It was the best of times, it was the worst of times! And literally so- COVID is wreaking havoc while having a transformative impact on systems and the environment.
Almost 20% of the world’s population is in lockdown, making this pandemic the biggest disruption of the millennium.
While a lot of those sheltering at home are either out of work or on a break, remote working has gathered steam in certain sectors.
Managing remote teams is an ability that all organizations need to learn ASAP. This is a surreal moment, what most are calling “the world’s largest work-from-home experiment.”
Even before COVID, there were 7 million people working from home in the United States (U.S.). Over the last five years, the number of people working remotely in the U.S. has grown by a staggering 44%. This scenario has urged businesses to seriously come up with means for efficient remote team collaboration.
Digital communication tools are seeing a rapid rise in demand. This protocol (shelter in place) is steering a digital transformation in the professional landscape world over.
While social distancing is a welcome break for introverts, what good does remote working entail for the overall employee ecosystem?
Today, most HR managers use flexible schedules and remote working as a means to reduce attrition.
More than 80% millennials prefer working remotely at ALL times. According to a Gallup study, 59% of employees in the U.S. would like to continue working from home after COVID is resolved.
The biggest take away from home working is the much coveted work-life-balance everybody strives to achieve.
When commuting to work is out of the equation, one can save more time, money and energy. Eliminating travel reduces ones’ exposure to air pollution, improving health which in turn improves productivity.
More freedom and fewer interruptions have proven that remote workers are more productive than their office working counterparts. Managing remote workers has also gotten easier considering remote team collaboration tools that have flooded the market overnight.
A distance working culture allows for talented people to be hired from all over the world. Another advantage of this trend is the abolition of issues related to inter-team collaboration and cultural differences.
Concerns like being the lone wolf in the pantry during lunchtime are no longer relevant while working from home. Interpersonal problems, hierarchy and toxic work culture become non-issues in a flexi-place scenario.
The most far reaching advantage of remote work is decreased environmental damage and lower carbon footprint. Xerox recorded a reduction in carbon emissions by approximately 41,000 metric tons when its workers stopped commuting to office.
Working from home eliminates the stress of presenting a game face or maintaining a “professional” front in an official environment. Working in pajamas surrounded by plants, pets and your Nintendo while sitting on your favorite couch might just help you ideate, create, strategize and think better from your comfort zone!
Health care professionals, manufacturing workers, frontline workers in construction, retail, pharma, hospitality, lab technicians- these are few of the numerous employees for whom working from home is not an option.
Despite these obvious issues, there are drawbacks. Managing remote teams is the first priority in this setting.
Supervising and evaluating work becomes a challenge. How does one keep an employee accountable? Not all employees have the same mental makeup. Some are self-motivated and driven, others, although equally competent, might need an added push to get the job done.
Without adequate technology, there is no means of tracking workflow and deliverables.
Radio silence can be vexing. In an office, if someone doesn’t respond you can just go to their cubicle and nudge them. Ghosting is easier for a disgruntled remote worker as opposed to someone who works from an office.
Not ALL employees thrive in isolation. Some personalities derive energy from being in a social setting and having real time, face to face interactions with other humans.
Some workers might not have favorable conditions at home which prevent them from focusing on work. People are diverse and so are the factors that drive each individual. While we can segment people into generic molds in order to better drive a team, one man’s (or woman’s) food can be another man’s poison!
Remoteness is an introverts’ paradise, while it could be a curse for a social butterfly.
While managing remote workers, leaders need to take the new normal under consideration and work accordingly to build momentum and foster engagement. Managers might have to use unique ways to motivate and boost employee morale during these bizarre times.
There are multiple tools to manage remote employees, and companies can adopt these tools for this purpose.
Why Remote Work might be the New Normal?
Remote working is here to stay long after the coronavirus pandemic loses its novel status and becomes history.
Apart from employee retention and the other countless benefits, remote work will be supported by technological advances and will gain traction at least in some pockets of the corporate world.
According to a Gallup study, remote workers are more likely to be engaged with optimal engagement happening when employees spend 60% to 80% of their time working remotely. This translates to three to four days a week of remote work. Irrespective of the model, managing remote teams best practices should be a manual that every HR professional should become well-versed with.
Technology is the enabler in this mammoth “remote work experiment.” With cloud meeting and collaboration tools, managing remote employees becomes fool proof and easy.
Add to this cloud management software, video collaboration and tracking software, it becomes easy to organize meetings and keep everyone in sync with targets, making this a welcome and seamless transition.
The number of people downloading collaboration apps has almost doubled since the beginning of the lockdown.
Tools for managing remote employees will be in demand going forward.
Although remote work is presently inevitable, if enforced deliberately post the pandemic, people will have more time for leisure, R & R, family time and personal growth.
The remote work revolution is not just a disruption in work culture, but a transition to a better, happier more eco-friendly planet in the years to come.
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