The COVID-19 pandemic has been a monumental turning point for the future of work. It’s forced many companies to transform day-to-day operations to pivot to long-term remote work practically overnight. This hasn’t exactly been a cakewalk.
For most managers, a remote team felt like a distant concept prior to shelter-in-place initiatives. Many leaders believe that employees have to be in close proximity in order to be productive. That meant many were caught on their heels when COVID-19 hit, an issue that was only compounded by the infrastructural challenges that came with quickly moving from offices to work from home. As a result, many companies struggled to mobilize their workforce to remote and flexible models.
Now, as a remote working environment remains a reality, there are new challenges for business leaders. These range from effectively leading and managing virtual teams to ensuring collaboration, productivity, and achievement of critical business outcomes. As a result, leaders must deploy new processes and technologies to chart a path forward for their teams.
Here’s how to get it done.
Carving Out Opportunities for Engagement
Cultivating positive employee experiences has always been a key challenge for many organizations, and remote work has resulted in an additional layer of complexity.
As employees turn to remote work, employee engagement should remain a top priority. Even in office-based settings, company culture remains elusive to many businesses. Gartner reports that only 3 in 10 Human Resource (HR) leaders believe their organization has the culture needed to drive future success. As businesses navigate the remote future ahead, they must adopt practices that ensure the company culture continues to thrive, especially outside the office.
While the value of culture is not new, the shift caused by the pandemic is unique and should be navigated cautiously. Organizations should note that while some employees thrive in a teleworking environment, others may struggle to adapt. To ensure employees feel supported and set up for success during this transition, organizations need to maintain consistent communication with their virtual workforce.
As employees become increasingly accustomed to remote working, leaders must also empower them with learning and development opportunities to ensure continuous engagement and growth.
By making helpful resources accessible, leaders help renew employees’ focus on development, inspiring them to get proactive about enhancing their careers. Fortunately, with online learning, remote employees have access to an array of courses to learn new skills that will help them grow professionally.
Busting the Unproductivity Myth
There has been a lot of debate around productivity when it comes to a remote workforce. From concerns around remote employees working less, attending to personal matters during working hours, and decreased communication and collaboration – many think remote working hinders productivity and performance.
However, a Stanford study busted this myth, revealing that working from home led to a 13% increase in performance, which is almost equivalent to an extra day of output per week. This increase in performance is likely due to employees being able to avoid long commutes and develop a better work-life balance. But for managers and leaders, increased productivity can feel like an ephemeral concept – they lack the tangible visibility that a physical office provided.
But if you don’t believe it or can’t see it, measure it.
For organizations looking to better understand how productive their virtual workforce truly is, there is an array of employee measurement tools that gather manifold insights. These insights empower managers to determine areas of improvement for their virtual team and identify ways to drive even greater performance. For instance, our Sutherland Anywhere offering contains performance metrics and management capabilities that help track employee productivity and success. Plus, aspects like work allocation and workflow automation systemize processes so leaders know exactly what responsibilities are going where. That means productivity now has visibility.
Equipping Employees with an Effective Tool Belt
Technology is the backbone of every modern organization. So having the right tools in place is business-critical to set remote teams up for success. Lack of such infrastructure could greatly hinder overall performance. A reliable, high-quality technology stack includes:
- Up-to-date devices that work effectively so employees remain agile.
- A steady internet connection to ensure work is not interrupted.
- Cloud technology that empowers effective collaboration across teams.
- Secure access to a Virtual Private Network (VPN) for secure access to data files.
- Availability of assistance tools that aid employees in overcoming many of the challenges that often arise in remote environments, such as security, remote support, hardware, training, and more.
- Infrastructure that mitigates security risks, such as a data breach or leakage, through the use of real-time fingerprint, voice, and other biometric scanning.
These tools will keep your workforce moving forward – keeping them on task and in touch with one another.
The Future of Work Is Remote
Remote working is more than just a trend, it is the future. While many organizations have already seen great success operating as fully virtual teams, it can be daunting for others that find themselves suddenly managing a remote workforce.
Managing a remote workforce has its challenges, but organizations that quickly adapt to the changing demands will undoubtedly reap significant benefits. Employees will gain more autonomy and trust, allowing them to work more effectively, stay connected, and get more work done. In turn, this will enable businesses to innovate and achieve sustainable growth in our evolving world.