- The COVID-19 pandemic has irrevocably changed what the workplace will look like in the future, and this can be leveraged as an opportunity to create more effective work arrangements.
- Remote work is one of the greatest tools available to improve employee engagement, performance and operating costs. However, many leaders lack the skills necessary to develop high functioning remote teams.
- Now is the time to re-evaluate return-to-work plans, considering long-term benefits and challenges that remote working can bring.
For several years, employees have been increasingly embracing the convenience of telecommuting, however, executives in some industries have been slow to adapt. In a 2015 poll by Gallup, it was identified that approximately 37% of the American workforce was already working remotely to some extent1. As cloud services and other supporting technologies have become more prominent, workers are finding it more rewarding to work from home, coffee shops or while traveling. In addition, improved internet options on trains, buses and aircraft are allowing some professionals to reclaim time while in motion to stay prepared or get ahead of schedule. Most often this includes the use of VPN software or special applications, but some businesses that have embraced modern architectures are leveraging software suites such as Microsoft Office 365 to provide a completely seamless work experience.
Although workers continue to push for the ability to routinely work outside the office, many executives have been reticent to support greater adoption of remote work. These executives often provide good reasoning for their hesitance, such as security or work/life balance concerns. However, much of the resistance appears to stem from productivity concerns. An article by the Harvard Business Review notes that managing a remote workforce requires a specific skill set, which today’s leaders should be focused on developing2. Remote work environments may surface some poor management practices, such as micromanaging or using less effective metrics to measure performance. By ignoring the opportunities that remote work environments create, executives miss out on the potential to reduce operating costs, boost employee engagement and increase responsiveness to customers and stakeholders.
Companies that choose legacy office work approaches may find themselves losing ground to their innovative competitors. Now is the time for businesses to act, while much of their workforce has already adapted to working from home. With the right mixture of training programs and technology, today is an opportunity to leverage remote work as a strategy to speed up their financial recovery and position their organizations ahead of competitors. Below are five key steps that any organization can take to recreate their corporate work environments to take advantage of remote work.
- Start Where You are – Organizations don’t necessarily need to invest large amounts to begin moving towards remote work environments. By evaluating how employees who are highly mobile (such as sales staff) or operate in satellite offices, some current business processes and technology could be extended to the larger workforce.
- Develop Strong Reporting Metrics – The metrics that are used should reflect outcomes of work, such as finished projects or customer satisfaction. Avoid the temptation of using easy measurements such as how long employees are logged into applications or the number of emails sent.
- Train Leaders for Modern Work Environments – Many managers have become accustomed to relying on the visual of office workers being at their desks and typing to judge engagement or performance. However, for remote work to offer value, leaders must learn to become facilitators who focus on mentoring their staff to reach their full potential.
- Engage in Active Listening – This is the easiest action that can be taken. Focus intently on hearing from employees what they perceive as barriers to success while working remotely. When employees feel that their concerns have not been addressed or even heard, this can potentially magnify feelings of isolation that workers may feel.
- Create Time for Team Building – By dedicating time to maintaining a sense of team and community among employees, this can improve communication and efficiency. The relationships and cultures that are formed by teams have a great ability to impact overall performance and this should be considered an investment in future productivity.
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1. https://news.gallup.com/poll/184649/telecommuting-work-climbs.aspx 2. https://hbr.org/2020/03/a-guide-to-managing-your-newly-remote-workers