One of the most critical shifts in the nature of work occurred in the last couple of years, and it has transformed the way we think about organizations and how they operate. Of course, we’re talking about remote work.
A survey by Owl labs found that during COVID-19, close to 70% of full-time workers are working from home. 59% of respondents said they would be more likely to choose an employer who offered remote work than those who didn’t. When Mercer, an HR and workplace benefits consulting firm, surveyed 800 employers, 94% of these employers stated the work productivity was the same or higher since employees started working from home.
While it has been highly beneficial in many ways – from increased productivity to increased job satisfaction – these benefits are not a given. In fact, without deploying the right strategies, remote work can be detrimental to an organization.
Here are some of the challenges that companies must be aware of in regards to remote work:
- Employees feeling isolated
- Difficulty unifying teams towards a common goal
- Technological issues sapping productivity
- More difficult to build and maintain company culture
- Burnout for remote employees who feel there may be no work/life balance
If these issues are not adequately addressed, remote work can feel disorganized, misaligned, and harmful to a company’s strategic objectives. However, by enacting a simple game plan, remote work can thrive and add tremendous value to a company’s bottom line and employee morale.
Focus On Communication Always
It’s become apparent for many successful organizations that enhancing communication with employees is a must because management no longer benefits from checking in with employees while at the office. The random managerial or co-worker chat at your desk, hallway, or breakroom is no longer accessible face to face. It’s become even more crucial to plan communication to align goals, discuss deadlines, and divide work to achieve objectives.
One of the main problems remote workers can have is disengagement from co-workers or teams. Companies need to schedule team meetings at least once a week and make this participation mandatory to combat this. That means getting everyone to speak up in the meeting by discussing their challenges or seeing how their tasks are progressing. This creates greater synergy. Employees will feel more at ease asking for help from co-workers because they are urged to be transparent about their work progress. Additionally, this makes people feel like part of a whole rather than an individual component, which boosts morale and accelerates the velocity of projects getting completed.
Onboarding The Right Technology
The sheer fact that organizations can even accommodate remote work is through advancements in technologies that allow for enhanced communication and collaboration. Companies have to invest in new hardware and tools to ensure that these employees are empowered to work remotely rather than slowed down or hampered by a lack of resources. Employees may need new laptops, better WiFi, and new technology such as headsets and webcams to enable video conferencing.
These physical upgrades need to be paired with platforms like Microsoft Teams, Slack, Zoom, and WebEx that increase productivity and close the distance collaboratively between employees in a profound way. While this may seem like a ton of work for an existing IT staff to implement, it ultimately makes life much easier in the long run. Also, there are several great benefits to working hand in hand with an outside service provider that can help train and onboard these tools without disruption if internal IT staff feels overwhelmed or ill-equipped to deploy and maintain these technologies.
Recognize Employees For A Job Well Done
One of the things that can fall by the wayside as people work remotely is the simple validation that we get for being recognized for good work. In-office environments, people feel a bit more seen because they are near one another and can more readily see how their efforts contribute value to their co-workers and organization.
SurveyMonkey found that 82% of employees consider recognition a vital part of their happiness at work. That same study showed 63% of people who are “always” or “usually” recognized at work consider themselves “very unlikely” to seek a new job in the next three to six months.”
In a business climate where talented people have more leverage than ever and demand for human capital is high, organizations need to hold onto their best performers or risk being left behind in a more competitive business environment. Recognizing when someone achieves or exceeds a target metric, closes a big deal, or has a work anniversary or personal milestone will go a long way to making people feel valued. Naturally, when people feel appreciated, it helps build camaraderie, which creates a culture predicated on “we” versus “I,” leading to better performance.
Focus On A Healthy Work-Life Balance
One of the disadvantages of remote work, particularly for teams spread across time zones, is that employees often feel pressured to be “always on,” which can lead to overwork and burnout. Although at the onset of this shift to remote work, employers were fearful that employees would work less, the opposite has been the case. Employees who work remotely are more likely than those who work on-site to work more than 50 hours per week. This is because the line between work and home has been blurred.
Many felt like physically leaving the office meant leaving work behind in the past. However, when your home is also your office, it may seem hard for employees to justify shutting down work for the day. If companies don’t encourage their workers to disconnect, this can lead to burnout and significant productivity losses. This means management needs to encourage employees to be transparent about when they will be unavailable without fear of feeling like they are letting the company down. Additionally, it’s crucial for employers to focus more on results than activity. Some of your employees may work better at odd hours or can achieve their goals in just a few hours. They shouldn’t be penalized for not physically working, in the same way, they would while in a physical office.
Whether the change to increased remote work will be beneficial or not depends on whether companies embrace this change or not. Regardless, it’s clear that remote work is here to stay, and accepting its challenges and overcoming them will lead to more productivity, high retention rates, and increased profit. The keys to this will be enhanced transparency and communication, the right mix of technology, positively recognizing employees, and encouraging a sustainable work-life balance. If all of these elements are harnessed together properly, remote work can be exponentially advantageous for any organization.