Helpnetsecurity & M. Thomas, Builtin
“Remote work is not business as usual. It represents a totally new way of thinking and operating and can be a difficult adjustment for employees and employers to make,” says Donna Kimmel, Chief People Officer, Citrix.
“But business must go on, even in times of crisis. And as the research makes clear, companies that give their people the right tools can help them make the transition, empower them to be and perform at their best, and emerge stronger when conditions improve.”
Remote work: A new normal
As Kimmel notes, remote work is a completely new concept for most employees. Less than half of more than 10,000 workers polled in six countries indicated that they worked from home at least one day per week prior to the coronavirus outbreak:
- 33 percent (United States)
- 26 percent (France)
- 34.4 percent (Australia)
- 42.6 percent (Germany)
- 22.1 percent (Italy)
- 45 percent (United Kingdom)
As remote work becomes increasingly necessary across America and around the world during the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s no shortage of advice on how to be your “most productive” self while toiling outside the office.
But much of that advice has to do with combing your hair and buying the right desk chair and separating your workspace from your bedroom — which is all well and good, but fails to address far deeper issues.
There are plenty of productivity issues that get in the way in the office. Yet the majority of employees believe that empowered with the right tools, they can stay engaged and be as or more productive working from home as they are in the office. Of those polled who said they work the same or more hours:
- 77 percent (US)
- 60.9 percent (France)
- 80.8 percent (Australia)
- 76.2 percent (Germany)
- 70.80 percent (Italy)
- 68.2 percent (UK)
More than half in all countries said their productivity levels are the same or higher:
- 69 percent (US)
- 62.9 percent (France)
- 69.6 percent (Australia)
- 74.20 percent (Germany)
- 78.9 percent (Italy)
- 62.70 percent (UK)
What are the right tools?
Shifting from mostly on-site to fully remote, however, is considerably more complicated than just sending employees home with laptops. As PeopleG2 CEO Chris Dyer explains, it also requires significant shifts in management practices and communication methods.
“You can have the best technology in the world. But if you don’t provide employees with resources to help them make the adjustment, they won’t use it,” says Kimmel.
And this includes things like sharing tips on setting up a home office and providing flexible schedules to accommodate family responsibilities. Leveraging video conferencing and chat apps to drive richer communications.
Collaborative team meetings should be the norm so everyone is on the same page and there’s plenty of transparency. Otherwise, Dyer says, it’s too easy to become siloed, which only causes confusion and negatively affects workflow.
As off-site employees become an increasingly common part of the corporate workforce, managers need to further develop and more strategically deploy so-called “soft skills” that bolster communication and increase levels of trust.
They will also need to ditch the antiquated notion that strict monitoring equals higher productivity.
Workers, too, bear no small amount of responsibility. Being more independent requires greater levels of proactivity (frequently updating managers about work challenges, what’s coming down the pipe, etc.), more polished interpersonal skills and a greater degree of empathy to compensate for the lack of physical proximity.
After all, body language and tone communicate volumes but are often absent or less obvious in emails, Slack messages and videoconferencing.
“Hosting virtual office hours where employees can drop in on their managers like they would if they were in a physical location to ask questions or just vent.”
Besides bolstering trust and communication among internal teams, that might mean holding a companywide virtual happy hour or weekly all-hands celebrations of individual accomplishments. It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach, and each company must decide what works best for them.
The research supports this notion, as employees polled called out the importance of the following as they adapt to the new model:
Dedicated physical workspaces
Single-Sign-On digital workspace where they can easily access all of the systems and applications they need to do their jobs
Opportunities to connect and collaborate with colleagues in more personal ways such as virtual meetings and video chats
More regular guidance/feedback from managers
Preparing for the future
The coronavirus pandemic has, in essence, created a forced experiment. Organizations that may have been reticent to consider remote work have come face-to-face with a situation that now requires it.
And while perhaps not their choice, the vast majority of respondents to the research believe it is the future of work. When asked if they believe working from home will be more common after the crisis, roughly two thirds of employees polled in all countries responded affirmatively.
“Remote work,” they say, will simply be “work.” And because necessity is the mother of invention, we’re being pushed toward that future more quickly than anyone ever imagined.
“This scenario will certainly expand its reach and abilities, and probably instigate quite a bit of innovation,” Dyer says. “People are going to figure out that there’s a bunch of stuff we could be doing better, and new companies, new technologies and new ways to handle this will come about.”
“The world has definitely changed. And remote work may in fact be the new normal,” Kimmel says. “Companies that embrace the change and build a culture around it in which their employees are empowered with the tools, confidence and trust they need to adapt can weather these tough times and position themselves to thrive when better days return.”
Remote work may not be applicable to the countries where infrastructure to support it is not available.