Before the novel coronavirus reached the United States, only 15 percent of employees nationwide External Site were working from home at least part-time, according to the MIT Sloan Management Review. In just a few short weeks following the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, that figure skyrocketed to half of all employees doing 100 percent of their work from home when much of the country entered lockdown.
Though most stay-at-home orders around the country expired after a few months, many people continue to work remotely. And, companies are starting to realize the benefits of remote work — with some large companies like Facebook, Nationwide, Google and Twitter implementing permanent work-from-home policies even after the pandemic subsides. But, remote work isn't just limited to large corporations: Global Workplace Analytics External Site estimates that around one-third of the country's employees will work from home at least a couple of times a week.
If the majority of your workforce switched to remote work because of COVID-19, and you're considering permanently adopting a remote work policy, be sure to keep these considerations in mind when helping your employees transition to working from home and successfully integrating remote work into your business model.
Now that you won't have the chance to check in on your employees in person, communication becomes extremely important. Leaders should establish structured and productive check-ins (at least weekly, if not every few days) with their direct reports to avoid disconnect.
Check in with your workforce to see how they prefer to communicate — some may prefer more frequent check-ins via video conference; others may do well with just a text message once a week to see how things are going. And, don't forget about regular feedback, setting goals, and keeping expectations for performance top-of-mind. It may be challenging at first, but the more you connect with your remote employees on a regular basis, the more engaged they'll be.
Help them create a comfortable and functional workspace.
At the office, your employees likely had a cubicle or desk with an ergonomic chair, desk lamp, and ample storage for files. If your employees thought they'd only be away from the office for a few weeks, their setup probably looks a little different Opens in a new window — makeshift workspaces on card tables, joining video calls from their backyard, or sending emails from their phone on the couch. Now that you're considering a permanent switch to remote work and saving on the cost of office space, consider ways you can help your remote employees be more comfortable and productive.
First, make sure they have all the equipment they need to do their jobs: a functional laptop or a desktop computer with a keyboard and mouse, a dedicated desk and comfortable office chair, and a printer. Next, if you'll be expecting your employees to participate in frequent video-conference calls, ask them if they need a better internet connection — and if they do, offer to subsidize it.
Providing your employees with the resources for them to be productive isn't just smart for your bottom line. According to Global Workplace Analytics, companies that allow employees to work from home part-time save about $11,000 per year for each employee External Site. Re-investing some of this money in remote office workspaces can help increase loyalty and engagement throughout your workforce.
Feeling isolated from their peers is incredibly common among remote workers 60 percent said they felt isolated even before the pandemic hit, according to the MIT Sloan Management Review. While the best way to keep employees active and engaged in your company's mission is through frequent communication and check-ins, consider encouraging virtual social activities for your remote workforce.
For those who are new to working from home, suggest virtual coffee breaks via video chat, online exercise classes to encourage physical activity and interactive team meetings.
Now that your employees are working from home, it's harder for them to leave work at the office, so to speak — especially if they're working in a common living space like the dining room — and work-life balance takes on a whole new meaning. While working from home eliminates commuting and helps your employees prioritize time with their families, remote work can also make your employees feel like they need to be available at all hours of the day.
This is where flexibility becomes important. As long as your employee is getting their work done, it shouldn't matter if they start working at 5 a.m. and are done by noon to play with their kids — so long as their calendar is free from meetings and other obligations in the afternoon. And, no matter the schedule they set for themselves, encourage a designated log-off time for everyone.
Focus on building trust.
Permanently moving part or all your workforce to remote teams isn't a decision to make lightly. Managing remote employees requires an enormous amount of trust from both parties — something that doesn't necessarily develop overnight. A remote workforce will inherently be more autonomous, taking breaks when they need to and working outside of the traditional 9-to-5.
By trusting their decisions, ensuring transparent communication, and holding people accountable for their work, you'll shape your remote workforce to be engaged in their work — even if you can't see what they're doing from your own home workspace.
Need more suggestions for implementing a remote work strategy?
As you and your business adjust in these uncertain times, you can count on Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield to help you whenever you need it. At Wellmark, we know your business and have insights on your employees that you may not have in-house. Our team has the tools and resources, tips and tricks, health-specific information, and engaging well-being programs needed to keep your employees happy and healthy — even if they never step foot back in your office.
Want to learn more about Wellmark's well-being programs? Contact your authorized Wellmark account representative, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org Send Email.