Just like the phone replaced the telegraph, television supplanted radio, and the Internet changed everything, the remote worker trend that skyrocketed during the pandemic is poised to change the world of work forever.
In 2020 companies had to move quickly and adapt to remote working on the fly. Even without a plan in place, most companies were able to navigate the challenge and found that productivity didn’t suffer; instead, it went up in many cases. Mercer, an HR and workplace benefits consulting firm, surveyed 800 employers and 94 percent said that productivity was the same as or higher than it was before the pandemic.
With the lockdowns easing, many employees don’t want to return to the office. Even before COVID necessitated remote work, a study found that 85 percent of Millennials wanted to work remotely 100 percent of the time, while the Global Workforce Analytics study found that employees at Fortune 1000 companies were already working away from their desks 50-60 percent of the time.
With the last year of lockdown proving that work still gets done outside the office, businesses are now finally embracing remote work in some capacity.
For employers, there are many benefits to embracing a distributed workforce. The most obvious one is cost savings. A major corporate expense is eliminated with downsized office space or no commercial real estate to pay for. However, creating a new virtual work environment is critical for success. Even if people aren’t congregating around the proverbial water cooler, it’s still critical to facilitate effective communication for both work and social reasons.
Thankfully, there are a host of tools and strategies to help businesses streamline remote work. Without a strong digital infrastructure, remote workers will struggle. Tools like Slack, Google Suite, Microsoft SharePoint, and Zoom are the backbone of a distributed workplace. These collaboration tools make it easy for teams to work seamlessly together, and also provide a way to instill a virtual corporate culture.
For employees, a remote work environment offers better work/life balance. It eliminates long commutes and offers the flexibility to arrange a workday around a child’s soccer game or a doctor’s appointment. Working from home eliminates the distraction of noise or co-worker interruptions and allows the employee the chance to focus on the task without distraction.
There are five main areas to ensure success for companies looking to embrace remote work moving forward:
For employees working remotely, it can be a challenge balancing professional and personal time. People sometimes have a hard time knowing when to stop working and when to start living. The danger of working from home could lead to workaholic tendencies, due to the lack of establishing a routine or ritual that defines breaks throughout the day. Leadership needs to effectively guide and model employees on time management, encouraging their teams to have a healthy work-life balance. It’s far too easy for the workday to blend into personal time. Employees can help themselves by developing a balanced schedule and adhering to it.
When a company establishes a positive working culture, people will feel more invested in a shared purpose and interpersonal relationships. Culture can be hard to define, but everyone intuitively senses culture. Building a remote-hybrid culture starts with hiring people who are a culture fit – for example, encouraging the use of video for team meetings, interacting on chat tools on a daily basis, rewarding employees with praise, and arranging online social team building events.
In a virtual environment, employers should still find ways to provide employees with access to the benefits they enjoyed previously. The PERKS Marketplace offers a people support OS that keeps inclusivity in mind for employees by allowing them to customize their own perks and amenities according to their individual needs and preferences. There are a variety of categories that focus on employee happiness ranging from fitness classes, food delivery subscriptions, meditation apps, virtual experiences, and much more.
As many people found out during quarantine, a defined space within your home is required to ensure productivity. A specified work area allows for focused work and allows you to physically leave your workspace at the end of the day. Even if you don’t have a home office, you can put a desk in a dedicated area within your home. Additionally, you can utilize flexible office spaces or coworking spaces to change up the scenery and give yourself a place to escape distractions at home.
Managing Your Team
Managing teams can be difficult when the workforce is distributed. In remote environments, you can’t pop into someone’s office to brainstorm, check on projects, or evaluate progress. However, there are tools that help employees track time and record the progress of projects. Utilizing these resources will ensure better collaboration and provide real-time updates for managers. With PERKS, employers can reward employees with incentives to track and complete projects.
Avoid Burnout and Promote Resilience
If employees aren’t careful with time management and personal boundaries, it’s easy to get burned out. Employers can help alleviate burnout by giving them the freedom to pick and choose when, where, and how they work. In this scenario, each employee is responsible for their own destiny and contributions to the company or organization. When collaborating with team members who are located in different time zones, you can leverage software solutions to allow people to deliver workloads on company- and department-wide targets.
At PERKS, we believe in a healthy combination of synchronous and asynchronous workflows. Depending on the size of your organization, determining what workflows are best for your situation will effectively allow your employees to have the freedom and flexibility to work in whichever ways they are most comfortable. This naturally leads to positive company culture and creates the kind of environment that enhances mental resilience in the workplace.
Remote work is here to stay. Smart companies that want to hire and retain top talent will need to have options for flexible work. The pandemic proved that even without a strategy in place, many jobs can successfully be done remotely. Now is the time to establish a detailed remote work plan for your business, incorporating what worked during COVID and refining policies and procedures to make work-from-anywhere a seamless business transition.
Written by Dominik Pantelides.
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