We navigated a crisis and discovered a new business imperative that provides both employer and employee great advantages. Outside traditional office settings, organizations are now forced to building out short-term and long-term strategies for success, including policies that will make it easier to adapt to future crises and challenges.
So, what can businesses do to facilitate productivity in remote and flexible work environments?
In a recent report, Forrester shared various considerations for businesses that are building new operational strategies. The report includes four key imperatives for implementing a successful flexible work environment.
1. Create a Structure for Determining Remote Work Suitability
First, it is important for managers and teams to determine which employees will be successful in a remote setup. Different team members obviously have different needs, so a one-size-fits-all solution is too simplistic to be effective.
Forrester recommends considering the following factors:
- Role. Does this person need to be in a physical office location to do their job? Do they need access to hardware or require face-to-face interaction with other employees or customers?
- Personality. Is this person a good communicator? If not, will they be able to effectively communicate progress and deliverables from a remote location?
- Performance. Not all employees have strong self-discipline or time-management skills, which can make working remotely a huge challenge.
- Preference. Ask employees directly what works for them. Do they feel comfortable working remotely, or would they prefer to be in a modified office setting?
2. Cultivate Cultural Values That Support Flexible Working
Many businesses have held a long-standing belief that working from home means not actually working. And if some employees work remotely while others are in an office, they tend to experience a lot of exclusion or even miscommunication.
Forrester notes the importance of creating a level playing field, no matter where employees are located. Key values to create this company culture include:
- Trust. Ultimately, managers and employees need to trust one another. If an employee is not doing their job, that is a larger issue — not solely an issue of physical location. Specialized training for managers who work with remote employees can often be a huge help.
- Empathy. The world feels upside down for many people right now. Many employees are dealing with new responsibilities and stresses in work and their personal lives. Simple actions like scheduling check-ins with employees and extra thanks and acknowledgments can go a long way toward making employees feel supported.
- Transparency. Keeping employees informed and included helps them feel less isolated in remote work environments. Document expectations, processes, and status changes to keep everyone in the loop.
- Inclusion. Similarly, offering wellness opportunities for employees helps enormously with isolation. Wellness can include simple steps like video meetings, health discounts at local fitness centers, or even virtual professional development opportunities.
3. Support Employees with the Right Technology to Enable Remote Working
Technology issues and hiccups make remote work frustrating at best and impossible at worst. Forrester includes four key areas to consider in remote technology strategies:
- Communication and collaboration. Don’t forget the value of collaboration tools. Video chat, messaging platforms, and communication apps can all enable remote workforces to work more effectively.
- Remote access. It might seem obvious, but remote employees need remote access in order to be successful. Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) or remote PC access solutions give employees quick and secure access to the information they need.
- Security. Device health, encryption, endpoint security, and two-factor authentication are all critical components of a secure flexible workforce.
- Hardware. Part of the reason many employees prefer physical office spaces is the access to more equipment: extra monitors, ergonomic chairs, separate keyboards, and so on. Providing employees with a budget or access to this hardware makes working remotely far more comfortable.
4. Balance Compliance Requirements with Employee Experience
Even in remote work environments, compliance is still critically important. But at the same time, companies should not be so stringent with compliance requirements that employee productivity decreases.
Forrester recommends a balance: Focus on mitigating negative side effects while understanding the following considerations:
- Customer and employee privacy laws (including GDPR and HIPAA)
- Regional requirements
Set Yourself Up for Success
The shift to remote work is a challenge, but it is also an opportunity. Companies that build smart strategies can improve business continuity, employee retention, and overall growth. To learn more about how to improve your infrastructure and help make remote workers more productive, download the report today.