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”90% of HR leaders said employees would be allowed to work remotely even once COVID-19 vaccines are widely available” – Gartner Poll 

The abrupt shift to Work From Home (WFH) startled many companies last year, and this includes those that were habituated to the remote work culture. Ensuring employee welfare was a challenge, as was measuring productivity at all levels.

The crisis has now prolonged for an even longer time, and companies in some parts of the world (at least) may have to contemplate an extended phase of remote work. The engine must get going, however, and companies must again find ways to hit the ground running. Let’s understand how through this brief article. 

The Challenges 

Work From Home can on one hand provide employees with the cushion of flexibility and accountability. But there also lies the risk of performance decline, more so when training and preparation are being challenged. 

The lack of physical connection or supervision could impact the level of engagement, performance, and connection to the core organizational mission. The following are some of the major challenges involved in remote work:

  • Lack of direct contact and supervision 
  • Delay in issues of progress such as the delivery of information, approvals, etc. 
  • Home & family distractions
  • Measuring Productivity 
  • Absence of Work Culture  

Getting to What Matters 

While much focus is emphasized on the essential operational resources to ensure business continuity, attention must also be pivotally devoted to helping employees feel motivated and work-focussed. Described below are some of the common methods employed by us at TNQ InGage when remote work came knocking:

Check for Signs of Distress 

Have both direct and indirect conversations with employees to gather knowledge of their challenges and concerns, and make every conversation an opportunity to convey your support and care. This includes clarity on the modus operandi, approval norms, job security & prospects, etc. Every rung of the hierarchy must gracefully shoulder this unique responsibility. 

Modernization of Onboarding Processes 

Work in a virtual world must modernize and evolve to cater effectively to a larger percentage of employees hired, more so for recruits who are new to your office culture and to the forced setup of today. 

Visual communication strategies can be revised to recreate the nature of conversations that normally occurs in a face-face environment. 

“So now we start team meetings and candidate interviews with a fun and easy question like ‘What’s your favorite comfort food?’ or ‘What is your worst travel story?'” “Something this simple helps to break the ice and promote connection, without simply asking the dreaded ‘How are you?'” – Kristen Hayward, head of people, Superhuman

“We are working on a program now called DocuSign Connections, where we’re evaluating technologies that will connect employees with mentors inside the organization and creating onboarding partners for new employees,” – Joan Burke, Chief People Officer at DocuSign 

Trust is the Buzzword

“The best thing you can do as a manager right now is to suspend your disbelief and put utmost trust and confidence in your employees that they will do the right thing — which they will if employers provide a supportive structure,” – Brian Kropp, group vice president and chief of HR research at Gartner

We live in times where visibility is challenged, where micromanagement is too tempting a measure. How do we know if employees are clocking in only to binge-watch office politics streamed in ‘Office’? 

Patience is hard to come by during these times, but nothing leads to accountability more than trust (exceptions apply). Say yes to setting expectations and making it clear, but that’s where your role ends. Clearly define the desired outcome, and encourage your trained employees to design the work their own way – a surefire path to a creative work culture with ownership intact. 

Need for Recognition 

The common adage goes – advice in secret, praise in public. Employees like to be recognized for their creative endeavors, as an accomplished project comes to you with perhaps a lot of effort (and expectations). 

A small token of appreciation during a group interaction or a promising word can go a long way in keeping your employees motivated and loyal. The pay-scales and appraisal come later. 

We understand that doing this could still be a challenge in times of limited visibility and interactions. Why not try these then?

  • Improve performance measurement and relationships with direct reports. 
  • Make use of simple pulse surveys to ask specific questions and find areas of recognition. 
  • Have a virtual meet with employees and get to know about the barriers they have overcome or the way they are coordinating with their peers.  
  • Identify areas and means whereby they can be recognized and thanked, either individually or as a team  

The Role of Digitization

The digital world brings us closer, without which remote work will remain a dream. Apart from its obvious benefits in collaboration and networking, digitization can:

  • Digitize your records
  • Ease document management
  • Improve the flow of information, keeping everyone on the same page  
  • Streamline business processes 
  • Create better workflows for teams to efficiently function 

With remote work becoming more and more commonplace, Augmented and Virtual Realities will have a marquee role to play in it. Here’s why the future of the world is immersive,

Summing it up 

Remote work would become more and more common, and it has its benefits (a story for another day). The current crisis provides us with an opportunity to explore and unleash new possibilities, especially with the imminent change in the way of work.