As the COVID-19 pandemic persists, organizations around the world are quickly adjusting to — and benefiting from — a remote work landscape.
Remote work has long been stereotyped by traditional employers as an opportunity for employees to “take it easy” and “fly under the radar.” In reality, this couldn’t be further from the truth. The COVID-19 pandemic has proven that opportunities for improved performance are created — not avoided — when these traditional employers are forced to embrace remote work.
Despite the challenges associated with navigating the remote landscape in the middle of a pandemic and even outside of one, there are numerous benefits to this new approach to work. As organizational leaders switch gears and prepare for prolonged office closures, many are starting to notice that their teams aren’t just surviving during this new normal — they’re thriving.
Why Remote Work Works
As most states have started to reopen, companies that have chosen to continue working remotely out of an abundance of caution have demonstrated to their employees that employees’ health and safety is a top priority. When leaders respect their employees’ health and safety and keep their offices closed even when they are not mandated to do so, employees feel more like valued members of a team and less like cogs in a machine.
According to the Society for Human Resource Management, an estimated 90% of business leaders believe that promoting safety and wellness can directly impact productivity and performance. A study from the American Psychological Association suggests they aren’t wrong, finding that more than 90% of employees who feel valued at work say they’re more motivated to do their best.
Additional research takes these findings one step further, making a direct link between remote work and employee productivity. According to a report from Prodoscore, productivity has increased 47% in 2020 despite the nationwide lockdown. The report also found that between March and April of 2020, telephone calls were up 230%, customer relationship management system activity was up 176%, and email activity was up 57%. The proof is in the numbers: employees aren’t slowing down, less productive, or even unavailable despite the circumstances.
Providing a remote-first approach to work will also help employers retain their employees beyond the pandemic. A study from LinkedIn claims that nearly half of American workers would “forgo the corner-office job and a high salary to gain more flexibility in their schedules.” Remote work can provide this flexibility and ensure business leaders retain their top talent.
Navigating the Remote Landscape
Executives hoping to successfully lead a remote workforce must do so through intentional change management activities. That means taking time to diligently think through all the ways employees at every level of an organization will be impacted by ongoing remote work. With this information in hand, leaders can carefully outline new processes and procedures to guide their organization forward.
When crafting these plans, leaders must recognize that working remotely does not mirror working in the brick-and-mortar office. While the job requirements and results are the same, the methods used to achieve those results are different. Accepting these differences rather than fighting against them is what differentiates organizations who successfully incorporate remote work into their DNA from those who revert back to traditional ways of working. Successful remote organizations also zero in on:
- Communication: Clear, consistent communication ensures all employees are aware of their organization’s next steps. Virtual town halls, company newsletters, and private one-on-one meetings are just a few of the many ways leaders can effectively disseminate this information to their teams. The more aware employees are of changes coming down the pipeline — and why these changes are important — the more likely they are to embrace them with open arms.
- Collaboration: While working in silos can impede growth amongst in-person teams, it is especially detrimental in a remote landscape. Remote work requires a strong culture of collaboration, one in which employees are encouraged to proactively reach out to their colleagues across departments to discuss challenges, brainstorm solutions, and exchange strategies. These intentional interactions keep everyone in sync regardless of the physical distances between them.
- IT Infrastructure: Having a robust IT infrastructure is also essential to remote success. To do their jobs effectively, employees need access to the devices, software, and files available to them at their brick-and-mortar office. As such, leaders hoping to build a robust remote culture — now and in the future — must begin implementing highly responsive cloud-based solutions, remote video conferencing platforms, and more.
Working With a Partner Built for Remote Success
Crafting new processes and procedures, conducting comprehensive change management activities, and implementing new technologies is challenging enough on a “normal” day. Now add in the urgency of a global pandemic, and it’s no wonder many executives are unsure of how best to proceed. Fortunately, these leaders don’t have to navigate this new territory alone.
This past March, SEI joined millions of companies around the world and temporarily closed our physical offices. From our local, on-the-ground consulting model to our extensive in-person business development and recruiting efforts, nearly every aspect of our business operations shifted overnight. We were left to answer the very same question that everyone else was asking: how do we proceed from here? As it turns out, the answer wasn’t hard to find.
While our local, employee-owned model sets us apart from other players in the industry, it’s our collaborative spirit that truly defines us. For decades, our more than 300 top-tier professionals located in offices across the country have turned to each other for insights and support. Hosting remote meetings and workshops, virtually collaborating on complex projects, and ideating and problem-solving through digital tools isn’t new to us — it’s simply second nature. Thanks to this strong foundation in virtual, cross-office collaboration, we were able to adapt to a fully remote work environment overnight.
Now we’re leveraging our innate ability to succeed remotely to ensure our clients do the same. Working as a virtual powerhouse, we’re helping organizations approach new challenges as opportunities and find ways to reap the rewards of a remote workforce — today and down the line.
To find out how SEI can help your organization remain responsive to the rapidly evolving business landscape, reach out today.