Last year as COVID-19 began to spread, companies across the country quickly evaluated their workplaces and implemented an emergency work-from-home program. It was a test of our systems, our personnel, and our organizations, and overall, we succeeded. Businesses quickly adapted and made the transitions necessary to continue performance and production. Although the pandemic is far from over, the decrease in cases as well as the increase in vaccinations, has brought about a sense of relief and aching for a return to normal. What do our workplaces look like post-pandemic? Will employees continue to work from home? Will there be hybrid options available? What is the new normal?
Prior to the pandemic approximately 20% of people with jobs that were suitable worked from home. According to Pew Research, 54% of employees who worked from home due to the pandemic want to continue working remotely. Yet, employees want flexibility and options. PWC conducted a remote work survey and found that 55% of employees want to continue working remotely at least three days a week. Yet, executives do not feel the same way. 43% of executives want to have employees back in the office full time or with limited remote time. Even though employees working from home have more flexibility to choose working hours and balance their work and family responsibilities, 57% of employees working from home feel less connected to their co-workers and 33% are working more hours.
Unlike last year, when companies had to pivot abruptly to a remote model, companies today have the luxury of evaluating what is right for their organization. With the lessons learned from the pandemic, employee feedback, and evaluation of productivity, organizations can determine what the new normal looks like for them.
There is much to consider as you decide what is right for your organization:
Evaluate Your Space
Do not assume that you can decrease your office space by having a remote strategy. Think through the new scenarios for workplaces. If more people are working remotely, should you change your office setup to allow for increased flexibility? Will a hybrid arrangement work best with employees in the office certain days and at home the other days? Consider reconfiguring space for proper physical distancing as well as smaller conference rooms.
Managing employees remotely is very different than in person. Last year, everyone had to shift quickly, but this year, you have the time to be deliberate and intentional. Train supervisors with best practices for managing remote workers. Provide the tools and resources necessary. Empower them to set expectations, communicate frequently, act with fairness, and lead with success.
Establish Boundaries at Home
Employees may love not having a daily commute, but work/life balance is suffering because of working from home. Employers should set clear rules and expectations about taking calls after hours and working past scheduled times. Consider using tools such as blocking computer programs after hours and automatic replies to emails. Employees should designate a workspace in their home which serves as an “office” to help establish boundaries. Train both managers and employees on the importance of a proper work/life balance and provide resources and support.
Establish policies and expectations to ensure that company information is safe. IT needs to be involved from a technical standpoint, but HR also needs to be involved to clarify expectations of information management. It is more difficult to monitor security when employees are not in the office and therefore, it will require more thought and resources to implement.
Hire from Anywhere, with Caution
One benefit of remote work is that a company is not limited to hiring based on a geographic area, allowing for greater access to top talent. However, before hiring someone in another state, make sure to research state requirements regarding employment law, tax filings, insurance rules, and licensing requirements. Using an IRS-Certified PEO can provide a solution to a multi-state workforce. Every state has different rules and regulations which a company must follow if there are employees in that state. Consider the supplies that an individual needs to perform their job remotely as well such as computers, printers, etc. When interviewing, make sure to ask candidates about their time management strategies, communication skills, and motivation methods. Not every individual is self-disciplined enough to work from home, therefore, take your time in the hiring process to identify the perfect fit.
With a distributed workforce, cultivating a positive corporate culture becomes more difficult, but not impossible. Look to your company values and incorporate them into your hiring and onboarding process so that the company’s beliefs are established from day one. Bolster culture through forming an internal brand identity, highlighting your team on social media, and incorporating fun in a virtual setting. Although there is no break room for employees to bond socially, create virtual “watercoolers” with tools such as Slack or Teams. A place to share photos of pets, personal news, and recognition helps to create a feeling of togetherness. If possible, plan times for face-to-face meetings as well as in-person social gatherings.
Remote working is here to stay. Whether flexible arrangements or permanent solutions, the pandemic changed the business perception of the typical workplace. We learned that productive work is possible from anywhere and embracing this arrangement can improve employee satisfaction, save money, and expand the talent pool. Organizations pivoted at the beginning of the pandemic to ensure business continuation, now is the time to intentionally determine what the new normal looks like.
Propel HR President Lee Yarborough was recently elected Chair of the National Association of Professional Employer Organizations (NAPEO) Board of Directors. She spoke with PEO Insider magazine to share where she thinks the industry is headed and how NAPEO can continue to grow. Download a pdf version of the full interview: A Passion To Serve
About Propel HR. Propel HR is an IRS-certified PEO that has been a leading provider of human resources and payroll solutions for more than 20 years. Propel partners with small to midsized businesses to manage payroll, employee benefits, compliance and risks, and other HR functions in a way that maximizes efficiency and reduces costs.