With large numbers of employees voicing their desire to continue working remotely, and the delta variant causing companies to scrap or scale back plans to return to the office, remote work is here to stay. Smart CEOs are not fighting it, they’re embracing it. Here are four ways you can too.
- Set Clear Expectations
Much of the friction that exists between supporters of remote work and those against it can be solved through better communication. The media has been full of stories in recent months of companies struggling to roll out back to the office plans, and of internal divides within organizations on whether to embrace remote work or to resist it. Executives can show leadership at this moment by gathering stakeholders, listening to employees, and taking the time to be intentional about developing clear, consistent guidelines and expectations about remote work.
Go beyond the key questions of who gets to work remotely, when they work, and how their responsibilities may change. Focus as well on details such as policies on appropriate etiquette during remote meetings (is the camera on or off), and how to handle paid time off with remote workers. Be transparent with employees on the differences between policies for remote and in-office workers, and explain the rationale behind these differences. Finally, be transparent about the possibility of returning to the office in the future, and discuss when and how those decisions are made.
- Expand Your Talent Pool
It didn’t take long for savvy CEOs to recognize one of the simple but profound benefits of a hybrid workforce: the ability to drastically expand their talent pool. If you are hiring a VP of Sales for your corporation based in Boston, your talent pool is limited to those qualified candidates living in, and/or willing to relocate to, the Boston area.
Granted, this is a much larger number than it would be in say Boston, Texas (population 200), but it is limited nevertheless. By committing to a remote workforce, companies stand to increase the size of their talent pool dramatically. A larger talent pool means your chance of hiring the rock star you need just went up. And isn’t that what we should want – the best person for the job? Now, the best person for the job may actually be a possibility, regardless of their geographic location or willingness to relocate.
- Invest in Remote Employees
Companies that have announced plans to reduce salaries for remote workers have been slammed in the court of public opinion. It’s also very shortsighted. Instead, smart executives recognize the importance of investing in their remote and hybrid teams, and not just in salary parity between remote and in-office positions.
Remote teams have different but equally important needs. It’s important to look beyond the standard office equipment, too. Remote workers need more than a reliable computer or a standing desk. Go beyond the basics by providing tools for your team to be healthier and happier. Consider a stipend to put towards a gym membership or yoga classes. Replace the budget for lunches ordered in and the office coffee service with a healthy snack box that gets sent to remote teams twice a month. A happy and healthy (remote) workforce can mean a more productive workforce, and a healthier bottom line.
- Infuse Company Culture in Remote Teams
The discussion about remote work is about more than productivity, human resources, and finances. It’s also about culture. It can be easy for remote teams to miss out on some of the uniqueness of an organization, and feel more like an extension of, rather than a part of, a company’s DNA. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Companies that are intentional about making sure that remote teams benefit from and contribute to their culture, do things such as encouraging workers to decorate their workspace, hosting virtual happy hours or themed networking events, and sending occasional swag bags with goodies. Why not extend “casual Friday” to the remote team, and bring back the (virtual) Halloween costume contest? Going the extra mile in bringing your blended or hybrid team into the fold can pay dividends in increased morale and reduced churn. It also allows your organization to not only preserve its culture, but to continue to build it.
Executives that win any era are typically fast-movers. When the rest are still talking about one thing, they have already moved on. They tend to see trends and move quickly to position their companies not for where things are now, but for where they are headed. As we enter a return to work season that will in actuality see many of us staying put at home, smart executives are switching their focus from “should we embrace remote work” to “how can we do remote work right?”.
Written by Kevin Rizer.
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