Roadmap to a sustainable remote work strategy
This article was originally published on ASAE.
While most associations have moved to remote work during the pandemic, many have viewed it as a temporary solution. As organizations look ahead, they should consider how to adapt their remote work strategy for future needs.
The outbreak of the coronavirus proved stressful for organizational leaders all over the world. Mercifully for many, the decision of whether to send workers home to work full-time was made for them by their government. Shelter-in-place mandates provided clarity and removed any second-guessing.
For months, leaders have continued to allow employees to work from home because it is the safe choice, and for most organizations, the technology is working, employees are reacting favorably, and productivity has been maintained.
But a debate is percolating among leaders and employees that presents a significant challenge, and some of these questions are popping up: “What will our remote work policy be post-COVID? Will my manager allow it? Will my employees demand it? And how much authority do we extend to managers to make decisions about remote work for their teams?” Once the health crisis passes leaders will be faced with a choice regarding where and when employees work, and the right answer is not so obvious.
If you are a leader, how will you meet this challenge? How will you create a strategy that gains buy-in from your team and effectively balances working remotely with working in the office? What are the critical requirements that cover the bases for a holistic plan?
Forward-thinking organizations are taking advantage of what may be a once-in-a-century opportunity to completely reimagine their workforce strategy using remote work as the key element. And they are leveraging a newfound culture of acceptance for remote work to maximize operational productivity, increase talent attraction/retention, and capture financial benefits.
There is a roadmap to help leaders navigate these issues and inform their thinking so they can make good decisions based on the unique dynamics of their organization. The roadmap that follows, which begins with awareness, can help your association create an optimal plan.
It sounds simple, but many leaders skip the very first step of educating themselves. Organizations must avail themselves of best practices and understand the benefits and challenges. Understanding the benefits creates the drive to make it through the hard work of planning and implementing. Yet, understanding the challenges brings a reality check and a recognition for where to focus efforts. Remote work is not a new concept. Others have walked this road, and their lessons can help you avoid reinventing the wheel.
Build a team, establish goals, and review critical requirements. Critical requirements are the meat and potatoes of the roadmap. Use them as a checklist so you do not miss anything that might bite you later and cause you to retract your remote work policy.
The key to the planning phase is to analyze your evaluation of the critical requirements and solve for any capability gaps. Then, find the right balance, quantify the benefits, and create your formal plan. For those who have an existing plan, seek to optimize what you are already doing. In either case, you will build consensus among leaders about the revised plan moving forward.
Perhaps the most overlooked and undervalued part of the roadmap is the pilot plan. However, a pilot plan allows organizations the opportunity to discover unknown factors, such as how each employee and each manager will react to the new normal. Take time to measure, modify, and then roll out the plan on a broader scale. This will put you in a position of confidence that your plan is sustainable. In addition, how can anyone design their long-term office space effectively when they do not yet know for certain how many people will be using it and how often? Complete this key step of a pilot plan before committing to the design and the size of your office and its associated costs. Then, proceed with full deployment.
Good reporting and analytics of key performance indicators are the hallmark of any sustainable program. Making adjustments over time can be accomplished via formal and informal communication and reporting processes. Organizations may also benefit from formal performance management tools. The key is consistent and quality communication with employees so that leaders have dependable feedback on the key metrics of productivity, financial performance, and employee well-being.