issues is a tough task for HR” with the mean score of 3.37.

Implications

As workforce started operating virtually, significant levels of stress is faced by individuals resulting in productivity and efficiency problems in the work. To handle the stress among the employees organisation started introducing various stress relieving activities virtually. The following table explains different strategies adopted by the organisations in the study to reduce the stress levels among the employees. In the study, some of the organsiations responded that a combination of strategies is being used by the organisations.

Table 2: To handle stress among the employees, the following programmes are adopted by the organisations

Statement

No.of Responses

Virtual coffee meetings

16

Sharing Nostalgia experiences

6

Celebration of festivals/events

18

Online games

12

Providing break time to employees periodically

2

(Source: Primary data)

From the above table it is evident that to handle the stress among employees in the respondent organisations for select study, are using virtual coffee meetings (16 responses), sharing nostalgia experiences virtually (6 responses), celebration of festivals/events (18), online games (12 responses), providing periodical breaks (2 responses). It is understood that majority of the organisations in the study have adopted virtual coffee meetings, celebration of festivals/events, online games as stress busters among the employees.

Another significant challenge before HR is to make employees continuously upgrade themselves with right set of KSAs required to avoid complacency. In general, when there are physical interactions in the workplace, employees will come to know about training and development opportunities via colleagues/ fellow employees. But when people are working virtually, HR has to identify different courses for improving KSA in their respective jobs and as well as the careers in future. The following table gives an overview of the strategies followed by the organisations in providing continuous training and development opportunities.

Table 3: To encourage continuous training and development, the organisation has developed and implemented the following

Statement

No.of Respondents

Percentage

Encouraging employees to attend virtual conferences/webinars

12

31.58

encouraging the employees to complete certification courses through course era, upgrad etc.

10

26.32

Developing tailor made training modules to suit the requirements

12

31.58

Developing simulation games

2

5.26

Started providing the right resources basing on the nature of work

2

5.26

Total

38

100

(Source: Primary data)

From the above table it is found that , 31.58% of the HR managers responded that they are encouraging employees to attend virtual conferences/webinars as a part of continuous development, 26.32% of the respondents told that they are encouraging employees to complete certification courses through course era, upgrad etc, 31.58% responded that their organisations developed tailor made training modules to suit the requirements, 5.26% of respondents told that the continuous development is fostered with the help of developing simulation games encouraging employees to participate in them and 5.26% of the HRs responded that the organisations s Started providing the right resources basing on the nature of work.

While working virtually, team collaboration/team working is a challenge as people are located at different locations. To enhance the team coherence / team collaboration among the employees the organisations in the study adopted the following mechanisms.

Table 4: Organisations have adopted several amenities to manage team collaboration / team coherence like..........

Statement

No.of Respondents

Percentage

Concalls/chat groups

10

26.31

Dashboards

1

2.63

Team hangouts

4

10.53

Virtual meetings

20

52.63

Clear communication of job responsibilities in the team continuously

3

7.90

Total

38

100

(Source: primary data)

From the above table it is evident that , 26.31% of HRs responded that Concalls/conchats are used to increase the team collaboration where 2.63% responded dashboards, 10.53% of the HRs responded that team hangouts are used as a strategy to increase team collaboration/ team coherence, a majority i.e 52.63% of HRs responded that virtual meetings are used to enhance team collaboration/team cohesiveness and 7.90% of the respondents told that clear communication of job responsibilities continuously is used as a tool for team collaboration/team cohesiveness.

Table 5: The virtual HR practices helped the organisation in improving the productivity a specific question was asked to HR managers to understand the influence of Virtual HR practices on improvement of productivity in the work place. The responses were shown in following table.

Particulars

No.of Responses

Percentage

Strongly Agree

6

15.8

Agree

8

21.1

Neutral

14

36.8

Disagree

6

15.8

Strongly Disagree

4

10.5

Total

38

100

(Source: primary data)

From the above table it is found that 15.8% of the respondents agreed that virtual HR Practices helped the organisation in improving the productivity, 21.1% agreed, 36.8% are neutral, 15.8% disagreed and 10.5% of the respondents strongly disagreed to the statement that the virtual HR practices helped the organisaiton in improving the productivity.

Conclusion

This study brings into light some interesting facts relating to virtual workplace management. Contrary to the general assumption that managing attendance, productivity, handling grievance or defining autonomy and accountability are major challenging to managing the workforce in the virtual mode, it is observed that increased number of working hours/ meetings/Concalls and psychological drainout due to working in physical isolation, poor connectivity issues have proven to be bigger challenges. Though companies have adopted several strategies to facilitate better virtual workplace management, they have failed to address the above issues. The strategies adopted by the companies are mostly focussed on employee development, team collaboration or stress management. Therefore, HR department has to adopt more integrated strategies to align employee engagement with productivity. HR departments need to pay special attention in managing the employees working virtually due to the reason that most of the time they working remotely/WFH otherwise the concept of “employee connect” will miss. Concern calls/care calls to the employees from managers/ HR department/leaders will definitely help in engaging the employees with commitment.

References:

  1. Biro, M.M. (2013) Top 5 Reasons HR Is on the Move, Forbes, available onhttp://www.forbes.com/sites/ meghanbiro/2013/12/01/top-5-reasons-hr-is-on-themove/#ff3ba7a63b8e.

  2. Đoković, F. (2016). Challenges of human resource management in a virtual business environment. In Sinteza 2016-International Scientific Conference on ICT and E-Business Related Research (pp. 389-394). Singidunum University. With doi: 10.15308/Sinteza-2016-389-394.

  3. Krell, E. (2012) When HR teams work Virtually, HR Magazine, September 2012, page 81

  4. Lepsinger, R., & De Rosa, D. (2015) How to lead an effective virtual team, Ivey Business Journal, May – June 2015, available on http://iveybusinessjournal.com/how-tolead-an-effective-virtual-team/, entry taken on February 25, 2016.

  5. Tartell, R. (2015) Virtual Leadership - Closing the Distance, Training, may – June, 2015, available onwww.trainingmag.com, entry taken on December 24, 2015

  6. Vozza, S. (2015). How a company works when 100% of the staff is virtual, Fast Company, May 20, 2015. Available on http://www.fastcompany.com/3046333/the-newrules-of-work/how-a-company-works-when-100-ofthe-staff-is-virtual, entry taken on November 15, 2015.


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