The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted the lives of millions and cast a cloud of uncertainty over our world. Among the few bright spots in this situation is the rise of remote working. It hasn’t been for everyone; some occupations don’t meet the criteria that allow a job to be remote-compatible. But for many businesses and their employees, remote working arrangements have proven to be the only way out of an otherwise dire situation.
If your company hasn’t already gone all-in for remote work and invested in cloud access security broker solutions to enable remote workers, now is a good time to consider whether you should commit long-term. Does remote work help you in the big picture? Understanding these potential issues will help you gauge the answer.
Trust equals effectiveness
The pandemic has given remote workers a chance to prove themselves, but it may also have served to highlight the benefits more than the pitfalls. When some degree of normalcy is restored, you need to be able to maintain the true effectiveness of your remote workers if this is to continue as a full-time solution.
Even before COVID-19, proponents of remote work cited that employees under such arrangements were more productive and invested more time in their jobs. But when you can’t directly oversee workers, how do you measure their productivity?
Across the different options employers have used, there is one common underlying theme: trust. You can simply set deadlines and give employees the freedom to do as they wish, so long as they get the job done. If the element of trust isn’t there, more frequent updates and collaborative revisions will be necessary, which detracts from everyone’s time, flexibility, and effort.
Thus, without trust, productivity can be enforced at the cost of your overall team effectiveness. And unfortunately, trust is built through growing relationships over time. It’s easier for established teams to transition to remote work. Collaborating with new hires or people you don’t know that well may be an obstacle that limits the effectiveness of remote work for your team.
Where’s the growth?
Employee productivity aside, most of the benefits of remote work for employers are easier to measure. It’s easy to find and review evidence of overhead cost savings, reduced employee turnover, and the ability to hire or contract from a broader pool of skilled professionals.
As an employer, take time to view things from the employee’s perspective. Again, some benefits will prove easy to measure. Remote workers can calculate how much they save on clothing, food, transportation, and other costs, such as childcare or even home maintenance. (You have more time to attend to kids and carry out DIY repairs when you work from home.) A more intangible factor such as work-life balance can be measured if that even proves necessary. Most employees can immediately tell if they are enjoying a more balanced lifestyle.
The hidden concern from an employee’s perspective is growth. Lost amid the conveniences of working from home is the potential missed opportunity of learning new skills through training or mentorship. Not everyone is a self-aware, motivated, and continuous learner. Without direct supervision and informal consultation, it becomes harder for many people to expand their capabilities. In the long run, this could hamper individual career growth and hurt your team.
As remote work has suddenly taken a central role due to the global outbreak, people often forget that it’s still a work in progress. Tools for collaboration and data security measures continue to improve. These enhancements may offer further incentives for companies to adopt wholesale remote working arrangements.
But the biggest challenge any team will face when conducting its operations remotely is tied to communications. Everyone has to battle against the potential risk of social isolation and subsequent mental health issues. Social interactions, even if only through Zoom or Slack, can help with that. Teams also need to find ways to replace the spontaneity and informality of face-to-face interactions, which can lead to better relationships and exchange of ideas.
Use your communications deliberately to tackle this problem. Go out of your way to praise people and celebrate achievements or special events; organize informal meetings with no real agenda just to foster more interactions and bring everybody together in a fun setting.
More than halfway into the year, we still don’t know what the new normal will be like. Some predict that remote work isn’t just here to stay; it represents the future. Others believe that while it has some benefits, they are over-emphasized due to the pandemic, and in the long term, remote work will only be a temporary solution. Ultimately, what matters is that you figure out your team’s unique outlook. And if you decide to build around remote work, make sure you address these key issues.