Remote Work Environments – The New Normal For The Post Covid Corporate World
The impact of the coronavirus pandemic has led to widespread disruptions. It has changed how we interact with each other as well as how we work. The new normal in a post covid world is the onset of trends, such as minimal face-to-face interactions, social distancing, remote work environments, greater digital transactions, and virtual meet-ups.
In the corporate world, work-from-home has become the new normal. Even with restrictions being eased in most countries, companies are realigning their organisational structure to continue managing remote work environments for the foreseeable future. This paradigm shift has led to an explosion in the utilisation of digital platforms, especially video conferencing tools like Zoom and Hangout. Digital channels and virtual platforms will continue to be prevalent and paramount in a post covid world.
The challenges of maintaining a large scale remote workforce is aplenty, and organizations need to be agile and flexible to rise to these challenges. A recent poll by Gartner has established that 48% of employees will likely work remotely, at least for part of the working week after Covid-19 in comparison to 30% before the outbreak. Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter, announced recently that their employees can keep working from home forever if they wish too. Tech Giant Facebook has allowed its workers to continue remotely through the rest of 2020, & is incentivising WFH. Meanwhile, Google informed its employees that they can return to office starting from July, with enhanced safety measures in place, however, most of its workforce will continue work from home till the end of the year.
It might be easier for large scale IT companies to make this transition, but for businesses new to this phenomenon, it’s easier said than done. The imperative for the organisation is to create a conducive environment for employees, that ensures high productivity and interaction, even while working remotely.
Here are some tips to manage a remote environment workforce:
These steps are essential to ensure that your employees are emotionally and physically equipped to handle the stress of working from home
Communication with all employees
The significance of maintaining a constant flow of communication with employees cannot be overstated. Organisations need to establish guidelines for remote employees to ensure steady collaboration between all departments as well as seamless access to necessary information and resources. Renewed employee engagement is paramount for efficiency and productivity.
It is the responsibility of companies to ensure that employees have the technical resources to work efficiently from remote environments. Some employees may need to be re-trained technically, and may also require additional help to improve their communication skills. This would ensure that they are adequately equipped to handle the new work situation. Since virtual communication will be the key mode of communication, it’s important to provide relevant coaching to employees to enable effective communication among all team members. Managers and mentors need to learn how to escalate or de-escalate, through virtual exchanges.
Enhancing business productivity
Automation and technology will play a vital role in the day-to-day management and engagement of employees. Businesses will have to look to automate tasks such as daily attendance, payroll, interviews, employee feedback etc to enhance productivity. Automating process-based tasks will optimise workers’ use of their time, and help them maintain a higher level of productivity and better work-life balance.
Creating different levels of autonomy for employees
Companies need to create different work strategies to handle their top and average performers. Employees with high motivation, perform well and consistently, even in a remote work environment. They are well equipped to handle a greater degree of autonomy, to ensure that the work gets done at the end of the day. However, those with average performance would require a more detailed set of instructions to work efficiently. For average performers, managers need to make an organisational structure with set goals and objectives, performance measurement, constructive feedback and regular follow-up.
Focusing on outcomes instead of the process
Work from home employees doesn’t always operate within the traditional work hour of 9 to 5. There are additional stressors when one is working from home. Management has to acknowledge the difficulties of maintaining a personal and professional balance in a remote work environment. They must enable greater flexibility to their employees to ensure high productivity. The focus should be on the outcome of the day and not the process. Such flexibility allows teams to work together better and get the work done on time.
Placing greater focus on transparency and accountability
Even with remote working, it is important to reinforce the core organisational values for every level of management. This creates more transparency and accountability among all employees. Management must encourage their employees to report misconduct. They must remind everyone about the different channels to report misconduct and questionable behaviour as well as the repercussions of unethical conduct. This is an important step to create a positive work environment for everyone.
In times like this, employees look for more recognition for their contributions. Offering your employees public acknowledgement and tokens of appreciation is an effective way to keep them motivated and driven. There has to be a better provision for employees to share their successes and contributions. Managers must identify and highlight the efforts of employees scaling up their productivity, even in a disengaged and social distanced environment. Such activities are essential to keep employee morale high.
Look out for signs of stress
It is imperative that organisations emphasise the mental health of their workforce. They need to look out for signs of stress among its employees. Managers and HRs, equipped with proper sensitivity training, should provide guidance, and extend emotional support to their employees working remotely. In such distressing times, an empathetic approach is essential when dealing with employees. Acknowledging their concerns will help them feel at ease and attribute to better working relationships.
The future of remote work environments look promising, but organisations must adapt and enable flexibility. Utilising innovative technology will aid digital businesses to maintain a competitive advantage, and continue attracting and retaining talented employees.