An unprecedented collaboration between workers and organizations has created a major cultural shift. As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, organizations like Twitter and Square are offering work from home forever options to employees. Others, like Facebook, have announced work from home for the foreseeable future, but not indefinitely. Laurel Farrer is the CEO of the Work From Home Association. She says that most companies are allowing work from home out of necessity. “But allowing is not the same as embracing,” Laurel says. Creating a sustainable work-from-home workforce requires a cultural shift from business leaders today. Here’s how to embrace the remote workforce in powerful ways, and enable the cultural shift that’s a sign of the times.
According to a recent survey of over 30,000 users, work-from-home productivity is up 47%. However, leaders still have key concerns about making a complete shift to a remote workforce. Here are the chief concerns – and solutions – so that corporate leaders can make the shift into the new normal, and engage with the future of work.
- A Control Issue: Imagine sending this email to your work-at-home workforce: “We are watching you. We are capturing your keystrokes. We are logging the websites you visit. So get to work – or face the consequences.” That’s a version of an actual email that Axos Financial sent to its remote workers, as reported by the LA Times. Many tools are powering the work-from-home revolution, including the surveillance software that’s flying off the shelves. Monitoring solutions like InterGuard, Time Doctor, Teramind, ActivTrak and Hubstaff are thriving in a what-are-you-up-to world. “For some organizations,” Lauren says, elaborating on a climate of mistrust, “the current reporting method is that remote workers are required to call their supervisor at the top of every hour and report on what they’ve done in the past 60 minutes.” While it’s true that what gets measured gets done, going keystroke by website by minute isn’t always the best way to drive results. Or the most efficient. Micromanagement remains a mistake, whether you’re in an office or in your pajamas. The simple solution for the control issue? It’s a question of focus: measuring output is better than tracking inputs. If you’re going to lose your marbles if an employee plays Minecraft for five minutes, what does that say about your leadership skills? But if an employee’s gaming makes his or her output suffer, then that gamer will pay the price. There are many paths to the same destination; measure what you want, not how people get there.
- Culture and Collaboration Will Suffer: often, it’s the informal conversations that lead to new productivity breakthroughs. But where’s the water cooler, when you’re in a ZOOM meeting? Companies like Novartis, Uber, Medtronics and Bain and Company are fostering informal interaction, competition and collaboration. Being deliberate about teams in an online environment is not a trivial pursuit – but they’re using trivia to gain engagement on a company-wide level. That’s according to Collin Waldoch, the Founder and CEO of Watercooler Trivia. His company’s customized online game features industry-specific questions that can be tailored to different geographies (don’t want any US-based questions? Love sports but hate fine arts? No problem – but get ready to be challenged!) Originally from the Chicagoland area, Waldoch is a self-professed Jeopardy addict, who’s created over 4,000 customized trivia questions. The app can even be accessed via Slack, for a welcome break – and a competitive test of your mental horsepower. “We’re helping remote workers to create organic conversations, build teams and escape online monotony,” he says.
- Missing the Upside: From her home office in Connecticut (are you surprised that she’s working remotely?) Laurel Farrer provides expert guidance on remote work through her company, Distribute Consulting. Her clients hire her to maximize their remote strategy – because they see work-from-home as an asset that needs to be leveraged. “Businesses can and should be eagerly embracing remote workers, because the savings are so immense. You get higher workforce retention and loyalty, you get higher productivity and output. You have lower expenses in real estate and in equipment.” Not to mention the unspoken benefits of reducing the spread of the most dangerous global pandemic in modern history. In an age of contraction and economic turmoil, the average savings due to work from home are between 11 and $20,000 per employee. Global Workplace Analytics points out AT&T employees who work from home are 500% more productive than their office counterparts.
Changing to a remote workforce isn’t just a temporary fix, it’s a cost-effective cultural shift. Smart companies are utilizing technology to enable new results, not measure unnecessary keystrokes. Embracing remote workers is better than just allowing folks to work from home – it’s just good business. Employees crave it, employers benefit from it and engagement doesn’t have to suffer. Leaders must be more deliberate about creating connections – even informal ones – virtually. The global pandemic of COVID-19 has provided an opportunity in the middle of tragedy: namely, an opportunity to empower your workforce in new ways. Working from home has changed the balance between employer and employee. The cultural shift requires more corporate trust (and greater employee responsibility) than ever before.