The world is full of laptops balanced on cookbooks, keyboards perched on coffee tables, and video conferences conducted from the bedroom. It was questionable whether mass-remote working would prove successful, but it has.
What was a temporary measure in the face of the pandemic has led to 84% of businesses looking to permanently transition to remote working, thanks to increased productivity, happier employees, and lower operational costs.
But, as the novelty wears off and everywhere else returns to normality, how do you help your employees permanently transition to remote working without losing the productivity, engagement, and results that it first generated?
Is remote work right for your team?
Last year, remote working was one of the most sought-after employee benefits, with one in three employees willing to leave their role for a remote position. However, the real-life experiment following COVID-19 has changed some people’s minds.
Mandated remote working coupled with lockdowns, global panic, and makeshift home offices have led to loneliness, mental health issues, and difficulties staying motivated. Remote working may have generated significant business gains, but that doesn’t mean it’s right for your whole team long-term.
Before any business, manager, or team considers adopting a permanent working from home policy, it’s crucial to analyze whether remote working is the right solution using:
- Open feedback from employees and managers through team and one-to-one meeting
- Anonymous feedback from employee engagement surveys
- Business feedback from KPIs and other internal metrics
How to transition to a remote workforce
To successfully transition to a remote workforce, let’s look at a nation that does it best: the Netherlands.
The Netherlands has one of the largest remote working populations, with 14.1% of employees working remotely, compared with 3.6% in the US. The widespread adoption and success of remote working in Holland are attributed to five transitional factors.
1. Build the right culture
Trusting your employees to work from home requires a culture of, you guessed it, trust. That’s not all.
The companies that successfully implement remote working nurture a culture of trust, value, democracy, and participation. Remote employees remain and feel a vital part of the business, which encourages engagement and productivity.
Workplace cultures are notoriously difficult to change, but you can certainly foster this type of culture using two-way communication that seeks and listens to employee feedback, flexible policies that give employees control over their working day, and business updates that are open and transparent.
2. Set expectations
Many employers worry that distractions at home will reduce work outputs; in reality, the opposite is often true, to the detriment of work-life balance and mental wellbeing.
Avoid both scenarios by creating a clear remote working policy that sets realistic expectations for both managers and staff. This should cover basic details such as locations and hours of work, as well as more specific details such as dress code etiquette for Google Hangout calls – no one wants to be that meme.
It’s also good to update your hiring literature, so prospective employees know the type of working environment they’re applying to work in.
3. Invest in the right infrastructure
You may have praised your employees’ creativity when it came to building their makeshift desks and conference call backgrounds. However, as soon as the word “permanent” enters the scene, it’s time to properly set your employees up for working from home.
Remote working furniture
Ensure employees can physically work from home without damaging their health by providing or assessing their desks, chairs, and display screen equipment (DSE).
Tip: A quick video call can show you whether an employee has the correct desk set-up for preventing eye-strain, fatigue, or back problems.
Remote working equipment
Provide employees with the necessary equipment to work remotely, including a laptop, printer, high-speed internet, and any accessories such as monitors and keyboards.
Remote working tools
Tool your employees with the specialist software that enables them to stay productive and connected outside of the office, including:
- Communication tools such as Microsoft Teams or Google Meet.
- Collaboration tools such as Trello or Slack.
- Productivity and wellbeing tools such as Harvest or Headspace.
4. Put safety first
While not leaving home doesn’t sound dangerous in itself, remote working creates a whole new range of risks to think about. For example, remote work security risks include cyber-attacks, unsecured networks, and third-party use of equipment.
There are also certain mental health risks for some individuals. Look out for employees working longer hours, feeling disconnected, or having no one to talk to.
Conduct a risk assessment that identifies areas of weakness, and then implement an action plan to reduce those weaknesses. For example, anyone attending an external meeting must copy their manager on the invite and send an email when they arrive, leave, and get home.
5. Encourage social activities
Working from home can get lonely, which is bad for mental wellbeing and impacts teamwork and overall engagement.
Keep the social buzz of the office alive by ensuring managers regularly check-in with employees, by encouraging virtual social activities such as quizzes or remote playlists, and through organizing real-life events such as walking lunches, team building, and meals out.
Don’t forget – introverts get lonely too. Just because someone doesn’t want to attend Friday afternoon drinks, doesn’t mean they don’t want manager or mentor one-on-ones.
6. Consider flexible working
COVID-19 has been the biggest remote working eye-opener, and not everyone wants to or can work from home all day, every day.
Consider implementing a flexible working strategy that allows employees to adopt a hybrid approach that allows both hot-desking in the office and working from home as preferred.
If that’s not possible, consider co-working spaces, physical meeting rooms, or regular in-person events that allow employees to work in the way that’s best for them.
Communication. Communicating with employees and managers about the transition to permanent remote working ensures that you can alleviate concerns, implement practices, and think of solutions together – because when you work together, working anywhere is possible.