The COVID-19 crisis has forced many companies into managing remote workforces. Giants like Google and Facebook have determined that their employees won’t go back to the office full-time until 2021. Smaller companies are evaluating essential workers versus those who can work from home. The landscape of the workforce is inevitably changing, and so must employers and employees if they want to stay relevant.
In a recent poll by Gartner, it was revealed that 42% of respondents expected that between 10% and 20% of their employees would become permanent remote workers. Here are three primary things that employers must consider when thinking about a long-term remote-working strategy.
Data Security. Employers must determine how to maintain safeguards against data leaks, intellectual property theft, and data breaches. Whether you’re a smaller or larger firm, it’s essential to review and discuss company policy on how data will be treated when working from home. Things like printing and shredding of files, encryption of documents, and the use of cloud-based software should all be evaluated.
Productivity. Remote workers can be more productive than in-office workers. However, measuring their effectiveness can be a difficult task. Key performance indicators (KPIs) are great tools to determine the effectiveness of a person’s role. They also allow managers to gauge one person’s performance against another objectively. Defining KPIs is a reasonably straightforward matter when a company or department has clear goals.
Working from home also requires that employers think about the use of company equipment. Traditionally, employers pay for computers, phones, headsets, internet access and printers. In an office setting, it’s easier to resolve I.T. issues and have alternative equipment available. What happens when computers or other equipment fail for those working from home? Will the I.T. department come to the individual’s home to fix computer and printer problems? Is there to be compensation for additional internet usage, or will that be viewed as an employee cost, since they no longer have commute, parking and gas expenses?
Community. Community and connection issues pose what is probably the biggest challenge when working with a remote team. Fortunately, there are plenty of tools to stay engaged and connected: Zoom, Skype, Google Hangouts for video. Slack and Skype for instant messaging. Basecamp, Trello, Asana and Process Street for managing projects. Yet there’s no replacement for connecting with your team regularly.
Weekly meetings and daily huddles help make sure everyone is rowing the boat in the same direction. Having clear KPIs allows remote workers to feel more satisfied with their roles, knowing they’re contributing to the company’s goals.
Here are some ideas for connecting:
- Have a theme for Zoom meetings. For example, one client had a Hawaiian-themed Zoom where everyone showed up in floral shirts.
- Include a “water cooler” channel on Slack, where people can catch up with each other.
- Have specific break times where people can hop on together to talk.
Reimagining the workforce with a mixture of in-office and remote workers needs to be part of the strategic plan. Most workers who have been traditionally based in offices prefer having at least the option to work remotely part of the time. Now is a great time to strategize and put the policies and procedures in place to safeguard the business, while allowing workers the flexibility to contribute.
Anne Lackey is co-founder of HireSmart Virtual Assistants.