The last year has redefined the progression path for remote working. With the business world suddenly upended and millions of American businesses forced to adopt remote working ahead of schedule, the work landscape for the future suddenly looks unsure. Experts predict that the accelerated shift to remote working will be permanent, with over half of Americans expecting to continue telecommuting.
With the idea of remote working continuing long after the pandemic, and indeed for the foreseeable future, leaders face the challenge of anticipating and providing what their employees need during these times - how best they can support their remote workers.
Although the shift to remote working comes with its perks, including boosted productivity and lower overhead costs, it is not without its drawbacks, including isolation, distractions, and loneliness. With the future of many businesses now relying on a remote working model's success, it is essential for leaders to assess and provide the right support mechanisms for their remote workforce - both now and in the future.
One of the best ways leaders can support their remote employees is by providing actionable resources for them to rely on during their sudden transition to remote working. For managers, this must be a multifaceted approach, starting with the providing training and monetary compensation to help remote employees transition. Throughout 2020, many companies provided financial support: for example, Google provided $1,000 in remote expenses compensation for work from home and wellness gear. Providing support and gear to help employees in urban and rural communities can minimize transition challenges across the company. For instance, the slower internet connectivity for country residents can stop remote employees from working effectively and communicating in real-time, so it's helpful to consider the provisions made for those living in rural areas.
Also, providing guidance on the best practices for remote working is recommended, starting with a simple, easy to access remote working guide for employees. Be sure to address any anticipated frequently asked questions/concerns, along with changes in business processes or reporting hierarchy. Providing links to communication software and tools for remote workers will help your employees overcome one of the key challenges they face in a transition to remote working.
Effective communication will be integral for a successful remote working model in the future. For leaders, clear communication is also a core leadership function. It also happens to be a common roadblock for companies who adopt telecommuting and can leave your employees feeling confused, isolated, and unappreciated.
To best support, your remote employees going forward, establish clear lines of communication using uniform collaboration tools. A common mistake is using different collaboration and communication platforms between different teams, which hinders overall team communication and progress. Finally, encourage regular feedback and discussion amongst your employees. Consider providing a confidential channel for employee concerns, and minimize the chances of miscommunication with tools like StateOfWriting.
Many leaders fear that their remote teams may become distracted and disengaged during remote working, defeating the shift's purpose. While it is a genuine possibility, there are ways leaders can work to minimize this and keep a remote workforce's engagement high. Amongst these is regular contact between team leaders and their employees. Setting regular weekly check-in video calls and meetings can help combat loneliness. Also, ensure any technology you choose for your remote team includes an element of face-to-face virtual meetings and regular contact.
Finally, as a leader, you can work to cultivate a culture of connectedness. Even when working on separate continents, employees crave a sense of connection and belonging to their employer. Given that employees spend a significant portion of their week in the workplace, it is natural that many of them seek a bond and the encouragement to share their personalities in a safe space. Do this by encouraging some personal talk. Check-in with your employees to find out how they are doing and how their families adjust to the current times.
The hastened shift to remote working presents some challenges, but it also presents opportunities for you to prove yourself a reliable leader in tough times. Organizational success is not just experienced in profit margins and sales targets; it is seen in how well an organization supports its people in times of change.