The Unexpected Upside of Remote Work

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How a distributed workforce improves employee morale and your bottom line. 

As the threat of COVID-19 fades into the background, organizations look to the futureOur culture and economy experienced a seismic shiftNow, organizations look to redefine the future of work in Canada. Because we won’t go back to the way things were before. 

Employees and teams proved they can work from anywhere. Some businesses saw an increase in productivity. Meanwhile, the Canadian Government worked with Microsoft to build an infrastructure to improve cloud accessibility in the more remote parts of the country. 

It turns out, most workers don’t want to return to the pre-pandemic status quo. A majority (59 percent) prefer the flexibility to work for home or to never come into the office at all. 

In this brave new world of remote work, leaders must consider several factors to ensure success. Let’s call it the who, what, where of remote work. And then we’ll tell you why it makes sense. 

 

Who is on the team? 

Hiring managers like to think they know who’s on their team. They hired them, after all. During the process, they looked for a particular skill set to match their needs and a personality that would work well on their team. Is it possible to get to know someone well in the sterile office environment, though? Even if they share the same floor or building, leaders in a traditional office environment are often set off from the rest of the staff. And while many organizations have tried to change their culture to be less top-down and more democratic, employees don’t share the same intimacy with leadership as they do with their colleagues. 

Enter the pandemic – suddenly everyone’s working from home. Webcams introduced children, pets and all their messes to the office. No one could hide their home life from their boss. On the flip side, employees learned that the C-suite wasn’t quite as put together as they appeared eitherRemote work changed employees perception of leadership. Colleagues got to know one another as human beings. Once everyone fell into the new rhythm, many people found remote work to be their ideal environment. 

According to VMware Canadaalmost half of Canadians say they had never worked from home before the pandemicTodayless than 20 percent of those workers want to return to an office-only environment in the future. What we have here folks, is a hybrid workforce. If we want our “return to the office” to be successful, we must acknowledge the team we have and create environments where everyone can do their best work. 

Andrew Caprara of Softchoice recommends this, “Start with listening and understanding the environment in which your employees operate and then structure the workforce based on their strengths, needs and goals.” 

 

What do you need to succeed? 

IWG calls the distributed workforce a gamechanger. Do you have the right toolkit to win? Teams need the right tools to stay connected as team members and across the organizationOrganizations were already trying to dismantle silos before the pandemic. COVID-19 highlighted the need and exponentially accelerated the process.  

According to Gretchen Alarcon, Vice President and General Manager of HR Service Delivery at ServiceNow, “Organizational silos have become more visible as we’ve been working remotely. The need to look at the technology that centers on the employee, as opposed to the functional department, is a shift in thinking that needs to happen.” Build an integrated system that will work well into the future of your organization by finding technologies and workflows that foster collaboration. 

Update Human Resources policies for the distributed workforce. Review every policy – from recruiting strategies that focus on skills needed to succeed in a remote environment, to salary adjustments that accommodate varying costs of living across the country or working from homeAccording to HBR44% of employees would be willing to reduce their pay by 10% to work remotely forever.  

To prevent the office from descending into chaos, Stanford Economist, Nicholas Bloom recommends hybrid organizations set clear, uniform policies so employees know what’s expected of them. Some experts believe a ratio of 3 days a week in the office to 2 at home to be optimal for productivity. Meetings, client events and presentations happen on office days. The other two days tend to be quieter. Employees can schedule blocks of focus time on those days. Should your organization chooses to go hybrid, set policies that accommodate the most people. 

 

Where does the best work happen? 

Do your employees work in an overstuffed, sound-muffling cube land anymore? Probably not. 

Do you work in an open office? NO!  

As Canada slowly comes out of the COVID haze, people will want to be around people again. It’s up to leaders to redesign an office where everyone feels safe, comfortable and productive. Your teams know they have options now. And they’ve proven they can be productive under extremes. The office must become a destination where teams want to do their best work.  

While your address might be the same, the remote and hybrid culture will redefine the office experience. ServiceNow envisions this new office as an “Experience destination where teams can meet in a safe environment for specific objectives such as onboarding, strategy sessions or QA sprints on new products.” This newly redesigned destination will accommodate physical distancing. Sound muffling walls and open tables will be replaced by attractive barriers, plants and funky art that subtly yet effectively encourage physical distancing. 

Organizations may redefine their space to accommodate an activity-based workstyle (ABW) - with a variety of space types under one roof. Offices could include studies with desks where workers focus in silence, large conference rooms for physically distanced client meetings, sound-proof phone booths for quick phone calls and restaurant-style booths with enough space for working team lunchesImagine reserving any one of these spaces using an app on your phone. 

To encourage collaboration, set formal guidelines for specific spaces like the study and empower employees to use more informal spaces as they choose. Your goal is an office destination your teams want to use – rather than the place where folks grudgingly show up and count the hours until it's time to go home.  

To be successful, this paradigm shift should happen from the top downEmployees feel truly empowered when they see leadership embrace change and invite feedback for continual improvement of the space.  

 

Why is all this worth considering? 

At the end of the day, a remote and distributed workforce is good for business.  

COVID-19 pushed the organizations that toyed with the idea of remote work for years leading up to 2020 over the edge. Almost overnight, leaders learned how to effectively manage a distributed workforce. Some businesses even grew – despite the odds against them. 

Hybrid models have their advantages. These options allow access to a greater pool of talent, minimize office overhead and reduce HR costs. Workflow technologies streamline systems and connect teamsThe distributed workforce enhances business continuity by keeping epidemics of minor illnesses like colds and the flu at bay. And, according to Global Workplace Analytics, employers save an average of $11,000 every year for each person who works remotely half of the time. 

Say goodbye to the office of 2019 forever. With the right approach, you can apply lessons learned in 2020 to create the office destination – a new improved, hybrid model that meets employee needs and improves ROI. If you’d like to learn more about solutions and workflows to improve your business in this new landscape, reach out at Letstalk@crossfuze.com

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