Businesses in 2020 and beyond face unique and evolving challenges. The emergence and spread of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) have created a widespread disruption of business operations worldwide, with a growing trend towards remote work or "Work from Home" (WFH) arrangements.
Companies are able to adapt to this new way of business stand to gain a significant competitive advantage in their market.
An Evolution in How Business is Done
Although the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has been advising businesses to create remote work plans for their employees, it's not just COVID-19 that has propelled the "work from home" movement to the forefront.
Work from home programs is no longer considered a privilege or perk, but rather an expectation and a determining factor for those in the job market. One study, conducted by the International Workplace Group (IWG) in 2019 revealed that 80% of prospective hires if given the opportunity between similar jobs, would choose the one that offered flexible work options such as remote work. A Gallop Survey dating back to 2017 showed that 43% of the workforce was already working from home at least part-time.
The Challenges of Remote Working
Despite the myriad of benefits that come with remote working, from talent acquisition to lower overhead costs and a broader pool of human capital, remote work has its downsides.
Isolation, challenges with oversight, burnout, inability to separate work/home life, and more can all weigh heavily on those who work remotely. If not properly addressed and mitigated, these and other issues can lead to decreased productivity, reduced work satisfaction, increased turnover, and poor quality of work.
The key to overcoming these challenges is technology. Today’s technological advances and available resources empower businesses to help their workforce effectively adapt to and embrace remote work in a way that benefits all parties involved. And it does not have to break your wallet. You can always sell or recycle iPads, smartphones, game systems, tablets, or computers collecting dust.
Leveraging Technology and Embracing Remote Working
Modern workers, despite having a strong desire to self-manage, are still equally interested in feedback, connection, comradery, and human interaction. Using technology effectively, businesses can help their employees embrace and thrive in a remote position from anywhere in the world. From streamlining communications to fostering company culture, technology can make the difference between a successful transition to remote work and a complete failure.
1. Team Building and Collaboration
The cornerstone of any high performing organization is the ability of its teams to work well together. Team communication, collaboration, and engagement not only get more done faster but improves morale and ownership, leading to overall increases in productivity and performance across the board.
Building Trust and Comradery Through Communication
Building trust takes time. But technology can help you facilitate this by establishing dedicated channels for formal and informal communication and gathering around a “digital watercooler”.
- Digital coffee breaks for teams and randomized pairs or groups of employees
- Interdepartmental and cross-departmental activity/game time
- Non-work related chat systems and channels for “watercooler” conversations
- Video conferencing
- And more
Collaboration in today’s world goes well beyond simple file sharing and notes. Modern project management tools empower individuals and teams to take charge, assume ownership, embrace collective thoughts and ideas, and come up with solutions to get the job done right.
They help employees keep a finger on the pulse of what is happening in their department and around the company, ensuring they are always “connected” to the big and small picture as well as understanding how their role impacts objectives and goals.
2. Continuous Learning Programs
Just because your team is remote doesn’t mean you can take the foot of the training gas pedal. The modern workforce views training and development as a value-add and a key to long term success and growth. Show your employees that you appreciate them and that you want to see them continually improve and grow within their roles.
Learning Management Systems (LMS)
An LMS (learning management system) is a unique technology platform that any business can incorporate into their organization. They can be as simple or as complex, as needed, marrying a myriad of mediums such as video, voice, chat, forums, collaborative tools, gamification, and more into a singular system.
Remote Employee Training Programs
Virtual sessions, webinars, digital conferences, and events can all be utilized to engage and challenge remote employees to be their best. Learning through these remote programs can be interactive and immersive, even going so far as to incorporate elements of virtual or augmented reality. Other companies have found that "sims" type gamification with unique avatars to be a fun and exciting way to help employees engage, communicate, work, and learn together. And by means of engagement, employees can even maximize these activities through the use of their smartphone, an old iPad, their home personal computer or whatever gadget available in their house.
3. Leadership and Adapting to Key Metrics that Drive Change
Adopting a new way of business can be hard for any organization. Leading by example goes a long way in helping inspire and encourage the adoption of remote work.
Leadership should support, champion, and utilize new technology, making a concerted effort to incorporate it into their communication, announcements, workflows, and projects, especially with their direct reports.
Virtual Progress Check-ins and Evaluations
As the acclaimed change leadership consultant Peter Drucker once wrote, “What gets measured gets managed”. In other words, inspect what you expect, and in this case, utilize technology to do so.
Business intelligence, analytics, and other systems can help management and leadership teams modify or add to their key performance indicators to measure and track the adoption of technology and those aspects important for remote work.
For example, you can measure how many trainings an individual completed, how active they were in a meeting, and so on.
These tools can also aid in conducting “1-on-1” coaching sessions and evaluations, helping employees to understand the importance of activities that are critical to your organization and how to best leverage the tools and resources available to them to achieve success.
Embrace Technology and Reap the Rewards of a Remote Workforce in your Organization
With more businesses moving towards an all or partial remote structure, understanding how to leverage technology to your benefit is a critical step in realizing the benefits of a remote workforce.
By following the tips in this guide and focusing on communication, collaboration, and change leadership, you can gain a competitive advantage over those businesses slow or unable to adapt.
Stewart McGrenary is the Managing Director of iPad-Recycle.