Should You Consider Forever-Remote Work As Your New Policy?
By Kristina Perunicic
Companies have been making a stride towards remote work environments for years now, but the recent coronavirus pandemic has forced many of them to take the plunge much earlier than expected. As the pandemic shows no signs of slowing down, companies like Twitter and Square have announced that they will be offering a forever-remote work option.
This means that they will open their offices again at some point in the future, but that it’s up to their employees to decide when or if they’ll come back.
However, while Twitter and similar companies have been preparing for remote work, many businesses are left stranded, unsure whether remote work is truly for them. More importantly, they are unsure of how they can transition without damaging their results.
Let’s take a look at all the benefits forever-remote work can bring and some strategies that can make this transition seamless.
Benefits of Forever-Remote Policies
Remote work has shown to be beneficial for both employees and employers time and time again. But amidst a global crisis that has pushed most businesses into early remote adoption, it doesn’t hurt to go over those benefits again and understand the effects remote work can have.
Employees leaving is inevitable. However, you want to keep the top talent with your company as long as possible without losing them to competitors. And the best way to do that is to understand why they leave.
So, why do they?
Well, amongst other reasons is a big one — a lack of work-life balance and other benefits. Sure, the office setting, meetings, and managers keep employees diligently working, but they crave freedom as well.
A happy employee is a motivated and productive employee, after all. Flexible hours — more precisely, an option to work remotely — gives your employees that freedom and high quality of life that they need. For example, parents would be much happier if they could spend more time with their kids.
Remote work, as such, could play a vital role in employee retention.
Office spaces are expensive. From the property itself to the furniture inside, equipment, and maintenance, you have to pay a huge price to keep an office going.
But, with remote work, there is no need for offices — or at least, your office space doesn’t have to be as big. Naturally, some employees need a physical space by the nature of their job, but you might be able to save up on other employees that don’t have to be there for a full week.
Twitter will offer both options, for example, once they start opening their spaces in the fall. You can adopt a similar system as well.
The lack of productivity is one of the biggest concerns employers have when it comes to remote work. With no one breathing down employees’ necks and supervising their hours, will they actually perform well?
But productivity should be the least of their worries. In fact, research has shown that employees that work remotely are actually more productive than those working in an office setting. The reasons for this vary from employee to employee. For example, maybe one of them is not a morning person, so getting that extra time with no commute in the morning to sleep helps them get better prepared for work later on.
Perhaps one of your employees likes to work while listening to loud music or on the couch. Having their ideal conditions available makes a slight, but significant, difference in productivity.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that you should sit back and reap the rewards. You have to carefully monitor the effects of remote work and make adjustments where necessary.
Wider Pool of Talent
Remote work has another important benefit — it allows you to hire people from other areas. Even the CEO of Twitter, Jack Dorsey, has stated that the new policy allows them to tap into a wider talent pool and reduce their dependence on the San Francisco area.
You may find candidates from other areas a valuable addition to your team as well. This might even give you an advantage over your competitors.
Strategies That Can Make The Transition To Forever-Remote Easier
Remote work was never going to be easy for employees or employers. It takes time, just like any other ability — you have to work hard to maintain current levels of productivity and ensure that everything functions properly.
If your company hasn’t had experience with remote work before, this situation might be even harder for you. But, with proper strategies in place, you’ll be able to make the transition smoother and easier for your team.
Ensure That Communication Runs Smoothly
In an office setting, it’s easy to just walk over to someone’s desk and ask a question. While that accounts for a lot of wasted time, it also runs well — as it has for decades.
However, remote work is different. But, it also has the potential to cut that wasted time and turn it into productive hours. Of course, for that, you need proper tools and guidelines.
For one, set up a single system where the employees can communicate. If you don’t, important information could be lost. Imagine your employees communicating across Whatsapp, Gmail, Messenger, and other similar services — it would be a huge mess.
Streamlining communication through one channel makes information instantly available. You also have to set up guidelines for communication. For example, which channels on Slack are reserved for what, what kind of questions warrant a message and which don’t, etc.
Boundaries are just as important. If you don’t create them, there could be a lot of needless notifications, which is ultimately a distraction.
At the same time, remote work gets lonely, so supporting the maintenance of that community could be vital to your employees’ happiness. This is why you could arrange a chat that’s just for casual conversation, organize lunch video calls, team-building exercises over video calls, etc.
Make The Workflow Seamless
Aside from communicating well, your team also needs to work well together, even remotely. And it’s your job to create systems that work. Fortunately, there are many tools that make this a lot easier.
For one, you have to make the tasks visible, easily accessible, and easy to maneuver too. You could use Trello and allow your managers to assign tasks. Once an employee finishes a task, they can just mark it as done and move on to the next one.
Furthermore, systems like invoice management, for example, may not work as well remotely as they did in an office setting. So, finding an invoice automation tool could help you make this part of the process as smooth as possible. Other workflows may need a transformation too — try to set up clear guidelines of what needs to be done in which situation.
Naturally, you won’t be able to come up with perfect systems right off the bat. But, you’ll have a starting point from which you can observe, measure, and adjust where necessary. The most important point would probably be to streamline workflows — make them simpler and quicker while still easily understandable for your employees.
While this pandemic has forced many companies into unexpected remote reality, it has also offered them a unique insight into what forever-remote would look like. Some of them are better prepared to embrace it — as we have seen Twitter and Square do — but some will need more time.
As it stands, the world will probably have to stay remote for a while longer and these strategies can help you experience the benefits of remote work.
Kristina Perunicic is a fully remote, freelance writer with Optimist, and has a background in marketing. In addition to writing and editing, she occasionally consults local startups on their digital marketing strategy. She loves reading, volunteering, and spending time with her family.
Thank you, Kristina, for sharing your insights on full-time remote work with pdxMindShare and for guest writing for our blog. Keep following our blog page for upcoming posts on what’s new in the professional world, and how to navigate the changes.