Last March 2020, a drastic change occurred and resulted in millions of employees packing their things to set up a work-from-home environment, thinking everything would be back after a few weeks. As the pandemic progressively became worse and countries were forced into a lockdown, the weeks stretched into months of unexpected changes to health and economic devastation.
Big tech companies have been in competition to be the last to return to offices; technological firms such as Facebook and Google had extended their remote leave up until third quarter of 2021.
Now, after the coronavirus has drastically affected daily life and work for over a year, both companies large and small have faced the challenge to boost team morale into more constant benefits in efforts to support their work from home.
The company Square is one of those who announced a permanent work-from-home setup; they have partnered with employee resource groups to give their employees benefits and help them adjust to remote work. Some benefits include mental health resources for those who require them.
Unique effects of remote work
As well as the Covid-19 pandemic negatively impacting workplaces, the adjustment to a work-from-home environment has also contributed to the worry and stress of employees.
Management has feared that the effects of remote work over the long term. During the pandemic, it is the first time we had the opportunity to witness the affects of remote work in a broader sense. Some effects that employees fear is not being able to full adjust to a remote environment; trying to maintain a modicum of normalcy while transitioning to remote work or even losing a sense of teamwork as not all departments could be able to adapt to a remote work setting.
These issues are mostly coming from managers who are unwilling or unable to adjust to the realities of shifting to a remote environment.
Soon, remote work will require managers to find new ways to connect with their teams, these points have been discussed some in the article Remote Workers Will Have a Preferable Year for 2021. With the right approach, remote work can boost employee morale as well as productivity.
Develop a video communication strategy
One main priority is having a video conferencing tool that everyone can make use of; this is one of the most important steps, because every company needs to communicate in a way that replicates in-person contact as closely as possible. There are employee mental health reasons behind this: without a standard way to connect over the video, there could be immediate problems. Many companies rely on different video chat applications such as Skype, Zoom and Microsoft Teams.
One problem that can arise here is the strategy on how this would work, who has a premium/administrator account in the organization, whether or not the internal files or chat is secure, or even if those applications could run on supported devices. Even though a particular app may be well suitd to video communication, it may not be able to support a conference call with all employees connected to communicate for urgent information. So, with this in mind, it would be best to prioritize which software you would use. For example, which remote desktop software you would use to remote connect your office PC, which internal chat room would you use to speak with your colleagues, etc.
Make an understandable remote work contract
It is important to develop a contract as part of your long-term planning, it should focus on the health and safety of remote employees. This would protect the employer with regards to handling liabilities for employee welfare.
The contract should cover many areas; it should answer the question such as:
- who is responsible for business broadband service and management of the associated costs
- If an employee’s computer is damage who would be liable
- How many hours would a remote employee be required to work and how flexible would be the arrangement of their time
The more detailed that such a contract would be, would be to the benefit of both parties.
Reducing the applications being used
One of the realizations facing most companies is that they have relied on too many business apps and services. Some companies have allowed multiple cloud services for different teams, in addition to the cloud storage they use on their own data center. Because of it, confusion on which services to use could arise, even if the reason behind the use of these services is having the workforce to become mobile and stay connected.
Because of there being a wide choice of tools, this can be a source of confusion especially for the IT management. Having large choices of tools could make remote employees confused and initially less productive. Imagine using Slack for your internal tools and have Microsoft OneDrive for your cloud storage then answer calls from your team via Skype Business. This is how confusing and chaotic it would be if a large variety of tools are used and all needing to be run at the same time.
Check the employee's mental health
Another important point to make about the long-term impact of running a business with a remote workforce is having consideration for the mental health of remote workers; working from home for a week or two could affect mental health. Consider having it a month or more it could lead to tension and stress that did not exist before. Even those who have need working from home for years might even experience having a mental breakdown due to the environment of a remote work setup.
Check your employee's needs
It is advisable to collect your company’s data about remote work as soon as possible. This includes information productivity, communication may it be inside or outside work, response time to peers, and more. It is also good to gain feedback from your employees first hand, this may be in the form of a poll or survey on what they need or general feelings about remote work.
It is important not to include too many metrics for your team and only focus on the important ones; points to consider are website sessions, return of investment, and customer satisfaction rates.