One of the realisations that came out of the COVID-19 business is that we can do more of our work remotely. We’ve realised that even in a time of global crisis, uncertainty and unanswered questions – people still got work done, in the name of business continuity and because they were trusted to do so. Now that we’ve seemed to have settled into new routines and are getting back on track, and refocusing our efforts, employers should take this opportunity to learn from this and improve their employees’ work environment rather than just fall back into the same old ways. A change in our perception on remote work is clear. A new Gartner survey found that 74% of CFOs have already reported they intend to make the shift to remote work for some employees a permanent one.

The benefits are clear – increased productivity (roughly by 13%), increased employee retention and the obvious decrease in environmental impact when you don’t have to commute to work everyday. It’s not just the employers who stand to benefit, of course, with remote workers saving as much as four thousand dollars a year from commuting, office meals and other miscellaneous expenses.

This gives way to the following:

1. Strengthened work from home policies

It took a pandemic to force the hand of many managers who had previously resisted enabling employees to telecommute. Companies had to act fast to ensure business continuity and companies that weren’t equipped to handle remote working had to temporarily suspend their service, even if periodically, to resolve the situation and find a way forward. Companies whose workers could immediately work from home, equipped with the proper infrastructure, could keep going almost seamlessly. It is beneficial for companies to refine their work from home policies – as rather than an added benefit it has also become a necessity for some. It has shown so far that it is possible to maintain productivity and communication with remote workers. Many are opting to go for a ‘hybrid’ solution – with some days with Team A at the office, and others Team B, or with a number of days at the office and a number remotely. Being clear about your policy ensures that your employees are happy and so are you – there is no miscommunication and expectations which aren’t met. In addition, to fully realize the benefits of remote teams,¬†Feed.fm¬†founder Lauren Pufpaf says employers must drop the traditional “butts in seats” mentality. Otherwise, friction and resistance to change will continue to hold back optimal productivity.¬†

2. Breaking the barrier with technology

Digital collaboration has seen a rise of 142%. There’s been a growth in the number of digital apps, for cloud storage, videoconferencing, and chat, as businesses find new ways to collaborate and communicate. As businesses control their workflow digitally, many are seeing the added transparency that comes with project management software. This has shown that relationships can indeed be fostered in a digital environment.

3. A shift in talent and required “soft skills”

Now more than ever, employers are relying on their workers to be self-motivated and self-disciplined, good communicators, and in the case of managerial positions – able to manage virtual teams. Similarly, there needs to be a mutual agreement of trust and goodwill from the employer and employee side. Checking into your employees every five minutes and micro-managing their to-do list will not help build this trust. This is likely to demotivate rather than encourage employees. Using deadlines and keeping employees accountable through progress checkpoints will instead be a better way forward. This system encourages communication and allows employees to manage their time as long as the work gets done.

4. The lines are blurred

As workers are at home, the line between work life and home life gets blurred. When employees, especially with young children at home, need to juggle work and family life, the 9 to 5 is no longer. In fact, it’s been estimated that work done outside work hours has grown by 20%. Understanding between colleagues has also increased, as co-workers catch a glimpse of each other in their ‘natural habitats’ – with a spouse making a cameo in the background, a crying toddler or pets not understanding boundaries.

5. A change in management styles

Research shows that remote workers work best when working in bursts. This means that you need to resist the urge to keep a constant stream of back and fro contact and rather schedule times where you can catch up and ask how they’re doing, whilst also allowing space for questions.

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Covid-19 and the Job Market - Resources