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Remote Working Is a Two-Way Road—Making It Work for Employers and Employees

Posted On05/12/2020

ContributorSheri Pepper

by Victoria Lasin

Whether you were already familiar with a remote work arrangement or were thrown into it by the mandate to shelter in place, the one thing we all have in common is that we’re all in it together. So while we collectively commiserate about the challenges of working from home, we also have the unique opportunity to redefine how businesses get work done.

In our new reality, our pre-coronavirus work norms have evaporated: managers aren’t in their offices across the hall, workers aren’t behind their desks, and we don’t  bump into each other in the lunchroom. The new work environment presents a different way of relating with one another, so understandably the expectations between employers and their teams need to shift as well. How do we stay in touch with co-workers, projects, and assignments, and how do leaders track their teams’ progress?

A recent article in the New York Times examined how some employers are utilizing tracking software to monitor workers’ computer screens, using their cameras to watch what their teams are doing, and following their employees’ movements through GPS. An alternative to this guard-tower method is to honestly consider the needs of both sides of the organization: employers and employees. Navigating this new work structure can be seen as a two-way street.

Everyone Wins With Higher Productivity

Understandably, management is looking for ways to ensure productivity. They need to know that employees are on task and efficiently using their work time. After all, each completed task leads to incremental goals that contribute to the business’s overall success.

On the flip side, employees need to let their bosses know that they’re on it. For example, sharing task lists with others not only demonstrates that you’re keeping productive but also that you’re comfortable with transparency.

Because COVID-19 has disrupted so many organizations’ priorities and revenue goals, employers and employees should review and update KPIs as appropriate. It will be important to adjust performance expectations to reflect the new reality.

Regular Communication Builds Trust

Communication among team players has always been critical to successful outcomes. But working remotely means we never have accidental conversations so we need to schedule regular check-ins. How frequently depends on the team, but whether it’s every day or twice a week, holding meetings at a predictable time on a reliable schedule keeps everyone accountable.

Additionally, managers need to be available to employees outside of scheduled meetings. Employers need to let their teams know the best way to get in touch if questions come up, and workers need to know they’ll be able to get support from their supervisors. (This couldn’t be more important than in the case of an employee just onboarded before SIP.) And, as we’re figuring out how to work smoothly in this remote environment, everyone needs to be able to openly discuss if systems aren’t working. This type of honest communication builds trust.

Success in the Remote Work World Relies on Flexibility

On an individual level, each of us needs to build routines that support our work and personal lifestyle. Since we’re essentially reinventing the work world, a familiar 9-5 schedule may not work as well as it did before shelter in place. For many people, a more realistic approach may be working in short blocks of time, from 90 minutes to three hours, throughout the day and evening, or after dinner. But scheduling and adhering to specific times for sitting down to business helps you be psychologically ready to work.

But for all the leeway we need in our schedules, workers and managers alike need to be clear on expectations. Goals must be clear and the road map defined. Once people know what to do, regular communication sets the stage for accountability, as well as an open forum for discussion and support. The flexibility to get the job done in a way that works for each person’s lifestyle can build confidence that the team is working together, even if from their individual homes.

Mutual Support Expands Opportunities for a Win-Win

We don’t know whether this massive work-from-home experiment will be temporary or morph into something that we’ll all have to adjust to going forward. Regardless, it doesn’t pay to be shortsighted. Business will continue to thrive through innovation — creativity doesn’t have to stop because of SIP. Employers can hold casual team meetings with a virtual whiteboard where everyone can brainstorm new solutions and contribute improvements and new ideas.

Managers can support employees, too, by keeping in mind that their career goals likely extend beyond just getting the work done. Are there opportunities for mentoring, skill building, and training, even in the remote workspace? Looking ahead keeps open the flow of a two-way street to better outcomes between employers and employees, and ultimately, to better business outcomes.

If you’re interested in finding out how Nelson can help with workforce planning or you need assistance with your job search, we’re here for you. Contact Nelson today.