As organizations quickly pivot to support a new flexible workforce environment, it is critical that they focus on maximizing the benefits while also mitigating the downside of working remotely. By developing thoughtful policies and procedures, they will enable the best from their employees. Careful consideration of adjustments from previous workforce strategies will be crucial to ensure that employees can thrive in remote environments.
To strike the right balance, companies should evaluate the type of remote working practices that will be the best fit for their organization and culture, and one that fosters trust between every member of the organization. When developing a remote workforce strategy for your organization, it is important to consider the following:
Because certain roles and functions may be more conducive to a remote environment than others, companies will need to evaluate which ones qualify for a work from home arrangement, and establish the criteria for making this determination. Key considerations will include the impact to productivity, availability, collaboration, service delivery, engagement, and retention.
The organization should develop a strategy that satisfies stakeholder, customer, and client expectations. Many roles may require a combined approach where the employee can work part-time at home but may need to be in the office for specific tasks or a set number of days per week. These considerations should apply to existing employees transitioning to a remote environment and also to newly marketed roles as part of the recruiting process.
Recruiting, Hiring and Onboarding
Offering remote positions is a great strategy for companies to attract and retain top talent; but when offering these roles, companies must consider the acceptable geographies from which they will post positions and accept applicants, and determine from which geographical market to align the employee’s compensation. Organizations will also need to adopt the necessary tools in order to effectively interview candidates and deliver successful virtual onboarding .
Technology and Tools
Companies should consider what hardware and software that they will issue to employees to ensure that roles can be performed effectively, and have policies that determine what personal technology is permissible for day-to-day use.
Associates will also need to be equipped with the proper communication tools to allow them to collaborate as effectively as they would in an office. Existing technology systems may require an additional investment to accommodate remote working without a loss of productivity (i.e., transitioning to tools such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams). Having the right technology will help to enhance and not impair communication and efficiency.
So that risks are managed and mitigated, data privacy and security should also be a focus for companies. Organizations will need to invest in tools - such as VPN, DLP, antivirus software, and encryption - to create a secure environment.
Organizations may also need to invest in technology that enables them to perform paper-based, in person processes (e.g., executing checks or signing purchase orders) electronically. Modern cloud-based tools, such as Coupa, can automate these processes while also strengthening an organization’s control environment.
Employee Wellness and Engagement
Safeguarding employees’ physical and emotional well-being in a remote environment will be vital. To overcome remote barriers and social isolation, companies may need to put more effort into identifying ways to foster connections and build work relationships. Guidelines for a dedicated workspace, established work hours, boundaries, and regular breaks should also be developed. Additionally, mental health and self-care resources are key to keeping a healthy, motivated workforce; employers should consider establishing employee assistance programs that provide these vital mental health resources.
Benefits policies will need to be tailored specifically to a remote workforce. Companies should determine what expenses will be reimbursed to employees (e.g., home office costs and travel expenses to the office and/ or clients). Many companies with a remote workforce may also consider transitioning to an unlimited PTO policy. The organization should develop a strategy that strikes a balance between cost containment and employee satisfaction.
Learning and Development
Performance management systems that work in a traditional office environment may be inadequate for remote employees. Companies should consider shifting towards results-based performance reviews while setting mutually understood expectations. For remote workers to effectively meet their goals and consistently add value, deadlines and metrics must be explicit. It will also be critical to provide the necessary training on both personal accountability as well as how to manage remote employees and teams.
Legal & Regulatory
Companies will have to assess the legal implications that a long-term work from home strategy will have on their organization. They will need to evaluate expense reimbursement policies, employee monitoring, cross border working arrangements, onboarding documentation, accommodation of disabilities, workers compensation, disciplinary procedures, termination process, and the impact to data privacy. It will also be important for both employers and employees to be aware of the tax implications associated with working remotely so that potential benefits can be optimized, and unintended financial consequences can be avoided.
Office requirements may change as firms give employees the freedom and flexibility to work where they can be most productive. This may result in downsizing the existing office space, but may also lead to a shift towards a more agile office work environment. Companies will likely require less fixed desk space and instead need to find the right balance of a collaborative location, hot-desking, hoteling, and private areas to enable and maximize productivity when employees show up to the office.
Maximizing a Remote Workforce Program
Solely determining policies and procedures for a remote workforce will not be enough to successfully optimize an organization for the future of work. As companies frame their remote workforce program, they should consider the following to maximize effectiveness across the organization:
- Establish a governance and program management structure to organize project timelines and resources and align and communicate with key stakeholders, while ensuring that the effort remains in line with organizational goals;
- Develop and document policies that are the right size and fit for your organization’s operations and culture;
- Strategically investigate opportunities to leverage new technologies and automation capabilities to optimize processes that will operate seamlessly whether workers are on or off site;
- Leverage business intelligence tools to enhance accountability mechanisms, such as reporting on workforce metrics and/ or conducting compliance assessments;
- Ensure that new policies and procedures prioritize data privacy and cybersecurity;
- Evolve internal operational controls to mitigate newly introduced risks; and
- Prepare change management strategies, communication plans, and trainings to effectively roll out shifting policies across your organization.
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