Why remote working is the new norm – and how to do it properly
Many people think the COVID-19 pandemic ushered in the era of the remote workforce. And to a certain extent they’re right, as new norms such as social distancing fast-tracked the need for people to relocate their HQ to their home on a massive scale.
But even before that, advances in technology had allowed companies across Australia and the world to embrace the opportunity for staff to work here, there and anywhere. And it’s a trend that’s likely to become a mainstay, given its myriad benefits.
For companies, to offer just one example, a remote workforce can significantly reduce their operating costs and infrastructure needs, while for employees, there’s a huge range of advantages, depending on their personal circumstances.
For some, a newfound flexibility with schedules can let them adjust their working hours around family and other commitments, without impacting productivity and responsibility. For others, the end of their daily commute can bring both financial savings and a reduction in stress. Remote work can also allow staff to set up shop wherever they please (within reason). So it’s goodbye to fighting for seats on the bus and hello to a corner table at that coffee shop that has the best lattes in town.
Sounds amazing, doesn’t it? And it absolutely can be. But there is a catch. Which is that if remote workforces aren’t rolled out and overseen properly, they can trigger myriad issues around a lack of oversight and accountability. To avoid this happening, it’s therefore crucial for companies that any move towards going remote flows on from careful and considered planning, training, familiarisation and adjustment. Here are three crucial factors you need to consider…
Make sure all stakeholders are invested in the transition
At its heart, the success of failure of remote workforces comes down to one thing – the ability and willingness of stakeholders at all levels of seniority to adapt to the change. So for this reason, you need to get them on board early and give them the opportunity for meaningful involvement. Seek their opinions, canvas their ideas on potential setbacks, showcase potential advantages, meaningfully address their concerns and then come up with, and communicate, solutions. Walk them through the impact of the transition and what it means for the business, its bottom line and its long-term goals. Be forthright and open and get them excited to go on the change journey willingly.
Prioritise reorientation, training and support for workers
As you would expect, remote working generally involves the introduction of technology that may not have been part of the in-office environment. This could be anything from video conferencing to a new cloud-based virtual desktop. Given the changes already going on, this need to embrace new ways of working can be incredibly stressful for some employees, while others will take it in their stride.
Whatever the case, the onus is on companies to support the transition, so it’s important to schedule appropriate training, offer personal support, provide access to IT help, distribute useful resources and how-to material and even make updates to position descriptions where relevant.
HR and management further have a role to play in terms of setting the tone and climate for staff members who suddenly find themselves alone at a desk all day, rather than surrounded by workmates. In this case it can be helpful to set expectations and provide advice around issues such as communication channels, setting work/life boundaries and maintaining enthusiasm and output.
After all, at the end of the day, remote working only succeeds when employees feel supported and employers feel their trust in remote staff has been vindicated.
It’s a team effort, and that means it’s crucial for all players to work together.
Communicate and evaluate
Creating a successful remote platform doesn’t begin and end with the rollout on day one. Rather, it’s about an ongoing judgement of achievement, failure and relevance. So as you usher your staff, and your wider business, through the early days of the transition and beyond, make sure you keep open the lines of communication and evaluation.
Beyond the usual complaints that go with learning new systems, listen to any very real issues employees come up against – and also encourage them to detail ways in which their lives are easier and could be made even more so with the available resources, whether that’s done through group chats or feedback forums.
From a business perspective, look at areas such as productivity, revenue, costs and staff retention and consider the ways your remote workforce is impacting those targets. By keeping your ear to the ground and the lines of communication open, you’ll be able to make any necessary adjustments to ensure success and satisfaction both in the short-term and down the line.