Before the coronavirus chaos, the future of work was already expected to move toward telecommuting. Clearly, the COVID-19 pandemic forced people and businesses to adapt to remote working—whether they were ready for it or not. It forced us to some things that we have always considered, but just not motivated enough to make the change.
I’ve heard it said the pandemic has acted as a reset button for organizations, showing that we can easily work from home, which will completely change the future of work in a variety of ways. Indeed, the era of everyone working full-time in centralized workspaces appears to be gone for good. According to many pundits and prognosticators, organizations will need to offer a hybrid mix of in-office and remote work—or a fully remote workforce in order to compete for tomorrow’s talent.
Granted WFH has been working, but work from home as made popular by the pandemic may not translate easily to a new hybrid mix of on-site and remote working. Here are some things to consider, even if your teams are in the office now:
- A plan to pivot to remote work as needed
- A work-from home policy more flexible than anything offered in the past
I can think of three good reasons.
1) Without a strategy for managing and retaining remote employees, your company is at risk. Planning for remote operations is a key part of overall preparedness. From disease to disasters, many situations make remote work a necessity for days, weeks or as in the case of COVID19—two years. When disaster strikes, a quick and easy transition to remote work can minimize business interruptions and reduce employee stress. Success comes to those companies intentional about creating a work-from-home culture that they can deploy on short notice. Being prepared can help organizations avoid chaos and maintain productivity no matter where their employees are doing their jobs.
2) Expect candidates to ask about flexible work options for their own needs and to assess how prepared your organization is to pivot in a crisis. A clear plan for transitioning to remote work is a plus in the eyes of job seekers. They don’t want to worry about how you’ll handle the next crisis.
3) Even when they’re back in the office, employees with experience working remotely may expect more leeway to use technology to accommodate their personal schedules. And, employers that offer such flexibility are in a better position to retain talent.
Accepting fully remote or hybrid work as the new norm requires a mindset shift on the part of managers and leaders. And, it requires structure, accountability and connection in order to succeed.
The foundation of a successful remote work policy is built on three elements:
They’re interrelated, but each plays its own role in supporting remote employees, maintaining innovation and making work from home a success.
Each organization has its own level of need for structure, and perhaps surprisingly, each generation of workers needs different levels of structure to stay productive and creative.
Multiple studies and surveys have found that Generation Z workers and younger millennials do best with a more structured WFH environment. Structure can also help new hires and young workers build their network at work, something that’s more difficult without face time in the office.
No matter what age your workforce is, some level of structure is necessary to keep ideas flowing and interpersonal connections growing within your organization.
Not only do your employee teams need structure, but your leaders need it as well. The goals should be to:
- Stay connected within and across teams and organization levels.
- Maintain an open pipeline for sharing ideas and building connections.
- Help everyone to stay focused and innovative while balancing home responsibilities.
Much of your structure, in practice, will likely depend on how well your managers implement your plans and make themselves available for their team while they’re out of the office.
As you think about the best way to manage future changeovers to remote work or optimize your current work-from-home operations:
- Make sure your managers understand the unique requirements of managing remote employees.
- Ensure they’re accessible to employees on their teams on an established schedule.
- Discourage micromanaging, which can reduce employee productivity and morale.
The goal is to provide structure through regular check-ins, support productivity and foster the sense of connectedness that can be a real challenge for workers at home.
Employees who work from home may still feel connected to their co-workers because they know how to get in touch with their teammates and, one would hope, their managers. However, feeling connected to headquarters, the C-suite and the overall organization can be much more challenging.
That’s a problem, because when employees don’t feel connected to their employer, they often stop innovating and sharing new ideas – just at a time when companies need to be at their most innovative.
The new normal is nowA remote work policy that implements the structure, accountability and communication changes that support optimal remote work and innovation, will make it easier and more successful to transition to the future of work. Because, the future of work is now.