No matter how much you talk about it, think about it or read about it, transitioning to working remotely completely, is easier said than done.
Amidst the COVID chaos, what is certain is that the future world of work will be largely remote. And because throughout the history of mankind, work has always been seen as heavily dependent on location, wrapping our heads around this new possibility is not easy.
While businesses have quickly leaped into action by shifting their entire workforce on work from home mode almost as soon as the pandemic hit, much needs to be done to stabilise it and make it sustainable in the long run. There are challenges that organisations will have to overcome quickly and effectively.
According to Gartner, 74% of surveyed CFOs plan to keep part of their workforce permanently remote after the COVID-19 crisis. But how do they plan to prevent a dip in productivity and maintain a high level of efficiency? There are some answers.
But before we get there, let us look at some challenges currently derailing the efficacy of remote working and within that context, what could be some possible solutions.
“Hello, am I audible?” (Lack of communication)
One of the first things that went missing when people migrated to remote working was – communication. What once could be achieved by a swivel of the chair, a tap on the shoulder or a shout to the colleague, now took a scheduling of a call to communicate the smallest of things.
Very quickly, high bandwidth or face-to-face communication gave way to low bandwidth communication or conversations that happen over email and chat. Collaboration too went for a toss as people were trying to puzzle over the different online meeting formats as against huddling over in a conference room or over a cup of coffee.
One of the closest solutions to having a face-to-face talk is video conferencing. While some members shy from switching on their cameras, leaders can encourage them by switching on their own cameras at all times to build confidence. Video calls provide a real-time, uninterrupted form of conversation that closely mimics the real deal and hence can drive better productivity.
“I feel so lost. Will it be right to call my manager?” (Greater leadership and employee support)
In such anxious times, many organisations have reported that their employee morale is at an all time low. The uncertainty of the future, lack of socialisation, furloughs from jobs and the general danger of the pandemic itself has thrown the most optimistic people into bouts of anxiety and depression.
Moreover, working from home brings its own challenges of keeping a balance between office time and personal time. The seeming fluidity of time where one activity flows into another without clear categories and distractions from kids and pets, can get unnerving sometimes.
The question before most leaders then is on how to keep the employees engaged, motivated and supported, remotely?
Some solutions could be to have a structured system of daily check-ins and check the pulse rate in some format where the manager is able to understand how the employee is feeling everyday. An agile HRMS Software could definitely help in keeping a track of employee productivity and enhance employee engagement during remote work mode.
Some other ways of establishing a social connect would be to have e lunches – have everyone from the team eat their lunches on video conferencing or have a coffee with everyone present on video calls and have non-work conversations.
In fact that is one the things that also went missing after work became remote. In the absence of lunch table conversations or water cooler chats, a lot of passive knowledge sharing stopped – informal conversations that often inspire ideas for work.
“I keep getting disconnected! Bad internet” (Inadequate technology infrastructure)
Another challenge most businesses experienced was lack of a sturdy infrastructure when it came to remote working. Not everyone had great internet speeds and a super fast computer to maintain the same level of productivity as that in a physical office. In fact, many organisations had to run a pilot project and conduct trial runs on their IT systems, data security and collaboration platforms to ensure there was minimal loss of information.
Remote working also posed a threat to more frequent cyber attacks and hacks to sensitive information for businesses that dealt with high data security. Having a robust remote access policy, bringing in the cybersecurity professionals to assess an organisation’s vulnerability to security risks, issuing company devices, banning unsecured wireless connections, using geolocation to restrict the places from which company networks can be accessed, using VPN etc can be some of the solutions to deal with data breaches and identity theft.
“Umm..where do I click now?” (Glaring skill gaps)
In 2017, the McKinsey Global Institute estimated that 60% of occupations had at least 30% of constituent work activities that could be automated by 2030. The pandemic has only accelerated this reality. Need of the hour for businesses is to reskill and upskill their talent to thrive in the new normal. The answer lies in digitalisation of systems and processes.
Organisations are racing to adopt digital transformation. Building a digital vision, charting a roadmap for quick and effective digitalisation and training the employees in digital technologies would be key to solving this challenge. It would be critical for businesses to bridge the digital divide fast and use SaaS technology tools for building digital preparedness.
“He didn’t answer my call. Is he even working?” (Tracking performance)
Physical presence in the office is not equivalent to performance anymore. Remote work has changed that and has shifted the focus of performance metrics from inputs to outputs. Businesses have realised that the performance measurement and targets have changed for many roles after the pandemic and so the performance management systems have to become more agile to keep up with the changing times.
As the organisations change their overall goals and objectives in the light of the crisis, the performance metrics also have to now align with them, which warrants a relook at them. Leaders will also have to put in place a system for reviews and feedback for the purpose of bonuses, annual appraisals and promotions.
As organisations move to hybrid mode of work wherein employees work from home on most days and come to office on some days, leaders will have to devise an process that rewards both onsite and remote employees in a comparable manner.
The way ahead
It would be important for leaders to continue building the positive culture and keep the employee engagement high through tech enabled systems. HRMS platforms like Darwinbox, BambooHR, CakeHR etc provide cloud based services with features for virtual recruitment and onboarding, employee lifecycle management, advanced analytics, improved performance management systems and much more. A comprehensive payroll software is a must have for HRs to remove all pains from payroll while working remotely.
The future of work is definitely remote and I hope this article will help you build your own digital-ready workforce to adapt to the new mode of work.
Author: Ratnika Sharma
Bio: Ratnika Sharma is a writer, dancer and thinker. She worked as a journalist for about 5 years before becoming a full time marketing writer. She is particularly interested in HR practices and in learning about how to help people managers create an impact in their professional life, everyday. An avid reader and movie buff, Ratnika enjoys books and films from almost all genres as long as they are worth thinking about long after consumption!