As the coronavirus pandemic continues, remote work has become the norm for companies ranging from Twitter and Google to small- and mid-sized businesses. Stats show that a significant number of the workers remain apprehensive about returning to the office and that long-term remote work has actually improved their productivity.
In the “2020 State of Remote Work Survey” conducted by Owl Labs in conjunction with Global Workplace Analytics, 81% of respondents think their employer would support post-COVID-19 remote work, while 29% think their company will actually support it more. In addition, 77% of those surveyed said that working from home after COVID-19 would make them “happier,” and perhaps more notably, nearly half of the respondents would look for another job if work from home was no longer allowed.
So, if you find that remote work is in your company’s and employees’ best interest, how do you make a plan for long-term remote work from home and rally your team around the idea? If you choose to follow this path, you’d be in good company as Global Workplace Analytics predicts that, 25%-30% of the workforce will continue working from home for multiple days a week by the end of 2021.
Define Your Vision for Long-Term Remote Work
As an employer, consider certain criteria before establishing and implementing your vision for a remote work from home plan. Chief among the criteria is to survey your employees to determine their moods and needs. Find out what percentage of your employees and their teams want to continue work remotely following and how many days a week they’d prefer to come into the office.
Armed with this information, you can then determine and share your goals for allowing employees to work remotely long term. Make sure that you are involving a significant number of your employees in developing these plans.
A recommended approach is to ask senior leadership to implement an employee involvement process that might include all-hands meetings, additional surveys, and voting. Do not underestimate the importance of involving your team members in making decisions about their work future.
The goals you decide on will need to include:
- Articulating an overall vision for what you hope to achieve by allowing employees to long-term remote work from home so that they support the plan
- Helping your employees stay healthy
- Achieving further increases in productivity through employee comfort and less commuting time
- Creating more positive employee morale and higher retention rates
- Financial considerations such as leasing less office space, leasing out space you own, and adjusting your building plan to accommodate less employee space
- Saving the cost of business travel
- Setting up workstations and commonly used areas to accommodate the need for personal distancing
- Making sure that you are providing your remote workforce the latest and most powerful technology and office equipment
- Making available the emotional support and work-life balance your employees need
- Determining which positions can viably work remotely and with what frequency while maintaining customer service and business profitability
- Providing the proper tools so that workflow is steady and maintained such as asking teams to work core business hours and setting up weekly meetings
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, empowering your managers is key to the effectiveness and success of your long-term remote work plan. As Gallup points out, “no other role in an organization has more influence,” and the way in which managers lead their teams and position each team member for success is critical for the productivity and engagement of employees.
Policies to Support a Long-Term Remote Work Plan
If your employees have been doing remote work from home for some time, you have likely reformulated policies and practices to support this unexpected new normal. Going forward, these are some of the HR policies and practices you may want to prioritize to change and update for long-term remote work from home.
- The rules, norms, and key metrics you will need to develop to preserve and enhance your organizational culture and values
(Example: Offering virtual social and team building activities and employee recognition)
- How you support your employees emotionally and assist them to practice work-life balance
(Example: Considering child care support for working parents and more flexible employee leave policies to accommodate the new normal)
- How you will reallocate infrastructure savings when you reduce the need for office space (Example: Providing superior bonuses to employees, upgrading their technology to the newest, fastest and most interactive, providing laptops and printers to employees who need them, and emphasizing training and development so employees continue learning new skills)
- Addressing the ability of employees to safely work in the office as needed
(Example: Addressing office distancing needs, making temporary desks available in a “hoteling” setup, and providing extra sanitation and cleansing to the workspaces)
- Establishing expected hours and workforce requirements
(Example: Emphasizing that all existing rules and regulations apply in the remote workplace as they do in the office so no harassment or other hostile behavior will be tolerated. Also, stressing that every employee is expected to work core hours as needed.)
- Looking at how and who you hire and onboard. You will want to hire people who will thrive working remotely and long-term remote work broadens your ability to hire people globally as long as you understand the needs of the teams for in-person contact.
(Example: Hiring people from other states and developing a remote employee training and onboarding process)
- Emphasizing the need for employees to document their performance accomplishments and stay in touch with their managers regularly to discuss short- and long-term career goals and development needs
(Example: Scheduling a Zoom call to update the manager on project progress or request feedback on how they are doing)
How to Rally Employees Around Long-Term Remote Work
By following the above recommendations, you can build the groundwork that will help your employees rally around the concept of remote work. Engaging your employees using surveys to identify their wishes and concerns is the first step. Then, involving your employees in determining the expectations and needs of both the onsite workplace and the remote work locations comes second.
This is followed by informing employees about what you can accommodate and what will not work and why. Then, solicit help from your employees with problem solving—perhaps they have answers the senior leaders haven’t found.
Finally, ask your managers to make a plan for their respectives teams on how they will accomplish these 10 supportive culture imperatives:
- Communication and problem solving
- Establishing norms for behavior, interaction, and contribution
- Determining how much time your employees wish to meet with their managers and making it okay to take into consideration the different needs of each worker
- Building trust and maintaining an effective, supportive overall work culture
- Measuring productivity and quality objectively so they have fewer trust concerns with employees
- Dealing with employees’ feelings of isolation, loneliness, and solitude
- Agreeing on the amount of time the team needs to be together in the office
- Addressing collaboration challenges, outcomes, and conflict resolution
- Determining the appropriate working hours that will foster collaboration while honoring the need for work-life balance
- Developing a method for overall assessment periodically of the new part-time or full-time work from home experiment
If your teams address each of these issues effectively, and you periodically assess whether the plans are working while keeping your finger on the pulse of employee morale, you may find that the new normal serves everyone’s needs better. And in doing so, you can create a win-win situation as you forge new ground.