The 2021 workforce is vastly altered from the workforce the world once knew. From offices to call centers, the events of 2020 and response to the COVID-19 global pandemic altered the way businesses—large and small—functioned. As lockdowns and stay-at-home orders spread throughout countries across the world, employers were forced to pivot their workflows, technologies and staff oversight to accommodate workers who were moved to home offices and remote operating procedures. The response was plagued with missteps and a large learning curve, but as the world settles into a new normal, employers are finding their stride in managing remote employees.
Founder of SF Real Estate, Steven Fata, understands the strain of a quick pivot. “It’s interesting,” Fata said, “to look back at the past year. In retrospect, it’s hard to believe we had no notion of remote-work procedures. We had to adapt so quickly and drastically, but after over a year of our work-from-home solutions, it’s hard to recall how we managed before without the option.” Fata and his team are looking to a future where flexing between remote and in-person work is not only manageable but expected and easily achieved.
The work-from-home option appears to be a new constant in today’s landscape, and the importance of proper management and support looks much different than it did prior to 2020. According to a recent report, the freelance site, Upwork projects 36.2 million Americans will be remote workers by 2025. The importance of creating consistency and maintaining productivity in remote work staffing situations is obvious, but the strategies to achieve this may feel out of reach for some business owners. Specific guidance to ensure employees are supported, empowered, and motivated is a must. Creating at-home support systems and success strategies falls into four main categories.
1. Focus on End Results
Gone are the days of micro-managing to an acceptable end result. As employees work away from the office setting, new work setups and morale demand a results-minded approach to overseeing employees. With end-goals established, at-home workers are able to set personal timelines, work to meet team deadlines, and produce toward their goal. This requires a level of professionalism and accountability on the part of the employee and a willingness of management to trust and distance themselves from the tactical details to oversee the bigger picture. Renowned author and productivity expert, Stephen Covey encourages readers to “begin with the end in mind,” a sentiment that points to building the steps to success by understanding the bigger picture.
While office environments allowed teams to work in close proximity and re-orient regularly around their goal, the importance of understanding the end result is vital in remote work. With a well-established vision and leadership giving directionality, employees are able to move toward a common goal and create their personal work-from-home productivity habits to meet deadlines and collaborate well with other teammates.
2. Communicate Consistently with Employees
Out of sight must not be out of mind for the remote team, and striking a balance between consistent communication and message overload is a real challenge of the new work-from-home life. Leadership should make themselves available to employees and check in regularly, but reasonably. With employees no longer present in a common building, detecting distress becomes harder.
Management can create regular check-ins to keep their finger on the pulse of team morale and the stress levels of employees. Conversely, over-meeting can be just as taxing and interrupt productivity. By creating a clear and meaningful agenda for meetings, management can provide purpose and best utilize each team member’s time while providing the personal touch that bridges the disconnect often resulting from remote work.
3. Establish Technology Protocols & Support Systems
Proper technology is a non-negotiable in remote work as employees must have access to proper resources as well as effective communication tools. Work-from-home offices may not all be equal, and successful companies are providing access to standard technology to ensure each employee is equipped to complete each job. Common tools such as webcams, microphones and multiple screens are a game changer in online communication and productivity.
From messaging systems to virtual meeting spaces, technology creates connectivity and can align teams to a common goal. Productivity apps and planning programs allow teams to see the status of individual contributions to group projects. The software industry is rife with team-centric productivity and project management programs meant to create a remote workspace that meets any company’s needs, and a bit of trial and error before rolling out the new software will allow every company to find the solution that works best for their specific industry, dynamic and workflows.
4. Build Mutual Trust & Team Togetherness
The change in workspace dynamic from in-office to remote requires great amounts of trust between a manager and an employee. Accountability systems that nurture transparency without micromanagement can lead to better performing teams and a boost in team morale. Teams who use self-management apps to track time and productivity empower employees to monitor themselves without feeling policed. The results-minded approach to productivity establishes trust as well, putting the onus of the tasks on each employee while supporting work toward a common goal.
Being available through clear, well-established channels of support gives employees the opportunity to reach out and ask when they need help or guidance. Workers must understand how they can seek out management when they need answers to project-specific questions or emotional and moral support to avoid isolation.
As employees feel empowered, equipped, and understood, they perform well, and the at-home work setup allows a freedom and flexibility that is bringing fresh talent to the workplace. Gone are the restrictions of geographic location when selecting the best prospects, and more flexible schedules bring new talent to the pool as well. In the new workforce, growth potential is endless for the employer willing to provide structure, support, and trust to their remote workers.