Maintaining an Effective Work-From-Home Model

Maintaining an Effective Work-From-Home ModelAs the pandemic continues through the spring of 2022, many companies are continuing to adjust. Some have pulled employees back into offices and in-person settings while others continue with a hybrid approach or have shifted to fully remote. As we’ve seen, many employees have grown to prefer working remotely as it promotes a better work-life balance and saves commuting costs. For the companies that choose to remain remote and keep their employees working from home, the trick is maintaining that model for the long term while enabling growth. 

Balancing Remote Work and Business Goals

Maintaining a robust remote workforce means more than just providing workers with a laptop and conducting Zoom meetings. It requires other technologies, management policies, and training that optimizes remote work. Employees are tasked with learning how to work differently and how to communicate digitally in a way that encourages collaboration and friendship. Doing this right requires a focused effort that’s built by HR and senior management with the overall goal to set their remote employees up for success while still expecting results.

The successful companies will change the way they supervise and direct employees. At many organizations, when some workers shift to a remote workplace, they’re not provided enough training or resources that guarantee productivity and their supervisors often lack the right training on how they should monitor, incentivize, and encourage their direct remote reports. For supervisors that spent the past 10 to 20 years seeing their staff in the office, it requires a considerable mindset shift to adapt to virtual interactions. Management can head off these types of problems by setting expectations for all remote staff, discussing the new supervisor/employee dynamics, and reassuring remote workers they still have pathways for advancement.

Companies can reach growth targets with remote workforces by finding qualified talent from an even larger candidate pool. They’re no longer limited to local workers or those who would consider relocation. They can find a marketing manager from Chicago and a coder from San Diego or Dublin. The right talent is essential to innovate and delight the customer, and firms should expand their talent searches to find the right fits for their business.

Viewing Remote Work as an Opportunity, Not a Problem

Like many other companies, Denver-based Stoneside Blinds & Shades, the fastest-growing custom window coverings company, felt the impact of the pandemic and needed a strategy to protect employees’ health while also keeping the business going. “When COVID first occurred in March of 2020, like many businesses, we asked everyone to work from home. We had the technology in place to support this and we expected this to be a short-term solution to a short-term problem,” says Mickey Fain, president and CEO of Stoneside.

The company asked workers to come back to an in-person work environment when COVID cases plummeted in June 2021. However, this short-lived break crashed into skyrocketing cases. “Now, instead of thinking of this as a short-term solution to a problem, we are seeing this as a long-term opportunity,” said Fain about the transition to a remote workforce. He also noted workers enjoyed the flexibility of remote work, but it posed challenges. “Communication is not as spontaneous, people are less likely to collaborate, and team members can become more isolated,” said Fain.

Keeping an Eye on the Culture

A common refrain from senior managers confronted by remote work is “but what about the culture?” It’s a valid concern, as work-from-home is a stark departure from group lunches and water cooler chatter. However, workers have expectations for flexibility and remote work, and leaders need to adjust to these expectations and build stronger modern cultures that can outperform the competition.

Fain believed that in order to maintain a creative, innovative and team-oriented culture, companies will need to do a lot more than just providing their employees with a Zoom account. “We need to identify the key technologies, management practices, policies and training required to create an organization that thrives while working from anywhere,” Fain adds. “It will take a focused effort to truly excel in this area and those companies that excel will have an advantage.”

Some tips for building a flourishing remote workforce culture include:

  • Recognize achievements. Remote workers frequently note feelings of isolation. Companies can combat those feelings by publicly and privately noting accomplishments and adjusting employee recognition programs to reflect the work-from-home model. They should also encourage open feedback from all of their employees.
  • Develop communication guidelines. To create a cohesive and effective culture you need to communicate early and often. Build out communication guideline documents that describe typical working hours and best practices for using collaboration tools. Integrate these expectations into employee onboarding, so new workers can blend into workflows seamlessly.
  • Offer flexible work schedules. Some companies transitioned to remote working while still mandating set “office hours.” Employees crave flexibility, that’s why a study from Bloomberg found 39 percent of U.S. adults “would consider quitting if their employers weren’t flexible about remote work.” Allow people to work at their own pace (within some reasonable limits) and shift the company’s focus to measurable results and growth instead of how much time workers spend in their chairs.

For the companies that can move to a fully remote business model, success requires changing the culture and the traditional way “work” is done. It’s best accomplished with a well-planned strategy that recognizes that working from home is much different from an in-office setting. It is a seismic shift in the ways managers manage and workers work, but it’s one with extraordinary long-term payoffs for the companies that get it right.