As the global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues to escalate, so too does the number of employees who are finding themselves working out of office. In order to help prevent the spread of the virus and to protect the health of their employees and customers, many of today’s businesses are implementing work-at-home policies.
While remote work was accelerating in the U.S. even before the pandemic struck with nearly 30% of Americans working from home according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, recent developments have required businesses to fast track implementation of work-at-home programs.
The question remains: “Are businesses work remote ready?” According to research from Own Labs, a video conferencing company, more than a third (34%) of employees think their companies are not prepared for a work from home program. This insight was attributed, in part, to the finding that if organizational leaders provided clear communication and work from home guidance, employees would be more likely to use good judgment to improve their health and that of their colleagues, as well as feel a better sense of readiness overall.
Among those respondents who felt very prepared for a full “working from home” rollout, three-quarters had received a company-wide message about coronavirus. According to the findings, “respondents were three times more likely to feel prepared than others if they received a company-wide message.”
Defining clear work from home policies and protocols is an essential ingredient in launching a successful remote work program, especially during times of crisis. They serve to provide needed guidance around when employees should work from home, the tools required and performance expectations.
Yet, the research found that less than a quarter (23%) of respondents worked at companies that had implemented a Work from Home Protocol in preparation of coronavirus. Moreover, of those organizations that sent a company-wide message to employees, only 31% also instituted a formal Work from Home Protocol.
Whether the current need for work from home programs is only temporary is yet to be determined. The data revealed in fact that 31% of respondents indicated that the coronavirus pandemic was the driver of new remote work programs at their company.
Whatever triggered a company to implement a work at home program, when executed well, it is clear that remote work is good for business. It can indeed contribute significantly to an organization’s performance and productivity. Among performance-based remote work statistics, 85% of businesses confirm that productivity has increased in their company because of greater flexibility. Additionally, 90% of employees say allowing for more flexible work arrangements and schedules would increase employee morale, while 77% say allowing employees to work remotely may lead to lower operating costs.
Out of office rules of engagement
To ensure your work at home program is a success, encourage managers to take an active role in supporting remote employees. Motivating employees and communicating expectations are keys to success. But there are also other actions that managers can take to support remote employees, even when there’s not much time to prepare.
- Establish structure. Implement daily check-ins such as a one-on-one call for employees that work independently, or team calls for collaborative environments. Use these calls as a forum to discuss challenges, progress, concerns or questions.
- Set clear expectations. Remote work becomes more efficient when managers set expectations for the frequency, means, and ideal timing of communication for their teams. Map the right technology to the objective. For example, consider using videoconferencing for daily check-ins but IM or text for urgent matters. Put in place specific processes to ensure that information is being effectively shared with team members.
- Provide various communication technology options: Email alone won’t cut it as a communication tool for remote work. Videoconferencing tools such as Zoom or Skype will not only enhance increased interactions but can also facilitate idea sharing, brainstorming and team development. It is an especially valuable tool for those workers who feel isolated working from home. For quick collaboration, leverage tools like Microsoft Teams or Slack to allow for individual messaging.
- Plan for remote social interaction: This is especially important during the current coronavirus crisis when social distancing and self-quarantining are required practices. Managers can structure ways for employees to interact socially such as informal conversations to discuss non-work issues. Alternately, kick off regular 1:1 or team calls with some time to discuss non-work issues. For example, “I’d like to spend a few minutes catching up with each other. How was your weekend?” Other possibilities include virtual pizza parties (arrange for delivery of pizza to team members at the time of a videoconference), or virtual office parties where party “care packages” are sent in advance to be opened and enjoyed collectively. While awkward at first, these kinds of options can help reduce feelings of isolation or anxiety while fostering a sense of belonging.
Whether your company is new to a work-at-home program or are just expanding its commitment to remote work due to the coronavirus situation, the time is now to put in place proper protocols and processes to ensure your business will foster productivity and performance.
Interested in getting your company remote work ready? Learn more about our work at home solution or request a consultation.