T

he global pandemic shocked the world for many reasons, one of which is its effect on work and workplace transformation.

COVID-19 sent knowledge workers to their home offices - 71% of Americans were working from home, and 54% wanted to stay working from home following the outbreak, according to a December 2020 report by Pew Research.

Truth be told, today’s world of work is transforming faster than many organizations might be able to handle. The “future of work,” so to speak, is already here, and it’s further molding and reshaping as you’re reading this.

Setting Workers up with the Best Environment

Now, the pressure is on organizations to step up and offer a new level of empathy and flexibility that employees are looking for. What does that mean for HR and operations leaders who are leading the charge in ensuring employees’ needs are met?

First, across teams, there is a stronger push for changes that, quite frankly, should have been put in place across industries years ago (but we’re glad they’re now priorities). According to Forbes, in 2021, these include:

  • Employee upskilling
  • Leading with empathy
  • Supporting mental health and wellness
  • Offering remote working
  • Expanding Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives

These are key areas that employees will look for from their employers, or offer their talents elsewhere.

Let’s Look at the Numbers

An earlier Gartner study from July 2020 found that 80% of company leaders planned to allow their employees to work remotely at least part of the time after the pandemic, while 47% said they’d let employees work from home full-time. In a FlexJobs survey, 65% of respondents said they wanted to work full-time at home after the pandemic, and 31% wanted a hybrid environment - so all in all, 96% of respondents from that survey wanted some type of remote work.

That’s pretty huge. The pre-pandemic work-life- practically everything we knew about workplace experience prior to 2020 - is gone. And if yours is an organization that will require knowledge workers to come into the office when they could otherwise work from home, you’ll surely risk losing out on great candidates or increased employee churn.

In fact, a recent survey by Robert Half found that 1 in 3 remote workers would quit if forced to go back to the office full-time.

Whether we like it or not (and we probably do, looking at the stats), we’re going to be given more flexibility in terms of where, how, and when we work, thanks to these new employee needs.

5 Tips for Improving Your Remote Workforce’s Productivity

As remote work is here to stay, HR and operations teams are truly in need of the right solutions to more holistically strategize and streamline the work-from-anywhere lifestyle.

While many merely survived by taking a makeshift approach to adapting processes to remote working, it’s time we set our businesses up with the tools they need to thrive in hybrid and remote working worlds.

We’ve gathered 5 important tips for leaders to implement to keep their remote workforce happy and productive. Let’s dive in.

1. Revamp your meetings.

Let’s be real: nobody likes a Zoom call that goes absolutely nowhere, with no clear plan and zero objectives.

On top of that, a virtual conference call of 100+ people can be distracting. Technical issues can cause roadblocks, kids running around in the background can make their working parents pull their hair out…

You can consider revamping your current meetings by:

  • Replacing them with daily Slack standups (what you’re working on, and any blockers)
  • Keeping them one-to-one. Meet withy our boss or a coworker you’re collaborating with regularly if needed, in place of the 10-15 person or more calls that might leave you disengaged or resorting to checking yourself out in a cat filter.
  • Have a clear agenda, with clear outcomes - and don’t be afraid to keep meetings short and sweet. If the meeting only needs to be 10 minutes, let it be.

2. Invest in the right technologies, with remote working productivity at their core.

Don’t try to make the technologies you used in the office fit into your remote or hybrid workers’ lives. Drive efficiency and productivity from anywhere they are, using AI-powered apps like MetaSpark that bring everyone’s tasks into one single system and dashboard (without that tedious manual data entry - MetaSpark does it all automatically).

The right remote working solution can cover everything from project management, to employee efficiency, to data analytics and even diversity and inclusion efforts - all from one central place.

3. Equip employees with all those extras they’ll need to succeed.

Think about other methods you can employ to keep your workers happy and thriving. Don’t have a work-from-home stipend? Implement one. They may need ergonomic workspaces, noise-canceling headphones, new laptops, desktop screens, you name it.

What about health and wellness? Maybe a stipend for the gym, a massage, yoga classes, or anything of the sort would help them focus on self-care during off hours and come to work full of energy and ideas.

If they’re not set up for physical and mental success at home (especially in this chaotic, worrying pandemic era), your people and your business will suffer.

“Research shows that employees in good health are more likely to deliver optimal performance in the workplace. Healthy employees not only have a better quality of life, they also benefit from having a lower risk of disease, illness, and injury, as well as increased work productivity and a greater likelihood of contributing to their communities.” - CDC, 2018

4. Ensure your leaders and managers are trusting and  mentoring.

In this remote working world, gone are the days when your boss could easily peer over your shoulder to make sure you’re working hard.

Nobody likes a micro-manager. As employees move toward more independent work environments, managers will need to trust their teams to do what they need to do.

Ensure your leaders are, instead, acting as mentors, helping their teams upskill and grow personally and professionally.

“Work with employees to define their desired skill set, level of performance and the quality of life they want to have. Once that’s accomplished, these goals can beused as a way of qualifying potential mentors.” - The Business Journals, 2018

Pro tip: Recognition for success goes a long way. According to Brian Kropp, Chief of HR Research at Gartner, “During periods of disruption, employees’ desire for being recognized for their contribution increases by about 30%.”

5. Communicate, communicate, communicate.

In these times of massive change, as people continue to connect with colleagues entirely virtually, clear communication with your employees -particularly from HR leaders and C-level teams - is absolutely crucial.

For HR leaders and C-level execs, that may mean taking the time to type out communications (because everything can’t be a face-to-face conversation). Clearly share goals and objectives, ideas, rules and regulations, health and safety protocols…youname it.

Your employees may need consistent direction via your digital tools to truly be productive in remote and hybrid environments.

“Communication is really the foundation of good remote work. It helps you stay on the same page as your teammates and supervisors, and with the added pressure of the unique situation we find ourselves in, communication will help keep teams productive and cohesive.” - Brie Weiler Reynolds, Career Development Manager and Career Coach at FlexJobs

Communication might also include providing tips and tricks for things like time management (because workers can’t be staring at a screen 24/7 – take breaks! Take walks!), as well as sharing ways to socialize when not physically together.

Bonus: Be flexible and empathetic: allow flex working hours.

Working in remote environments is all about flexibility, and that extends beyond simply offering your employees the ability to work from home.

Consider offering flexible working hours. For example, let parents tend to their kids in the afternoon, and hop back online in the evening. Let employees sign off for appointments or furniture deliveries, and trust them to get their work done anddone well.

“...when it comes to creating a support system for people’s mental health, we understand that one size doesn’t fit all. So, our managers are encouraged to address an individual's needs: does a continued school closure mean an employee’s work schedule needs to shift? Are there more family members at home that are putting new strains on an employee’s work-life? Have physical health issues chipped away at emotional well-being?” - Cara Brennan Allamano, SVP of People, Places and Learning at Udemy, via Forbes

Flexibility and empathy are key. When individuals are allowed to do so, they can set schedules for work, self-care, and childcare that best fit their needs and keep them primed for productivity and success. 

Summing it all up

We’ve all had to adapt to major changes in the last year alone, and that’s taken a toll on employees who’ve faced family or job loss, burnout, and beyond.

If we’re going to continue to move forward in the so-called “new normal,” connecting people from home offices, headquarters, flex spaces, Airbnb’s, and beyond, we’ll need to truly be smart about how we equip employees with the right tools, technologies, and leadership methods to reach their full potential.

As a 2021 HubSpot LinkedIn survey featuring 10k+ responses shows, it’s no longer about putting customers first, or investors first, in business. It’s about putting employees first.

Cheers to that.

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