The COVID-19 pandemic forced many companies to transition their teams to remote work options. Businesses adapted to this change as best they could on the fly, especially since most considered it temporary. Today, more companies are looking to make the change permanent.
If that describes you, implementing remote work accessibility permanently requires some planning. There are several important considerations to investigate before remotely managing your team. You can make this transition easier first by learning from companies that have forged the way.
The Growth of Permanent Remote Work
So why are so many companies making these options permanent? A study on vaccination in the workplace from the Society for Human Resource Management shows that over half of workers in the U.S. prefer to remain working remotely. It also found that 66% of employees would still work from home even if full herd immunity was achieved through vaccination.
This may be good news for employers. A remote workforce puts fewer demands on employers to continue complex COVID-19 safety measures, especially as new variants of the virus crop up. It may also be cost-effective by eliminating office rental fees and possibly reducing salaries since 35% of employees stated they would take a pay cut to work from home.
A bigger bonus, though, maybe that work-at-home staffers are more productive. Remote workers make more calls, have higher job satisfaction, and take fewer days off, according to research from Stanford University.
You might think it’s just small businesses making the change but in October, Microsoft announced to the media that employees could choose to permanently work remotely. Facebook too sees this change happening for half of their workforce in the next few years.
What You Can Learn from Companies That Have Made the Change
What lessons can your company learn from these remote pioneers? Here are a few key players and their takeaways:
- Automattic, the creators of WordPress, has been fully remote for over 15 years. It attributes its high rate of retention to hiring the best professionals available, no matter where they live. They also keep their employees content by maintaining frequent open communication lines across teams.
- AT&T has been offering remote work options since the mid-90s. With years of experience, they understand that employee contact is crucial. “Make time to call some of your coworkers every day, not just for business, but for chatting and having a few laughs as well,” suggests Tony DeGonia, an AT&T Cybersecurity Technical Sales Consultant.
- Shorter, more frequent meetings are more effective. Microsoft discovered limiting meetings to no more than 30 minutes max increased productivity especially when coupled with instant messaging services.
These lessons show us that keeping your corporate culture remains intact for a remote workforce requires fostering goodwill among employees with traditional phone calls as well as video conferencing, email, and chat services. Communication is key when planning your transition.
How to Make the Transition in Your Company
To properly plan your communication systems and other requirements, you must first address the problems that will arise. As projects are managed remotely, you will need to deal with meeting time conflicts, data security issues, and the possibility that for some employees, working from home may reduce productivity.
There are several ways to address these problems while planning your company’s transition to a permanent remote workplace. These include:
Promote Employee Engagement to Maintain Productivity
How can you promote employee engagement for your remote staffers? When employees think of themselves as stakeholders rather than just workers, they are more likely to be productive and remain at your firm. This is more challenging for distance employees, who may feel invisible when working remotely.
One way to address this is to offer different work options to your staff. Brent Hyder, President & Chief People Officer of Salesforce, recently said, “The 9-to-5 workday is dead, and the employee experience is about more than ping-pong tables and snacks.” Offering flexibility provides your team the opportunity to have input into what their workday looks like.
One such option is to require a day in the office from time to time, perhaps once a week. This helps develop relationships and community among your staff. Another could be planning virtual events that foster team building. Thinking outside the box to support your staff is critical for a remote workforce.
Open Communication to Overcome Challenges
Miscommunication arises even in office situations so you must have clear channels for engagement and discussion as well as project meetings. Teams and group meetings should be set for regular, agreed-upon times. This is especially critical for teams that work different hours or across time zones.
You can also engage remote employees by recognizing their commitment and contributions. In addition to team meetings, you should be holding regular individual meetings to get and provide feedback, keep staffers up-to-date, and discuss how they are progressing as an employee. Open communication is the cornerstone of employee satisfaction.
Once you make the transition, the safety of your data will become a top concern. While your IT department needs to ensure that files are secure, employees are a common source of remote security challenges. Work closely with human resources to create policies that strictly define what is or is not allowed on the devices you provide to your remote staff, including software, downloads, updates, and security apps.
You should also work with IT to develop protocols for system breaches and teach your team how to implement them. You may also want to prohibit the use of private devices for any work-based data sharing or communications.
What Your Employees Will Need from You
For remote workers to succeed, you may need to work with them to provide resources for home office setups and benefits appropriate to their new situations. Here’s a checklist of what topics to cover when talking with your team about setting up a remote workspace:
- Secure devices (smartphone, laptop, etc.) and related equipment. You may need to cover their fees for phone or Internet service.
- Secure access to documents and other assets via cloud services.
- Benefit changes. For the most part, these should not change but you must discuss them if so. For example, worker’s compensation may no longer be applicable if they get injured while working.
- Designated work hours. If you expect your employees to be available 24/7 once they work from home, you can expect lower retention rates. Clearly defined working hours should apply outside the office.
- Expectations for remote work. Put remote working standards in place to help your team be productive. For example, frequent interruptions during meetings are not acceptable and work areas should be somewhat private.
Helping Your Remote Employees Be Successful
How can you gauge the success of your remote employees? Develop goals and expectations to lead remote workers on a path to be successful and grow with your company. Helping them to design a clear pathway to promotion and success will go a long way to making them loyal and productive employees.
Those goals require review. While you may need to utilize employee-tracking applications for payroll and data, one of the best ways to evaluate your remote team is by looking at results for both projects and teams. Look at the quality and outcomes of their work.
You must also set clear expectations for each team member and put regular reviews in place. If you’ve communicated well with your remote team members, you should see successful outcomes in your projects and higher rates of retention.
To implement remote work accessibility permanently in your business, you must never take your eye off the value of your team. Even if they work remotely, there should be no difference in how you help them succeed at their jobs, simply different tools and ways to interact. Making the transition can be easy if you follow these guidelines.