It’s probably not news to you that the American workforce has shifted toward remote work environments at an unprecedented rate over the past couple of years. In fact, a 2020 Owl Labs survey found that nearly 70% of full-time workers in the US were working from home.
What’s more, the same survey found that 1 in 2 people won’t return to jobs that don’t offer remote work after COVID-19, and 77% of respondents agreed that even in a post-Covid world, working from home would make them happier. Generally speaking, remote workers have saved money, spent less time commuting, and enjoyed a more desirable work-life balance.
Remote work is here to stay, so if your business office is fully or partially remote, or if you are considering a remote model in the future, this article is for you. Our OS inc. business support staff have also navigated the transition to remote work, so here are our best tips for successfully supporting remote business office workers--based on both experience and industry research.
1. Make sure remote workers have the tools and supplies they need to be successful.
While providing these items can be expensive, the investment is well worth the money spent. According to Forbes, “Monitors in particular enable people to be more productive.” The ROI from these expenses will be increased retention, engagement, satisfaction and productivity.”
At OS, inc. and efficientC, our base remote set up is to make sure our staff have multiple computer monitors, a laptop, keyboard, and a mouse. That’s what works for us. Providing the appropriate equipment is imperative to make our team as efficient and productive as possible.
Security is also must when you are dealing with private health information (PHI). You may find it necessary to invest in new or upgraded software that would improve secure data sharing or collaboration across remote workers. You absolutely do NOT ever want your staff exchanging secure data/PHI over email. Be sure to establish strong policies around how PHI can be stored and accessed by remote workers (and in-house workers for that matter).
2. Monitor Performance and Communication Expectations Clearly.
When the COVID-19 pandemic first forced the majority of full-time American workers to suddenly shift to remote work, there was a great deal of discussion surrounding productivity. Understandably, leaders feared the productivity of their staff would suffer due to lack of supervision and access to the office.
While the sudden shift has certainly come with challenges, many companies have actually found remote workers to be more productive. In fact, Mercer, a large HR consulting firm, surveyed 800 companies and found that 94% of employers have reported productivity to be the same or higher since workers went remote. Workers have even reported that the remote work environment has increased their feelings of being trusted by their employers.
With this information in mind, be sure to set clear performance and productivity expectations so that your remote workers know exactly what is expected of them. For example, at OS inc., managers review scorecards regularly, and execute monthly one-on-ones to provide an opportunity to assess performance, set goals, discuss challenges, talk about professional development, and share feedback.
Beware! Not every remote worker is the same. Some workers will flourish, and some will flounder. With appropriate communications and measurement tools, you’ll quickly be able to identify when issues arise and make adjustments that will benefit the organization and your employees. Our staff are required to fill out a workload calculator weekly that establishes their productivity goals. At the end of the month, inputs from the workload calculator are put into a scorecard that measures employee workload completion and includes audit scores, budget hours and overall client KPI’s.
3. Proactively pursue open, efficient, and honest communication.
When managing a remote workforce, proactive and open communication is key to fostering strong relationships and maintaining transparency. Leaders should check in with their remote team members on a regular basis to ask for feedback and create space for employees to share their frustrations and successes. This communication should be as frequent as reasonably possible. At OS, inc. our leaders perform regular one on one’s with staff to make ensure regular two-way communication.
Don’t rely on email for effective communication. When collaborating remotely, it is easy for email communication to become overwhelming and even unmanageable. Encourage team members to use phone and video communication to cut down on unnecessary back-and-forth. Additionally, communication tools like chat can allow people to message one another quickly and effectively (and without overloading email inboxes!).
4. Be intentional about maintaining a positive, warm company culture.
When team members are communicating primarily online, it can be a challenge to maintain your company’s unique culture. With some intentionality and creativity, however, leaders can still cultivate connection. For example, celebrate holidays and special occasions with virtual happy hours, gift cards for takeout or food delivery services, trivia nights, or personalized thank-you cards, and gifts sent to employees’ homes.
Additionally, make room for casual “water cooler talk” that many workers may miss from onsite office work. For example, virtual meetings could begin with a short amount of time designated for small talk and personal connection. Additionally, a “water cooler” channel in your organization’s messaging/communication tool could provide an opportunity to share kids’ Halloween costumes, discuss every-day life, and even exchange workplace-appropriate memes.
5. In conclusion
If there is anything positive about the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s the fact that we’ve all come to terms with remote working being a viable option in our organizations. It’s no longer just a perk for a chosen few, it can actually be a competitive advantage in productivity gains and the flexibility to hire outside of your office commute zone.
At OS, inc. and efficientC, we have had great success with a hybrid model that allows the option to work from home or at the office. We’ve learned a lot over the past (almost two years) and we will continue to refine things with an eye on continuous improvement.
In the meantime, if you’d like to hear more about our experience or would like access to the workload calculators and scorecards. Drop us a note here.
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