By Jim Molis — Kansas City Business Journal
Companies plan to prolong the benefits of remote work long after the Covid-19 pandemic passes by going remote-first or adopting hybrid work models to lock in productivity gains.
Employee productivity increased in 63% of organizations during the third quarter of 2020, and organizations project an overall productivity increase of 17% in the next two to three years, according to a report on the future of work by The Capgemini Research Institute. Less commuting time, flexible work schedules and effective virtual collaboration tools are driving the productivity gains, researchers say.
But employees worry about the long-term implications of being “always on” and fret about being disengaged in a remote setup, according to the Capgemini report. New employees in particular report feeling confused and lost. “Establishing support, connection and trust is key for shifting to a hybrid workforce future,” researchers wrote.
Companies must help employees overcome challenges like finding dedicated workspaces at home and maintaining connections to co-workers from afar, said Chris Kruse, technical services manager at GFI Digital. “You don’t just run into each other in the hall and have conversations,” he said.
Chris Kruse is a technical services manager for GFI Digital.
Businesses need to be intentional with how they manage to keep their remote workforces professional, engaged and aligned with the company culture.
Employers can encourage remote employees to keep a professional environment by helping them set up home offices and guiding them on how to best monitor the hours they work.
“Many people are putting in more work to pay employers back for their flexibility, but people don’t see them at their desk,” Kruse said. “Recognizing someone for their performance gives them a virtual stand-in for office interactions.”
Kruse tells employees to work only within the hours that they set. “If there’s something that can wait until the morning, let it wait. There shouldn’t be a need to prove you’re working at night.”
Establishing remote work ground rules is essential to managing expectations for employees and employers alike. Documenting responsibilities and workflows help teams perform at home as well as they would in the office.
Keeping employees engaged
Some companies tend to micro-manage, checking on their employees constantly to confirm that they are working. But such fears are frequently misplaced, Kruse said. In reality, employees perform better when managers help them handle their workloads and prioritize their efforts rather than micro-managing them, he said.
“If you know Bob has 10 tasks and you work through them with him, asking him what he needs from you, you’re showing him that you’re there to support him in a remote work capacity — without asking him what he’s doing,” Kruse said.
Focus on outcomes and the reasons behind them, not on activities for the sake of activity recommends Forbes columnist Brent Gleeson. “Clearly defining the goals and desired results, then allowing employees (that have the training and resources to execute – that part is important) to develop a plan of execution enhances creativity and ownership,” he wrote in a column about leading and managing remote teams.
Sustaining company culture
Cultivating a company culture is more complicated when people do not see one another every day. But that does not mean it cannot be done.
Culture is embedded in values and lasts as long as an organization lives up to those values, like putting customers first, Kruse said. “There’s a fear that culture goes away when people go work remote, but you’re really adding another layer to the culture.”
Remote work also provides opportunities for shared empathy and vision, business expert David Burkus noted in a post on how to lead remote teams effectively. “One question for a lot of work situations is ‘How salient, or obvious, is the significance of the tasks we’re asking people to complete?’” he wrote.
The pandemic has shown companies that workers can be just as productive — if not more so — when working from home instead of at the office. Helping their remote workforces remain professional, engaged and aligned with the company culture will help businesses increase productivity in the future.
GFI Digital is your outsourced CIO and trusted resource for your remote workforce needs. Learn more.
Jim Molis is a writer for The Business Journals Content Studio.