The coronavirus is still on the upslope of the curve in the United States. Adding to the burden of the crisis, is a completely new way of working if you’re lucky to work at all. If you are one of the businesses who have figured out how to get your employees set up remotely, well done! If you’re still working out the kinks this guide will help.

The Fears Many Managers Have

Some managers are wary about telecommuting. They feel that to supervise employees from a distance is a difficult and foreign task. There are additional fears that workers will no longer feel pressure to work hard. They may imagine employees slacking off, wearing pajamas and watching television. Although some of these fears are justified, there are many steps managers can take to ensure work goes on as planned.

Consider the Benefits

Many businesses are already adapting to the new environment by offering workers the chance to telecommute. This prevents the spread of infectious disease by preventing employees from grouping up in a tight space, such as an office. Now that technology is powerful enough, it is possible for employees to work remotely while at home. The benefits don’t stop there. In addition to helping stop the spread, many employees consider the flexible schedule a major perk. So much that they are willing to take a pay cut.

First, consider the benefits beyond preventing the spread of infectious disease. According to research, 54 percent of US employees work remotely at least once per month, 48 percent at least once per week, and 30 percent work remotely full-time. If other companies can do it, so can your company. And if they are doing it, there must be a reason behind it.

Additionally, one-third of the workforce would take a pay cut of 5 percent in order to work remotely. Researchers at Oxford University showed that happy employees are more productive. It’s unlikely that employees will become less productive or more difficult to manage while working from home because the fear of job loss is still there. So being in the comfort of their own home will boost their productivity, not diminish it.

Another factor to consider is that millennial workers prefer a more flexible work situation. In order to attract young talent, companies may need to switch up the workplace to one that is more appealing. There’s also an argument to be made that telecommuting may help improve employee retention. Companies could benefit greatly from lower worker turnover.

Lastly, consider the flexible remote work is not just a perk for employees, but also for management. Gallup’s State of the American Workplace Report showed that 55 percent of all jobs could be partially made remote if necessary. That means management could benefit too. Managers can prioritize based on needs and assignments. Again, they could see an increase in productivity.

But how could all of this be implemented? Below are the methods managers can take to implement remote work.

Implementing Remote Work

One of the first tasks is to determine which workers are eligible for telework. As we stated in the previous article, Gallup claims that slightly more than half of all jobs in the United States could allow for telecommuting at least partially. The kind of jobs that could be eligible for telework are typically office jobs, such as administration or report writing. Other jobs of a more physical nature are less likely to be eligible.

Identify the Job

Some view the problem as a dichotomy between concentrative and collaborative work. Concentrative work includes administration and report writing. It means any job that requires a lone person to concentrate on a lone task, such as writing a report. These types of jobs are easily relegated to telework. Collaborative work, on the other hand, is not always eligible. Group projects that require a great deal of rapid communication between various divisions of an office are difficult to maintain over the internet.

Create a Policy

Another task to consider is creating a teleworking policy together with your team. It can be difficult to micromanage every aspect of a team that has teleworkers. Each worker will likely understand what parts of their work can be done remotely better than a manager can. Ask employees questions like their preferred method of communication, standard procedures for remote team projects, and how to maintain a sense of workplace and community while working remotely.

Set up Communication Channels and Schedule Check-Ins

Managers also need to remember to maintain professionalism and teamwork. Working remotely may reduce the feeling of cordiality and cohesion among some workers. It’s important that employees remember that a remote job still requires the same level of dedication and professionalism as any other. Create a team schedule, rather than an independent schedule. Consider having some meetings in person. Have employees checkin with a certain frequency.

Infrastructure, Software and Security Protocols

Vital infrastructure includes internet access, both for the office and for worker’s who are working from home. It also includes having access to the tools you need right away. Make sure that every employee has access to a computer, either their own or one borrowed from the company, in addition to other vital pieces of hardware, such as monitors, keyboard, mouse, phone, printer, and chargers.

But it’s not just hardware that you have to consider, but also software. HR needs to know exactly which software is needed beforehand. This will likely include cloud-based services should as email and communication, but also other more advanced features such as file-sharing and desktop-sharing. Employees either need to be trained to use these software programs beforehand or must learn them on the go. If that is the case, managers should make appropriate considerations on allowing more time for tasks to be completed.

One crucial element of a telecommuting office is security. There are so many new variables that employers/managers can’t control. Outline the main things in the policy. For instance, these are non-negotiable… no public Wi-Fi, and no one should be on an unsupported operating system. If there is a security issue with one member of the team, the entire office is at risk. Create a backup of all data and have IT support survey the security protocols and highlight the weak spots. Make sure each employee is educated on cyber security measures. Know this, hackers are preying on newly remote workers who are under undo stress, so everyone needs to be on high alert.

Wellness Programs

Finally, ensure that wellness programs are in place. Not only will an emergency switch to telework take a toll on morale, but the telework itself may be stressful for some employees. Although there are plenty of benefits of telework, there are also challenges, especially in the case of a pandemic, due to the ‘social distancing’ aspect. Being cooped up all day at home with few social interactions can produce anxiety, stress, and possibly depression. HR needs to have wellness programs in place to keep employee morale where it needs to be.

Transitioning some employees to telework can be a great way for a company to save on costs and improve worker morale. But there are a lot of pitfalls involved in setting up remote work. There are many things to take into consideration. But if a company plans properly, it can enjoy fully the benefits of telework.

If you would like to receive manager training for remote workers, please contact me.

Marie Zolezzi, CEO and Founder of ZM Ventures has contributed to the HR functions of many large firms in the Silicon Valley, Intermountain West and the Pacific Northwest. Marie is a skilled HR practitioner with unique expertise in HR business partnering, conflict resolution, employee investigations, one-on-one coaching and organization management. She is also a skilled board advisor to the Board of Directors needing input from an HR thought leader. To contact Marie Zolezzi, send an email to info@zmventures.com

Sources:

Bernazzani, S. (2019, December 4). 45 Key Remote Work & Telecommuting Statistics for 2020. Retrieved March 5, 2020, from https://www.owllabs.com/blog/remote-work-statistics

Staff, Science X. “Happy Workers Are 13% More Productive.” Phys.org, Phys.org, 25 Oct. 2019, phys.org/news/2019-10-happy-workers-productive.html.

Gallup Inc. (2020). State of the American Workplace. [online] Gallup.com. Available at: https://www.gallup.com/workplace/238085/state-american-workplace-report-2017.aspx [Accessed 5 Mar. 2020].

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