No doubt, the Covid-19 outbreak has caused a lot of changes in the workplace, which are bound to remain unaltered even in the post-pandemic period. However, what appear to be uncertain are the impacts and the eventual long-term sustainability of the new practices for business owners.
Before now, most companies had favored the traditional model of having employees on-site, working within stipulated hours. Despite the enormous advancements in tech, only a few had mustered the courage to adopt remote tools in their day-to-day activities.
The reason for that is not hard to imagine. The in-person model naturally brings together the two key elements of communication and collaboration, which together help in creating a workplace culture that encourages teamwork and mutual trust- all of which are vital ingredients an organization must have to grow.
With the work-from-home approach, the benefits for companies are not much. In fact, the biggest gain business owners stand to derive from it is the relatively lowered cost of operation.
On the hand, it gives the employees more freedom and flexibility, which might translate to increased productivity or a decline in performance. So, it can be argued then that while the former favors an organization better, the latter would suit employees more.
That portrays the dilemma most business managers must find a solution to. According to Reuters, remote working is fast becoming the new normal, with a 115% increase in the number of recorded remote workers over the last decade.
So, in transitioning to the new system, how would companies ensure they maintain high-level performance from their workforce, and ultimately deliver great results to the stakeholders?
Below, I attempt describe how an off-site work arrangement can be optimized in any company, without having to risk the organizational goals.
1. Hire the right employees
On-boarding the right set of individuals who would not exploit the extra freedom and comforts that comes with working remotely is the important first step. That is, a company must identify quality candidates who are able to exhibit professional work ethics, even when they are not being supervised.
The key qualities to look out for in this regard are a disciplined character, high-level of self-awareness and proper time management skills.
2. Don’t be content with employee metrics, set clear expectations
As a company transitions to a remote-work system, the performance or productivity of members might decrease sharply. In the same vein, it might boost their morale and overall effectiveness.
To tackle such a problem, the use of performance metrics would not be enough. For example, taking a record of the number of hours employee A spends on a PC in a day would not provide a tangible insight to measure the staff’s contribution to companies goal and vision.
Companies must set clear objectives and milestones for each employee, and also ensure each member is accountable to the objectives.
3. Invest in the right technology
Aside from eroding the need for employees to commute to work every other day, remote working removes the financial burden of maintaining office furniture and related assets.
At the same time, if employees are left to source for themselves the required tools needed to execute their function, companies would risk seeing repeated cases of low-quality deliveries and poor adherence to deadlines from the workforce.
That said, the need to ensure employees have constant access to highly-graded equipment and other ad-hoc services is a necessity that cannot be over-emphasized.
In addition, there are software products designed to make virtual group coordination, project tracking and performance management a seamless process for team leaders.
4. Create appropriate schedules for meetings
Virtual online meetings do not have the same bonding effect of a face-to-face kind of interaction. However, with the right twist, they can be organized to feel like a real social experience.
To do that, I recommend the following strategies:
Projects-related meetings should be scheduled to follow a regular pattern, so it becomes habitual for everyone to follow, especially when there are dedicated team members who typically like to map out each day’s activities before getting started. Also, it helps to avoid distractions.
Team leaders should encourage every staff member to regularly check on each other and seek each other’s help, as that would go a long way to inspire friendship.
In line with the above, managers can set a good example for subordinates through regular weekend meetings, focusing on off-work related issues.
5. Create an Intranet
The use of modern intranet is common in every workplace these days. However, it would have a greater impact for a remote workforce.
For example, rather than seeking the way out on a problem from an individual colleague, an employee can decide to share the issue with everyone in the team by connecting with them through the intranet.
Also, modern intranets allow users to catch-up latest news, recent development within a company, and also participate in an online social activity with other team members.
As remote work continues to gain more appeal to job-seekers, companies who intend to stay competitive in the long term must embrace the new developments, so as to attract the best talents.
However, in doing so, they must devise a clear and sustainable strategy to avoid implementing the new practice at the cost of the organization's progress