The COVID-19 crisis has forced many businesses to pivot and engage their workforces in adopting new ways to continue to be effective and efficient, despite not being able to work collectively under one roof. In fact, the ability for employees to work remotely has led many organizations to rethink their models. Do they even need brick and mortar facilities, or can they operate just as effectively with employees working from home or other remote locations?
Is remote work here to stay?
Remote work offers both tangible and intangible benefits for business owners and their employees. The possibility of eliminating brick and mortar costs, such as rent, lease or mortgage payments, as well as utilities and property management fees, can be beneficial to the bottom line. In addition, remote work can increase employee satisfaction and work-life balance due to eliminating the costs, stress and lost time associated with commuting, and by offering employees greater flexibility in meeting family needs.
However, these benefits must be weighed against the potential impact on camaraderie and teamwork that occurs when people are working together in a communal environment versus being isolated. How people interact in the workplace contributes to each organization’s unique culture, which may be more difficult to replicate in a remote environment. One alternative may be to institute partial in-office work weeks, where employees rotate in an out of the office several days a week, as long as the company is able to maintain an adequate level of social distancing and other protective measures.
The ability to measure productivity is another important aspect of operating remotely. Some business owners have expressed concerns that employees might take advantage of being “out of sight and out of mind” and, therefore, may be less productive than they would otherwise be in an office setting. Others have seen productivity rise as a result of employees working from home. For some employees, this is due to the increased work-life balance that remote work affords, combined with time saved by not commuting or leaving the workplace to pick up lunch, visit the gym, etc. Still others have reported struggling with the inability to turn work “off” when there is no longer a definitive transition from office life to home life.
Regardless of whether companies are operating remotely or within a brick and mortar environment, they need to have systems and metrics in place to drive accountability and measure productivity and end-user satisfaction for the benefit of all stakeholders: business owners, employees, customers, shareholders (as applicable), vendors and business partners. In addition, businesses should take time to reevaluate the support systems in place to assist employees and grow talent. This includes determining if training, coaching and mentoring programs need to change or can be enhanced to better meet both business objectives and employee needs in a remote work environment.
Six ways to preserve business culture in a remote work environment
Like many businesses, the COVID-19 crisis challenged our firm to pivot from a brick and mortar environment to everyone working remotely from their homes earlier this year. Below are a few of the things that we found helpful in maintaining our collaborative culture at Planned Financial Services during this challenging time:
- Make sure everyone has the right technology at home to continue working effectively and efficiently from home.
- Communicate clear expectations and deadlines to maintain the required level of accountability and client care.
- Encourage leadership check-ins with employees utilizing video conferencing technology for short, one-on-one meetings focused on, “How are you feeling? How are you doing?”
- Provide flexibility in work schedules to accommodate employees with children, spouses or other family members working from home at the same time.
- Hold virtual lunches and happy hours. (For us, this included pizza deliveries to everyone’s homes.)
- Continue to gather to celebrate birthdays and other special occasions via video conferencing.
Clearly, the COVID-19 crisis has created an opportunity for businesses to reinvent the modern workplace. In all likelihood, working remotely will continue or increase for many businesses and industries where it is a viable solution. As a result, businesses need to think about steps they can take now to prepare for this potential reality.
Investment advice offered through Planned Financial Services, a Registered Investment Advisor.
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