The employment landscape has begun to change. There’s been a steady exploration of remote work models over the last decade or so. Yet, it’s been the past year of the COVID-19 pandemic that has really shone a light on its potential. Businesses have seen there are opportunities to both save on overheads and boost productivity. Employees are experiencing the benefits of greater flexibility. As such, many companies are making remote or hybrid operations a permanent part of their model.
Yet, this isn’t necessarily without its own challenges. As a relatively new approach to work, whether you’re an employee or business leader, there are going to be aspects of remote and hybrid ops that will present hurdles. It’s important to take the time to both understand these and take action as early as possible.
Let’s take a look at a few of the points for consideration.
Adapting to Change
One of your primary considerations when continuing with a remote or hybrid working model is the impact of change. Any shift in workplace operations has the potential to bring with it a period of discomfort and uncertainty. As such, whether you’re an employee or a business leader, you need to take careful stock of how to respond to the potential disruptions.
From a business perspective, it can be important to put in place a change management plan. Even if you’ve already begun remote operations, this will allow you to build a step-by-step process for making certain all elements to continue are in place. Work with your department heads to assess the current state of the move to remote operations and where you need to be within a set time frame. Ensure everybody knows the milestones along this path and how you’ll go about implementing the changes.
As an employee, you may find you’ll need to adapt to the lifestyle changes of working in a remote or hybrid format. You should take the time to make plans for your own shifts, too. Don’t make drastic changes immediately because you have a certain amount of flexibility working from home. Indeed, if you’re about to start a new position with a remote or hybrid operating company, you should still take the time to consider whether it’s necessary to relocate closer to their offices. It may be the case that being near the company could further your ambitions. But also think about the impact a move could have on your family, the financial commitment, and the practicality of selling your current home to buy a new property. There may be alternative solutions, such as moving within commuter distance in case of occasional office meetings, that you may not have previously considered.
One of the benefits of remote and hybrid operations for businesses is they tend to cut down on overheads. There’s less need for physical office space, reduced utility consumption, even minimized insurance premiums. As an employee, you can also lower costs through less fuel used to commute. All this is not to say, of course, that this more flexible way of working is not dependent on resources.
As an employer, you’ll find there’s certainly some debate about who should be financially responsible for investing in the equipment needed to work from home. However, a responsible business leader understands that expenses workers incur purely for company activities – laptops, data storage, even smartphone accessibility – should be subject to some form of reimbursement. Indeed, there is legislation that explicitly states you have a duty here. Take time to talk to your workers about the most efficient approach. You may find it more financially prudent to provide them with equipment from your own supplier and even take advantage of deals and tax breaks.
Employees also need to be communicative about what their new resource needs are. This is a new way of working for them, and they’re not going to know everything that can make a difference immediately. So, as an employee, make sure your resource requirements are a part of any regular one-to-one meetings you have with your immediate supervisor. This isn’t just equipment, either. It might be training on issues like cybersecurity that can keep both your employer and your home network safe. Indeed, if you find your home not conducive to productivity, you may find it helpful to start discussions about subsidized access to coworking spaces in your area.
Every business must prioritize employee health. Just because your company has switched to remote or hybrid operations, that doesn’t mean the responsibility to wellness ends. There are certain risks involved with working from home, just as there are in the office, and it’s imperative both from an ethical and productivity perspective to make sure health and wellness are a part of ongoing discussions.
One of the key concerns in remote practices is that there aren’t always the structures in place that exist in office environments to ensure workers take regular breaks. Yet this is vital to reduce the potential for burnout and other stress-related illnesses. As such, leadership needs to emphasize checking in with employees to reinforce the importance of rest periods. This doesn’t need to be from an overbearing or micromanaging perspective. Rather, you can make it a care check and back it up by emphasizing when and how you’re taking breaks.
For employees, it can also be worth reaching out to your company’s human resources (HR) department to confirm what wellness resources are available that reflect remote operations. Inquire about access to telehealth services — not just general practitioners but mental health counseling, too.
If your company has decided remote operations are here to stay, then there are important aspects to bear in mind. Review how both leadership and employees can best adapt to the changes, talk about essential resources, and don’t neglect the imperative for wellness. It takes some focus and communication, but workers and businesses can collaborate effectively to make the most out of this new approach.