We are currently experiencing the biggest incidental remote work experiment ever conducted. For now, the ability to pivot to a remote or distributed workforce is allowing many organizations to continue operating under stay-at-home orders and social distancing mandates.
The assumption is that, when COVID-19 is behind us, the companies that have switched over to remote operations will pivot back to their old ways. It is just as likely that our current remote work experiment will reshape everything from how we work to how companies drive recruitment, hiring, and employee retention.
The best thing that businesses can do is to treat this situation not as some temporary inconvenience but as an opportunity to find newer, smarter, and better ways of working and recruiting. Here are a few ways that employers can start adjusting right now so that they are prepared for a remote-work-driven world.
- Double down on technology. Many companies were quick to integrate tech tools such as Zoom and Slack into their day-to-day operations to ensure that they could function and connect. For most organizations, simple chat, collaboration, and filesharing tools establish a pandemic work setup that is temporarily sufficient. Rather than settling for “good enough,” keep looking for opportunities to incorporate other helpful tools and technologies into your ecosystem.
Ask your staff to share any pain points that they are experiencing in their daily work lives and research ways to resolve them. Improving your current remote work situation will, at minimum, benefit your business if stay-at-home orders persist. At best, it could help you to develop a system that is friendlier to a global, remote-first future workforce.
- Look for ways to get creative and competitive with benefits. People who work from home still need benefits, but those benefits might look different than what businesses are used to offering. Yesterday’s fun and innovative perks—workplace gyms and fitness classes, in-house chefs and free meals, bring your dog to work, in-office daycare—have been rendered irrelevant under the stay-at-home order, but fitness, good food, and childcare are still things that your workers will value.
Consider online fitness courses, a weekly stipend for dinner delivery, or a subscription to a kid-friendly streaming service (to keep the kids occupied while Mom or Dad is working)—all creative perks that your business could start offering during the pandemic to replace what your workers have lost along with the in-office experience.
COVID-19 has underlined the importance of excellent healthcare benefits, something that could be a significant driver for employee recruitment, employee retention, and workplace morale when the pandemic is over.
- Keep in touch, and stay engaged. The most vital aspect of an in-office workplace isn’t that it’s easier to work with people when you’re in the same room. A lot of work can be done from a distance, and working from home instead of in a loud and bustling office can provide productivity gains in some areas. The essential thing about an office environment is the sense of community and camaraderie that forms there. These ingredients are crucial for company culture and team function, which both affect company reputation and employee retention.
In addition to those remote meetings that are focused on the latest project, try to find time for less work-focused engagements. Managers should plan one-on-one calls with each staff member to talk over everything from mood and morale to goals and plans. Digital team happy hours offer a chance to maintain the friendships that flourish in a happy workplace. Even a funny email sent to the whole staff can make a difference in how staff members are feeling.
Remote work requires a different level of trust than in-person work. It’s less about a person coming into the office and putting in a certain number of hours and more about getting work done in a timely, high-quality fashion. Smart vetting and careful hiring can serve as the foundation for this trust, which can lead to more effective remote employees and stronger employee retention.
If you are recruiting and hiring right now, or if you embrace remote work in the future, make sure that you are being thorough and vigilant with your hiring processes. Verifying credentials and resume facts, checking references, looking into criminal history, and testing key skills are all critical to ensuring that you are hiring the right person—especially if it’s someone you won’t be able to supervise in-person.