The COVID-19 virus has broken through barriers that had prevented remote work in the past, igniting a fundamental shift in the physical workplace. With almost a year of experience now, more employers are witnessing somewhat better productivity from remote workers, despite the lag in certain areas. Today, well into this pandemic, the challenges and the benefits of remote work are more obvious. Even though several people may be returning to the workplace as economies re-open, studies have shown that hybrid models of remote work could be our new normal. For example, according to Gartner, 74% of CFOs plan to keep part of their workforce permanently remote after the pandemic. Both companies and employees have witnessed the benefits of remote working such as more flexibility, enhanced performance and better employee satisfaction.  At ig, due to our indefinite shift to remote work, we have taken the initiative of writing our own remote work policies, which have had a highly positive impact on our human capital. In addition to that, we have assisted other companies in writing their tailored policies, as part of a holistic “Survive and Thrive Working Outside of the Office” project. Under the umbrella of this blended learning and human capital initiative, we:
  • Discuss the challenges and opportunities of working remotely.
  • Describe the ideal home setup for working remotely.
  • Explore the main requirements for successful remote working.
  • Experiment with time management tools.
  • Develop the right emotional and cognitive mindset.
  • Explain the importance of work-life balance and how to maintain it while working remotely.
  • Discuss strategies for effective collaborative working.
In light of this, and as more and more companies announce their willingness to shift to a hybrid working model, there are several aspects that should be taken into consideration prior to that. Some of these aspects include:
  1. Classifying who can work from home and who cannot, based on the right criteria.
  2. Establishing and implementing remote work policies.
  3. Establishing a communication routine that strengthens productivity and diminishes the feeling of social isolation.

Classify by tasks not roles

Each and every role at the organization should be broken down and examined. To determine the potential for remote work, one important element is the time spent on each task within the occupation. Additionally, the possibility for remote work also relies on the combination of activities that the role necessitates and on their spatial, substantial, and interpersonal context. This helps clarify whether an employee should be present on-site to perform the duties, engage with other employees, and/ or use certain equipment.

Establish and implement remote work policies 

Establishing a remote work policy for your business is a contemporary and practical solution for leaders who value flexibility. Here are some elements that should be included: Availability Availability expectations should be outlined in the policy. Setting schedule requirements from the beginning eliminates any potential frustration between employees based on time.  Responsiveness Defining whether or not a remote employee are expected to respond to coworkers immediately is another important factor in addition to specifying the modes of communication that should be used. Documenting expectations around communication forms a healthy relationship between employees and managers. Productivity  Productivity can be quantified in various ways, whether based on meeting deadlines, KPIs, number of hours logged in, or others. The key thing is to guarantee that you can measure the outcomes of work. Reporting Taking into consideration that the crisis may have led to a shift in certain roles or in the structure of the workforce, employees at all levels should be presented with a clear hierarchy for seeking approval on assignments, logging work hours, documenting project progress, planning events, assessing objectives, as well as giving and receiving feedback, and escalating certain issues that may arise. Administrative functions Organizations should reiterate administrative process expectations and explain changes to administrative tasks such as submitting and paying invoices and requesting leaves or reimbursement for certain expenses. Equipment and Connectivity Remote workers require the right tools to complete their work. Therefore, companies should clarify what equipment they are able to offer to employees, if any. It’s crucial that prospective remote workers are aware of the technological and connectivity expectations up front so they can communicate whether or not they can meet them, and so that a middle ground can be attained.

Communicate Routinely

Other than the usual day-to-day communication, employees should establish a habit of meeting virtually, sometimes even more often than they normally meet in person. The reason behind this is that working remotely for extended periods of time can leave employees feeling socially isolated or not in the loop on events happening in the company. Some have even reported that shifting to remote work has left them feeling “as though they are freelancers employed by the organization, rather than full-time employees.” To mitigate this, we at ig for example have established a semi-formal weekly communication schedule that comprises of the following:
  • Motivation meetings every Monday morning, where one person prepares a certain interesting topic to discuss with the rest of the team.
  • Alignment meeting scheduled based on availability every Monday, to exchange information and discuss our on-going projects. These meetings have proven to be highly valuable for cross-departmental collaboration and data-exchange.
  • Informal virtual coffee breaks on Wednesdays to connect with the team and chat. These meetings have been said to reduce the feeling of social isolation and provide a sense of familiar normalcy to our day.
As in every solution, there is no one-size-fits-all. 2020 was the year of trial and error, whereas 2021 should be the year of getting things done right. Our experience has proven that effectiveness and efficiency can be attained through remote work and we believe that organizations should leverage this to their advantage. When the infrastructure is set and with the right kind of advisory and leadership, the future workplace can be hybrid, productive and satisfactory for all stakeholders.  Are you ready for the shift?    

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