This Is What Remote Work Will Look Like In 2020 And Beyond
If your definition of remote work has changed in the past month, you’re hardly alone.
Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, many organizations considered remote work a privilege. They listed it among their workplace perks and allowed employees to work remotely on occasion, but only after they’d proven themselves to be competent and productive.
Now, social distancing measures have made remote work essential. And new research from Gartner shows many employees plan to continue working remotely, even in a post-pandemic workplace. Here’s what remote work could look like for your organization and how you can prepare for it.
How Many Remote Employees Will You Have?
Gartner surveyed 229 HR leaders at the beginning of April to find out how remote work at their organizations had changed following the coronavirus. According to the survey:
- Half of all organizations reported 81% or more of their employees were working remotely during the pandemic
- 30% of employees worked remotely at least part of the time prior to the pandemic
- 41% of employees said they were likely to continuing working remotely at least part of the time after social distancing measures have been lifted
“Ultimately, the COVID-19 pandemic has many employees planning to work in a way that they hadn’t previously considered,” said Brian Kropp, chief of research for Gartner’s HR practice, in a news release.
As employees consider new ways of working, workplace leaders need to adapt to this new reality. That means potentially re-evaluating their real estate strategy, reconsidering their approach to hiring with fewer geographical boundaries and rethinking how they manage remote employees.
How Will Remote Working Impact Your Real Estate Strategy?
An increase in remote working means your office could look very different when it reopens.
If you plan to continue allowing employees to work remotely for any reason, you’ll need to account for fluctuations in your office space occupancy.
You could have some days on which everyone seems to be in the office at once, followed by days with very few employees onsite. If you had been considering leasing additional office space prior to the pandemic, you might want to re-evaluate—at least for now.
Using space management software can help you visualize occupancy and costs of every building in your real estate portfolio. You can also monitor space utilization trends for individual offices and rearrange seating assignments to allow for greater flexibility. Employees who typically work in the office may need assigned offices or seats, while those who more often work remotely could reserve space as needed.
As you plan for a more remote workforce, you’ll also want to make sure employees have everything they need to be productive, whether they’re in the office or working from home. That includes:
- A laptop that meets your company’s security standards
- A strong, secure internet connection for employees using at-home Wi-Fi
- Technology that makes it easy for employees to set up video calls
- Technology that allows employees to easily find and connect with their colleagues
- Technology that allows for easy document sharing and collaboration, such as Google Docs or Office 365
- Project management software that increases transparency and accountability
- An easy way for employees in the office to find and reserve available rooms
Taking the time to consider all these fundamentals will help you set your remote workforce up for success.
What Are Proven Practices For Managing A Remote Workforce?
Equipping your employees to work remotely is one thing, but managing a remote workforce brings additional challenges. It requires more trust and more communication than managing employees in the office.
Follow these three proven practices for managing a remote workforce:
1. Set Clear Expectations
Clear expectations are always important, but when employees are working remotely, there can be a higher level of uncertainty. Even in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic, employees may be juggling other obligations, such as caring for a child whose school remains closed. Managers need to have a greater level of trust, which can be difficult if they don’t already have an established relationship with remote employees.
Documenting and sharing a remote work policy can ease concerns for both employees and managers by addressing questions such as:
- When is it acceptable to work remotely?
- When are employees expected to come into the office?
- How long can employees be unavailable without prior permission?
- What is a reasonable time period for responding to email and other requests?
- Are employees expected to be on camera for all conference calls?
2. Make Time For Face Time
Although previous Gartner research has found employees who work remotely are highly productive, remote work can carry a greater risk for turnover.
The previous survey of 5,000 employees found employees who did not work remotely were 13% more likely to say they planned to stay with their current employer, compared to those who regularly worked remotely.
One potential reason is that remote employees may be more likely to feel disconnected and disengaged if they don’t have ways to create strong connections with their team.
Managers should make time for regular face-to-face conversations with remote employees and invite them to participate in team meetings, as well as team-building activities, whenever possible.
Hosting virtual lunches or virtual happy hours is one way to help remote employees feel more included.
3. Promote Autonomy And Focus On Performance
While employees who work in the office tend to leave at a set time each day, employees who work remotely may feel greater pressure to be “always on.” They might make it a habit to start their day early and work through what would have been their commute. They might also feel guilty about taking breaks to run errands or meet with a friend.
Give remote employees greater flexibility to structure their day in a way that makes them most productive. If they do their best work early in the morning but their productivity dwindles as the afternoon wears on, considering allowing them to start and end their day earlier.
Let employees know you’re more concerned about their performance, rather than the hours they work.
What Is The Future Of Remote Work?
Remote work is more than a temporary solution to be used during a time of crisis. It’s a new reality many employees and organizations should embrace. However, that doesn’t mean it’s appropriate for every workplace or every circumstance. Working remotely has pros and cons, just like working in the office.
Although new augmented reality and virtual reality technologies are being developed to enhance the virtual employee experience, screens still create barriers.
The quality of the connections we have with our colleagues online still aren’t as strong as the connections we develop when we’re sitting directly across from them or laughing over a meal. At least one in five remote workers experiences loneliness, according to Buffer’s State of Remote Work report. Yet in the same report, 98% of remote workers said they would like to continue working remotely.
Clearly, remote work is part of our new reality. And this new reality will demand greater flexibility in every way—including the way we plan and design our workplaces, the way we hire and the workplace policies we put in place.
Will your workplace be ready?