In the past few years there has been a shift in power dynamics in the workplace. Employees have become more empowered and willing to assert themselves when it comes to matters of work-life balance and productivity. They are likely to request more feedback and take firmer stances on their work schedules, particularly when it comes to the question of working remotely.
In reaction to this shift, we have started to see pushback from some companies and managers regarding remote work. Many who argue in favor of in-person work usually base their position in a belief that in-person work leads to higher productivity and better communication. However, this issue is not as black and white as it may appear. As an employer, it is integral to be open to conversations with your staff about their feelings and goals regarding their career and work-life balance. This ensures that everyone’s desires and concerns feel heard, and that you reach a decision that is beneficial not just to your company’s bottom line, but to the wellbeing of your employees.
With this point of view in mind, employers need to consider these four major factors when discussing remote work with team members and crafting an overall remote work policy.
1. Consider the type of work
There are some jobs that naturally lend themselves to in-person work: healthcare, retail, and food service are a few major ones. However, most businesses find themselves in a more nuanced position where some aspects of employees’ jobs are feasibly done remotely, but other aspects benefit from being in-person. Often, this has to do with whether the tasks an employee has are individual or team-based, and if the schedules of the team are synced up in a way to allow maximum productivity.
Having a conversation with each employee about their typical workday and weekly goals can help you get a sense of how much of their position can be done remotely. After talking with each team member individually, you can then craft a hybrid or fully remote schedule that takes into account all team members, instead of working piecemeal.
2. Consider how it will affect teamwork
Establishing a schedule that takes into account the work of everyone on your team may entail moving around some meetings and deadlines, but it will go a long way in creating a meaningful environment for your team.
A common problem in hybrid work is that employees will come into the office on their set day and be the only one there, or worse, end up on Zoom meetings all day. The purpose of being in the office is to foster teamwork and collaboration, not for employees to be in front of their computers in the same way they would if they were at home.
Think about how you can create an intentional environment on the days that your team is in the office. Planning in-person meetings and maintaining an open-door policy are some seemingly simple things you can do to create a meaningful experience that helps your employees understand the necessity of their in-person days. Some teamwork can certainly be done on Zoom and remotely, but in certain professions – particularly creative ones – in-person work and collaboration can be integral to teamwork.
3. Consider how it will affect productivity
Perhaps in the past you had an employee who took advantage of remote work. This experience may have soured the very idea of remote work, and you may be reticent to allow employees to start or continue working remotely amid the push towards in-person work.
However, it is important to distinguish a bad past experience from the employees that you currently have. Are your employees good at setting benchmarks and goals for themselves? Do they report out on their accomplishments? An employee’s ability to be productive in the office is usually a good indication that they will be able to maintain that productivity remotely. Additionally, it is important to remember that productivity should not be measured by the number of minutes an employee is logged onto their computer. Establishing benchmarks around work completed and quality of work will help create a work environment where employers and employees are on the same page about what productivity actually looks like.
4. Consider how leadership can maintain influence
It can be difficult to manage people remotely. Most management courses still center around in-person settings, and don’t discuss how to translate those ideas into the virtual space. There are some easy-to-implement ways that you can manage remote employees effectively. As you might expect, making time to meet and communicate with individuals and groups is central to making remote leadership work well.
Setting a weekly 1:1 meeting with every one of your employees, even if it’s just 15 minutes, can go a long way in building strong, trusting relationships with your team members. From the employee perspective, it is guaranteed facetime with their boss, and provides a place to share accomplishments, frustrations, and ideas. A standing meeting helps employees feel like they are not left out even when they are working alone at home.
Remote work can be a thorny topic. Your employees may have vastly differing opinions, but at the end of the day it is the employer’s job to adjust to the times, resolve those tensions, and find a middle ground that is best for the company and its employees.
Not sure where to start?
Call Flynn Barrett Consulting for help engaging with employees on, and navigating, these complex and potentially divisive topics. We can provide you with valuable perspective on how you should look at type of work, teamwork, productivity, and leadership in your consideration of a remote work policy.