Get this – 77% of respondents in a Global Workplace Analytics survey said that they want to continue working from home after COVID-19. The Future of Work™ is here – Are you ready to transition to long-term remote workforce management? In this week’s article, I’ll guide you through the key things you’ll need to know if your company is going to continue offering flexible work options long after the pandemic.
If you’ve been forced to rapidly adapt to a crisis-driven work-from-home setup during COVID-19, there’s likely to have been a few hiccups along the way. When the dust settles and you have the opportunity to carefully plan your remote workforce strategy, what will that look like? Here’s what you need to decide first – will your company be remote-first, remote-friendly, or remote-curious?
When a company states that it offers remote working options, what do you picture? Do you know exactly what level of support they offer their remote workers and how often their employees work off-site?
While you could make an educated guess, the fact is that remote working isn’t just one concretely definable thing – each company and employee is going to have their own unique interpretation of what being a “remote worker” is. You’ll need to make your remote working expectations and offerings explicitly clear when you decide to transition to remote workforce management after COVID-19.
Flexible Working Options:
Yes, they do! More accurately, there’s plenty of data you can use to make an educated guess that the demand is there. Surveys have shown time and time again that there is a genuine demand for flexible working arrangements that let employees work from home at least some of the time.
There’s a clear gap in supply and demand here. But what about your employees, do they actually want you to offer flexible work options? If you’d like to make a truly data-informed decision about what they want, you’re going to have to consult with them directly.
Who in your company wants to continue working remotely? What changes do they expect to see when they transition from a crisis-driven work-from-home setup to something a little more refined?
There’s a lot to say about being a successful manager of remote employees. Off-site workers come with a great deal of unique challenges – how can employees working from home stay socially connected to their coworkers? How can communication and collaboration thrive outside of the confines of a traditional office environment? Fortunately, remote work is absolutely possible with some key adjustments and the adoption of technologies that support a virtual office environment.
Communication in a remote workforce is a unique challenge, particularly for newly remote companies. Employers that want to be effective with their remote workforce management will greatly benefit from investments in virtual communication and collaboration tools such as Slack, Microsoft Teams, or Workplace from Facebook.
Communication styles in your remote workforce will either be synchronous (real-time) or asynchronous (not real-time).
Asynchronous communication includes emails, instant messages, and detailed notes in project management apps. If you will be offering your remote workers schedule flexibility you’re going to be relying on asynchronous more often than not.
Synchronous communication includes video conferences, phone calls, and face-to-face discussions. Many remote workforce managers reserve synchronous communication for brainstorming, social interaction, and for having 1:1 discussions that are a bit more nuanced.
When adapting communication to accommodate employees that are regularly working off-site, you need to make your intended message as explicit as possible. Oftentimes you will not be able to rely on the nuances provided by changes in body language and tone of voice – strong writing skills are a much-needed asset for anyone who intends to manage remote workers.
We’ve covered the unique cybersecurity challenges of remote workers before. If your remote workers will be handling any sort of sensitive data (personally identifiable information, intellectual property, etc) you cannot afford to overlook this aspect of remote workforce management.
At a minimum you will need to provide systems that authenticate the identities of off-site workers and connect them to a secured internal network that houses the sensitive data they need, all the while preventing them from extracting that data away from the secured database. It may seem intimidating, but it’s absolutely possible – check out the links below for more cybersecurity tips for remote workers and consider hiring a managed services provider if you don’t have dedicated IT support staff.
How To Manage The Cybersecurity Of A Remote Workforce:
I’ve covered methods for tracking and improving employee performance in the past. Those very same productivity management tips will apply to your remote workers just as much as they apply to your in-house employees; the key difference in managing the productivity of a remote workforce is that off-site employees may have greater difficulty demonstrating their efforts.
A common concern that managers have when transitioning from in-house management to the management of a remote workforce is that off-site employees won’t be engaged in their work or that they will misrepresent the time they spend on tasks, particularly if they’re paid hourly. Remote employee monitoring software helps remote workers demonstrate their engagement by showing their managers how their time is spent when using the internet and computer applications during their working hours.
If you will be using software to monitor the productivity of your remote employees, it’s important to remember that automated remote employee time tracking data should not be used as the sole context for measuring productivity – making management decisions before understanding the full context can harm employee morale and make your employee monitoring software seem more like invasive computer spy software.
Employees that perform tasks away from their computers may seem inactive in their computer usage reports, but that doesn’t guarantee that they aren’t working. Instead, use the insights from employee monitoring reports to make data-informed decisions and monitor for signs of employees that are actively disengaged.
If you’d like to use remote employee monitoring to manage your remote workforce, feel free to reach out to the CurrentWare team and we’ll set you up with a no obligation free trial of our remote workforce management software solution.
Remote workforce management can be scary for newly remote-friendly companies. With careful planning, plenty of empathy, and clear productivity metrics your remote employees can thrive in your organization. If you’re not ready to fully commit to remote working, consider experimenting with occasionally allowing employees to telecommute and slowly work your way to longer stints. Along the way, make notes of any barriers to remote work that are causing bottlenecks and see what changes you can make to alleviate them.