The COVID-19 disruption has caused the world to retreat to the comfort of our own homes, creating a new homebody economy. However, in order to survive, businesses need to carry on as usual and adapt to remote work.

Experts have now dubbed this phenomenon as the “second coming” of flexible work arrangements. While others are saying that remote work for the New Normal is something that has long been overdue.  

Months into the remote work arrangement, there is no doubt that this phenomenon is bound to change the nature of work for a long time.

Shifting to Remote Work: A learning curve for businesses

Traditional organizations have a long-held resolution that a physical office is crucial to employee productivity to foster a culture of camaraderie and teamwork.

Whether or not people have grown accustomed to working from home, this abrupt shift has been a widespread change that has surprised both the management and their employees.

The sudden shift to remote work has made organizations realize that digital tools such as video calls, file-sharing apps, and instant messaging can also enable collaboration. As such, some companies are planning to make their employees work from home indefinitely. 

A recent Gartner survey noted that “74% of companies plan to shift at least 5% of their previously on-site workforce to permanently remote positions post-COVID-19.”

The survey of 317 CFOs and finance leaders showed that nearly a quarter plan to convert at least 20% of previously on-site employees into permanent remote workers.

Gartner Survey Data

Source: Gartner Survey (April 2020)

Alexander Bant, vice president of Gartner Finance Practice stated that, “This data is an example of the lasting impact the current coronavirus crisis will have on the way companies do business.” 

Organizations are still trying to scramble their way out of the economic disruption that COVID-19 has made to their businesses. As such, a long-term shift to remote work is a strategic cost-cutting approach that companies can have as an option.

The other option is to adopt a hybrid work arrangement where some companies choose a combination of remote and on-site working for their employees. These work arrangement options are all aimed at increasing productivity for individuals and teams, lowering costs, and adding flexibility to employees. 

Long-term remote work transitions have recently made the headlines – Twitter, Facebook, Google, and Amazon are leading the pack.

  •   Twitter: The social media platform based in San Francisco announced last May 2020 that their employees could work from home indefinitely. It also suspended the company’s business travel and in-person events for the rest of 2020.
  •   Facebook: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg also told its employees that they could work from home indefinitely. The company plans to keep its staff working remotely throughout the year.
  •   Google: The tech company initially announced that its employees could return to the Googleplex head office at the San Francisco Bay Area in July 2020, but they pushed it to September. They recently announced that they are extending their remote work policy until June 2021.
  •   Amazon: Recently extended from October, Seattle-based technology company Amazon is allowing its employees to work from home until January 2021.

Preparing for the long-term shift to remote work 

Even with a variety of work arrangements during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, organizational culture remains an essential factor to help generate social cohesion and build shared trust among employees.

Companies also need to be wary of the mental health impact that COVID-19 has on their employees. Remote work means that there are fewer connections among work buddies, no spontaneous happy hours, and no work commute to decompress.

Organizational leaders need to be certain that their firm’s long-term remote work plan provides stability for their employees.

Companies need to work with a renewed mindset as they begin to strategize on their firm’s future for the New Normal. Thus, they should keep in mind that the choices they make will also affect the organization’s overall culture.

According to the Harvard Business Review, reimagining the future of work arrangements involve a process that works in four distinct stages:

 

Stage 1: What is your overall vision of your ideal work system for the future?

As organizations sketch out their plans for the workforce in the future, it needs to be framed as a purpose and objective-driven narrative. Companies need to think about the lessons they have from the COVID-19 disruption and the firm’s vision for their workforce in the future. Be prepared to reimagine existing policies, processes, norms, and metrics of the company and figure out the ways on how long-term remote work can be possible in the future. 

Stage 2: Consider the implicit and explicit assumptions you are making.

There has been a lot of unprecedented challenges that COVID-19 has brought to businesses. Organizations need to be prepared for future challenges and uncertainties in the best way they can. They need to work to mitigate the uncertainties and the unknowns that they can think of and look for possible contingency plans that they can execute.  

Stage 3: Test those assumptions.

Companies need to develop their own best practices and benchmarks by walking through their plans in the form of experiments. They need to come up with different circumstances or contexts to test out if their current remote work arrangements can indeed work for the long-term. Systematically test out and apply the firm’s remote work technologies, practices, rules, and norms that the firm needs for the long-term. Run it with the team for a while and carefully measure the results.

Stage 4: Use the learning of your current arrangements to adjust or pivot your future work arrangements.

By adjusting, exploring, and experimenting, organizations can ultimately discover the best possible arrangement to move forward. This work arrangement is an ongoing process and not a discrete event with a set timeline. Companies should also expect that the new work arrangements will not work in every part of the business unit. They should be prepared for systemic incompatibilities of adjusting to the long-term remote work arrangement.

Planning the shift to long-term remote work: Where do we start?

It cannot be denied that remote work arrangements are no longer an exception; they are the expected norm.

 Companies that were previously reluctant to embrace remote work before the COVID-19 disruption can now use this opportunity to develop a lasting long-term remote work program that will keep employees happy and productive for the future.

Here are several steps for your company to convert your sudden remote work transition into a long-term strategy:

 

STEP 1: Establish a policy.

Organizations that suddenly shifted to remote work due to COVID-19 have commonly started without establishing a formal policy. This may lead to confusion and will more likely cause long-term problems due to the lack of guidelines. Take the time to carefully create a formal remote work policy that will set the requirements for eligibility, productivity, availability, and security of the company. 

STEP 2: Cultivate communication.

Communication is essential for a successful long-term remote work arrangement. Consider investing in software that erases the distance between employees who work from home. This may include some collaboration software like Slack or Microsoft Teams, video conferencing tools like Zoom or Skype, and project management solutions like Trello, Jira, or Airtable. 

STEP 3: Focus on security.

Working remotely adds a slew of security-related concerns for employees at home. Many remote workers use their personal devices and home networks, which are less secure than those in the office. You can mitigate these concerns by implementing several security measures for remote employees, such as:

  •   Providing a company VPN (virtual private network) when connecting to the home Wi-Fi.
  •   Instruct employees to change their passwords regularly.
  •   Set all of the company’s software devices to update automatically.
  •   Require two-factor authentication for business applications.
  •   Provide a training refresher on the updated security policies and data protection.

STEP 4: Build a culture of trust.

Remind the team not to micromanage their remote workers. Companies need to trust that their remote employees will get the job done. A successful long-term remote work arrangement requires confidence in the team with KPIs that are measured by outputs and results. At the same time, remote workers need to reciprocate this trust by maintaining meeting commitments, providing timely project updates, and meeting deadlines.

STEP 5: Show employee support.

Without full management support, the remote work program is bound to fail. Remember that remote work can be isolating and may lead to burnout. Ensure that teams are regularly reaching out to one another and that employees are keeping in touch with their colleagues. Companies should also proactively seek feedback from their remote workers to identify opportunities for improvement in the long-term remote work arrangement.

We’re here to help your firm create a long-term remote work strategy. 

There is no doubt that remote work is here to stay for the foreseeable future. As seasoned remote workers, Content Hacker is here to help provide expert advice to businesses who are planning to transition to long-term remote work.

We’re also here to help your firm market and sell as we transition for the New Normal. Schedule a free consultation with us and get in touch now!

 

References:

15 major companies that have announced employees can work remotely long term. (2020). Retrieved 12 August 2020, from https://www.businessinsider.com/companies-asking-employees-to-work-from-home-due-to-coronavirus-2020#seattle-based-amazon-will-allow-employees-to-work-from-home-through-january-8-2021-which-was-recently-extended-from-october-8 

Capers, Z. (2020). 5 Steps to Turn a Temporary Remote Work Plan Into Long-Term Strategy. Retrieved 12 August 2020, from https://www.securitysales.com/business/temporary-remote-work-plan-strategy/

Does Your Company Have a Long-Term Plan for Remote Work?. (2020). Retrieved 12 August 2020, from https://hbr.org/2020/07/does-your-company-have-a-long-term-plan-for-remote-work

Gartner CFO Survey Reveals 74% Intend to Shift Some Employees to Remote Work Permanently. (2020). Retrieved 12 August 2020, from https://www.gartner.com/en/newsroom/press-releases/2020-04-03-gartner-cfo-surey-reveals-74-percent-of-organizations-to-shift-some-employees-to-remote-work-permanently2

Wingard, J. (2020). Remote Working: How To Succeed Over The Long Term. Retrieved 12 August 2020, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/jasonwingard/2020/05/22/remote-working-how-to-succeed-over-the-long-term/#5f887c235469