As vaccination rates rise and workplaces return to their pre-COVID practices, you’ll likely notice one key difference: remote work is here to stay.
A Garter survey released in July 2020 revealed that 82% of company leaders would continue to allow at least some remote work to continue once the pandemic subsides.
That’s because the necessary shift to working from home revealed that remote work is beneficial to companies and workers alike. Remote work increases productivity, job satisfaction, and employee retention — just to name a few things.
While not all companies will remain 100% remote in the coming months, it’s worth thinking about how you can best transition into a post-COVID hybrid or remote work schedule. This is especially true if you’ll be adapting your remote work policy.
In this article, we’ll look at how remote work has changed during COVID, covering what executives and employees expect moving forward. Then, we’ll talk about five things you can do to ensure a smooth remote work transition post-COVID.
How Remote Work Has Changed During COVID
As we head into a post-COVID world, McKinsey estimates that 20-25% of workforces in advanced economies worldwide can work from home between three and five days a week.
Surveys from Statista show that 83% of employers considered remote work a success in 2020.
Thanks to results like this, we’re likely to see a dramatic increase in hybrid work schedules in 2021 and beyond. A hybrid work schedule consists of arrangements where employees spend just a few days in the office and then work from home or another location for the rest of the week.
To determine the best post-COVID remote work plan for your workplace, you’ll need to consider what’s best for your business and your employees overall. In the next section, we’ll cover a few tips for transitioning to post-COVID hybrid or remote work as easily as possible.
5 Tips for Transitioning to Post-COVID Remote or Hybrid Teams
As we return to some sense of normalcy in the business world, it’s time to start thinking about what your remote work policy looks like post-COVID. If you’re not sure where to start, try some of these tips to build a remote work plan that will benefit your employees and your entire organization.
Ask employees what they want
The first step in creating any plan that significantly impacts your employees and their work environment is asking them for feedback and insight into what works best for them.
For instance, Gartner’s Future of Work survey for 2021 found that 40% of employees are at risk of leaving if you require them to work full-time in the office. The survey also found that 75% of hybrid or remote knowledge workers have higher expectations for flexible work options than previously.
It’s also worth asking employees what they see as the biggest benefits to working remotely. Statista found that flexible schedules, locations, and a lack of commute were the most common benefits employees were looking for, as seen in the chart below. Whatever benefits your employees seek in remote work should form the foundation of your policy.
Try conducting employee surveys or having informal conversations to gather insights on what your employees think. While you might prefer to have everyone back at their desks for a typical 9-5 schedule, you’ll need to consider if that desire is worth losing valuable employees over.
While there is a general trend toward a preference for remote or hybrid schedules — Gartner also found that 83% of workers would ideally have a hybrid schedule — this might not hold true in your workplace. You’ll need to uncover your team’s specific needs and wants to maximize productivity and reduce turnover.
Focus on the employee experience
Asking your workers for feedback on their preferred work environment is just the tip of the employee experience iceberg. Companies worldwide are increasingly emphasizing the employee experience, leading 58% of organizations to reorient their entire structure around their people.
Of course, remote or hybrid work options are a significant element of the employee experience. From reducing commuting times and costs to allowing more flexibility for home and family obligations, remote work can reduce stress while also increasing job satisfaction.
Gartner found that 55% of employees with radical flexibility over their work (the when, the where, and the how) are high performers, but only 36% with a rigid 9-5 schedule are high performers.
One simple way to emphasize your employee experience is to measure success by work results, not other arbitrary standards. Give your team as much flexibility as you can, providing the agreed-upon work and deliverables get done. In many workplaces, that’s far more important than sitting in the same place for a full workday.
Develop a global workforce
Remote work doesn’t just increase productivity and employee satisfaction. It also opens up your talent pool. When your work doesn’t depend on being in the same physical location, you can hire the best remote talent from geographically diverse areas.
While this strengthens your team in many ways, a globally dispersed workforce comes with its challenges too. You’ll need to schedule meetings and team get-togethers across time zones, as well as be mindful of language and cultural differences among your team members.
Suppose you have a large international workforce with many employees who don’t speak English as a first language. In that case, it can be helpful to offer resources like business English courses to help your employees communicate effectively with each other.
By establishing a common language as a foundation, you’ll find that your remote team can collaborate just as well as your pre-COVID in-office team — or maybe even better.
Upgrade your technology infrastructure
As we all learned in the sudden shift to remote work last year, a remote office’s technology needs are somewhat different from what’s needed to work successfully in-office. Face-to-face communication like meetings or even watercooler chats must be replaced with tech-based collaboration tools such as Slack or Zoom.
Next, you’ll need to consider your workflows and business processes and how they translate to a remote or hybrid team. You may have patchworked together some solutions for the short-term, but now that remote work is here to stay, it’s time to look for workflow or project management software that keeps everyone on the same page, no matter when or where they’re working.
Lastly, the rise in remote work means a need for additional cybersecurity and proper security awareness training courses/programs.. In the first half of 2020, there were 35% more cyberattacks than in the previous six months. Conduct a full cybersecurity audit of your technology infrastructure, looking for any weaknesses or vulnerabilities in your data and privacy. Consider implementing edge data centers and other cutting-edge technology to keep your company data as secure as possible.
Eliminate workplace distractions
As employees return to the workplace, even if it’s just for a few days a week, you should find ways to replicate the at-home environment as much as possible. This will help you to keep reaping the benefits of remote work.
A Flexjobs study found that 51% of workers saw productivity increases in this new remote environment because they had fewer interruptions, a more comfortable workspace, and no need for office politics.
To keep these advantages, cultivate a team culture that allows uninterrupted work time and stays focused on work, not office drama. If resources allow, consider giving your office an upgrade to make it a more comfortable and pleasant place to work.
Alternatively, allow employees a lot of freedom in setting up their workspace. Encourage them to bring chairs, desks, rugs, or anything else that makes them feel comfortable — as long as it also remains professional.
Create a Smooth Remote Work Transition for Your Team
During COVID, the business world got an unprecedented experiment. It got to see just how productive and engaged remote employees can be.
As we move toward business-as-usual, don’t just give up the benefits that remote work afforded your organization. Instead, create a hybrid or remote work plan to transition your team into your new business-as-usual.
By considering the major reasons your employees seek remote work options — and why your company benefits from one — you can create a remote work plan for the post-COVID world that sustains your company well into the future.
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