How to Return to the New Normal of Working
We are two months into 2021, and there is still a lot of uncertainty surrounding companies returning to the office or continuing with fully remote work. Many people still want to work at home, while others want to go back to working at the office. Although there is no definite answer for whether organizations will be allowing people back into the office, organizations need to be ready for this new normal of a hybrid, flexible workforce.
In this article, we outline how organizations can best prepare to their employees staying home, returning into the office, or a hybrid of both.
Outline a clear remote and flexible work policy
Working from home presents some unique challenges compared to working in the office. It can become easy to lose sight of tasks, objectives, and deadlines, since managers cannot just pop into their direct reports’ offices. A remote work policy is an agreement between an organization and employee stating their responsibilities and the expectations (such as set work hours) within those that they are to complete and withheld while working from home. These policies ensure that all employees are on the same page regardless of where they work. For example, the policy may demand 40 hours a week, but flexible working allows the employee to work outside of traditional office hours. This trend of flexible working is rising in many companies. In fact, 40% of people feel the greatest benefit of remote work is the flexible schedule. Work policies are critical as they help align employees and keep them accountable.
Include clear remote communication policies
Constantly being surrounded by peers and having the ability to communicate with someone right down the hall is no longer an option for remote workers. To ensure that no communication issues arise between employees, it helps to include scheduled remote conference calls for your team within your policy. These meetings can be weekly, daily, or whatever frequency your team requires in order to keep productivity high and to encourage continuous collaboration. According to Boston Consulting Group, 51% of people said that they were able to improve collaboration task while working from home. To improve collaboration and communication, you can have scheduled time where team members must be present (i.e., everyone is required to be online from 10AM- noon). This can help overall communication and collaboration since your team members know that people have to be present and responsive during these hours. By implementing a set schedule for meetings, the risk of falling behind or losing track of employees is decreased. There is abundance of platforms that organizations can implement in order to keep everyone connected while working remotely (ex. Slack - a commonly used communication source to keep employees connected). While using Slack and other similar platforms, it is helpful to have establish guidelines on what and how they should be used for. For instance, an organization may outline that sensitive files should be shared on email exclusively, while water-cooler conversations should be done on Slack.
Restructure the office
Employee health and wellness should be top priority for companies as we slowly get back to ‘normal'. While many people are choosing to work from home, there are many individuals that are beginning to return back to the office. Restructuring your office will be important to ensure that the people that do return to the office feel safe and welcomed back into the environment. Some strategies can be as simple as spreading desks at least 6 feet apart, having hand sanitizer on every desk, and/ or having a limit of how many people can be in one room at a time. These small gestures will showcase that you are prioritizing employee wellness and following safety protocols.
Check in with employees often
As mentioned above, communication between managers and employees is important, especially when working remotely. It is important to have constant check-ins. These feedback check-ins allow for managers to better understand their employees' struggles, as well as gives employees an opportunity to get one-on-one time to find out where they can improve. In fact, 96% of employees say they want check ins regularly, whether it be for feedback or a chance to ask questions. (For first-time managers, this blog on how to give effective feedback may be a helpful resource). As we transition to our new way of working, regular check-ins can help direct reports stay productive. As you have these regular check-ins, you should be documenting them in one place. Having a feedback solution like Pavestep can help keep all documentation in order.
Have a contingency plan for a sudden switch to remote work
Although some people are already back into the office, there is still an abundance of uncertainty regarding whether it will stay like that or guidelines will change. In times like this, it is a good idea to have a contingency plan if all employees are suddenly required to work from home. During the first lock down, only 30%of business leaders felt that their organizations were ready for the complete transition into remote work. Because we now have some insight into what worked well and what didn’t, companies can better strategize how to handle flexible working arrangements. Some important factors to include in your contingency plan include ensuring that all employees have the hardware at home to successfully transfer to remote if need be and that working policies with clear guidelines are in place. Given that it is estimated that by 2023 the demand for remote work will increase 30%, creating arrangements for fully flexible work can greatly benefit organizations in the long run.
How is your company adapting to the new normal? Let us know!