Everyone is asking the same question. Are we going back to the office? If so, when? And if so, will we go back five days a week? We all shifted rapidly and quite unexpectedly to remote work last March and muddled through to make it all work. Now, companies are thinking about if, when and how to get their employees back in the office. Even companies that have never let employees work remotely are rethinking that policy. A recent article in HBR “What Is Your Organization’s Long-Term Remote Work Strategy?” reports that “Virtually all projections anticipate the post-pandemic workforce will be relatively more remote — that is, nearly all firms will experience an increase in remote work relative to their pre-pandemic baseline levels.” The article also notes “in a recent PWC survey of 133 US executives, nearly one-third described their approach to post-pandemic remote work as “going with the flow.” This is not necessarily surprising, as I noted in my last blog, many, many companies do not focus on strategic workforce planning as a rule. Taking a step back and making deliberate decisions regarding remote work going forward is something that all leaders should be thinking about and planning for.
The article offers some practical guidance on how to think about remote work (or NOT) going forward. By the way as more and more companies have remote work as part of their management practices in the future, it will become almost mandatory to allow employees to do so. Remote work will certainly be a decision factor during the recruiting process so those that do not offer it will be at a competitive disadvantage. Leaders should be thinking about remote work from two perspectives, 1) how to change company polices and 2) how to adjust management practices.
When exploring company policies, consider the following key questions:
- What is the optimal combination of remote work and in-office time? To answer this question, you must consider:
- The nature of the work – independent work that does not require collaboration lends itself well to remote work. Highly collaborative work can also be done remotely as many new tool have entered the market to make it possible.
- Experience level of the workforce – new employees would benefit significantly from being in the office to start to build relationships.
- Employee preferences – this can be considered if possible.
- Facilities costs – do you really EVER need to go back to the office?
- Are you ready to consider a “work from anywhere” policy?
- Opens up your available talent pool significantly.
- Can reduce costs – adjusting compensation based on where the employee lives.
- How can you maintain your company culture?
- Can be done through deliberate communication protocols such as town halls, employee surveys, pre-arranged employee social activities.
- Which HR policies need to be revised?
- Benefit programs?
- Are there new Training opportunities?
- Leading in a virtual environment
- Managing remote / hybrid teams
- Effective communication, building trust, etc.
There are a number of considerations in management practices such as:
- Fostering a healthy remote work environment
- Helping employees manage competing work and personal priorities
- Creating a sense of psychological safety
- Consciously engaging employees
- Building and nurturing employee trust and accountability
Over the last year we have all learned a tremendous amount about what has worked or not worked in a remote work environment for our companies. As the pandemic winds down and we all have the opportunity to return to our office, we have time to deliberately plan how we work going forward. Done right, we can create our own optimal workplace for the future.
Please join in the conversation and let us know what you think . . .