But sustaining a remote workforce in the long run is easier than doing it. We’ve seen companies have work policies from home just to get workers back to the office.
Part of the reason work-from-home policies do not last is a change in project management, a lack of employee confidence, or decreased productivity. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Try to have it both ways
It’s hard to have a hybrid workforce with some employees in the office and others working from home manage. It can also put remote workers at a disadvantage.
Homeworkers do not have time to deal with their daily routine, which can lead to loss of stretching and career opportunities. Being off-site also eliminates any possibility of random walks down the aisle, a post-meeting conversation, and other spontaneous situations that may provide valuable information.
But remote work policies do not have to be a total or nothing situation.
The decision should be made at the team level, advised Debbie Lovich, managing director and senior partner at Boston Consulting Group. That means figuring out a schedule that works best for everyone and includes some days when everyone is in the office and at home the rest of the time.
“Having these team level standards is very important,” he said.
If it is not feasible to get the whole team to have the same schedule, remote workers should still try to make regular appearances in the office.
“Ideally, you’d have to work once a week if you’re going to be home,” said Judith Olson, a computer science professor at the University of California Irvine.
The worst situation would be to have the majority of employees in the office and only one or a few remote workers, said Peter Cappelli, a professor of management at Wharton Business School.
“When you’re out of the office, people forget who you are and other people have access to information faster than you do,” he said. “If you were at a distance when there’s no one else, I wouldn’t want that job at all.”
Measurement of results
Measuring productivity and evaluating employee performance can be an obstacle when companies move to remote work. Managers need to set clear goals, priorities, and measurables so that everyone knows expectations.
But not all tasks and functions are quantitative. This is where trust comes in.
“Employee trust is a key hurdle,” said Jeanne Meister, founding partner of Future Workplace, a human resources consulting and research firm.
“When companies met again [on remote work], they really didn’t trust the employees. They did not train remote workers in successful strategies to be remote workers. “
Successful remote programs require managers to trust their team to finish their work when they say they will. And it’s hard to break that old habit of equating presence with productivity.
“Just because someone is sitting at a counter doesn’t mean they’re productive,” Lovich said.
Jo vs. We
The office culture has become much more collaborative: it’s about teamwork and combined efforts. And that doesn’t always translate pretty well.
“What we know for work that requires no collaboration, trying to do it practically doesn’t work very well,” said Cappelli, who sees very little chance that everyone will continue to work from home all the time after the pandemic.
And a recent Boston Consulting Group study found that workers felt more productive in individual tasks than in collaborations over the past few months working from home.
The main axis for success: managers
When it comes to sustainability from working from home, it’s all up to the manager.
“Not everyone is good at learning to manage remotely,” said Beth Kaufman, CEO of Boston Consulting Group.
Technology has also facilitated communication and collaboration, but managers need to intensify and create a cohesive remote work style.
“You need supervisors who use all the interference for you,” Cappelli said. This means figuring out who needs to connect to which projects, taking a tour of the right people in the reports, and facilitating difficult feelings when people feel abandoned or an email is made the wrong way.
“Human dynamics don’t change because people are remote.”