When the COVID pandemic hit, companies scrambled to get everyone working remotely. Some got there faster than others but everyone figured out what worked through trial and error, then settled into a “routine.” In my experience, business leaders were not worried about long-term employee productivity. They just wanted to keep the doors open and serve customers. After all, no one understood how long a global pandemic would last. Two-plus years later, the effects are still impacting our daily work lives.
We like the idea of working from home. Working remotely clearly has its advantages, but at what cost? Never seeing anyone in person, a constant stream of video calls and messaging, and day after day of not getting dressed gets old. Many companies are flipping back to pre-pandemic times and insisting everyone come back to the office full time, while others are staying fully remote or taking a hybrid approach.
What has your company chosen to do? More importantly, are your employees as happy and as productive as they should be given the choice you made?
Is it possible to keep your company culture vibrant, your team productive, and employees happy if they are working remotely full or part-time? I would argue absolutely, IF, you treat remote work as part of your business strategy rather than an annoyance or phenomenon to deal with.
Here are some “Golden Rules of Remote Work” to consider if you are going hybrid:
- Have a plan. Be clear on your goals for remote work and how you will achieve them. Recruitment, retention, engagement, and productivity are the key goals of a workforce strategy and they don’t just happen. Make sure your leadership is all on the same page.
- Treat each person working remotely as essentially a new office for you. Instead of the old approach of having one office with everyone in it, embrace your new geographical expansion.
- Be flexible with individual needs. Not everyone wants or likes to work remotely. You either need to deal with that or be prepared to lose some good people on your team.
- Teach your team to manage up. You cannot “manage” your team the same way you used to when they were office workers. Managing up is way more effective and much better for the business with remote workers because they have learned to swim freely in these waters over the last 2 years and your role as a manager has transformed. (Surprise!) Think of yourself as a ship captain, not a sailor. Your focus is on the bright horizon and making sure your ship navigates.
- Treat remote workers equally to any workers in the office. They are not second-class citizens. They need to use the same tools and support to be productive.
- Give your team freedom and latitude to get things done, when possible. If the remote worker is productive, happy, and completes assignments, why care if they take a break to do laundry or walk the dog? Give the office workers the same freedom.
- Be vigilant with cybersecurity. Security is more important than ever.. Remote workers are accessing the same systems and data, so, you need to manage their home office setup with the same tenacity you would your corporate office.
- Proactively manage your culture – Maintaining your company culture can be challenging with a remote workforce. Be creative and include your entire team in company activities. Try making a remote group lunch, have a Halloween costume contest happy hour over video, create a messaging channel called “The Water Cooler” so your employees can post things going on in their lives, and the list goes on…. Be involved in your employees’ lives outside of work. To a reasonable extent, of course.
Now that you are embracing your remote workers, you can make sure that they are happy and productive. Your short-term work-from-home attitude is now a part of everyday life and not going away. Dig deeper into what you need to be doing to make it as successful as possible. Incorporate remote work into your business strategy. Make a plan. Follow a few “Golden” rules and you’re on your way to success.