Can We Make Remote Work Work Long-Term?

StrategyDriven Managing Your People Article |Remote Work|Can We Make Remote Work Work Long-Term?Lots of people who are newly working at home would like to keep it that way. In fact, a worldwide survey of 500 employees conducted by OTRS Group revealed that the vast majority of those surveyed (80 percent) enjoy working from home, even though 68 percent said working from home was new to them.

Companies are interested too. Leaders are seeing an uptick in productivity. And, in some parts of the world, new laws are even being proposed that could establish home office options as an employee right.

If this work style continues, what do leaders need to focus on to ensure long-term success? Tools and culture.

Remote IT Solutions

One tricky thing is that employees in their own home do not have onsite IT support. So if technical problems occur, a loss of productivity can quickly result without a remote help desk option.

The following will offer employees the best possible remote help desk solution:

  1. Analyze employee needs. How quickly do they need support? When can they help themselves?
  2. Define support processes and procedures. Design these in accordance with ITIL®.
  3. Evaluate help desk solutions. Find a cloud-based solution that includes notifications, multiple channels, SLAs, a self-service portal and an API for integrating with other systems.
  4. Consider security. Help desk security functions and processes should always play a major role in the selection of your system.
  5. Customize the selected solution. Now, take time to align your new system with user requirements and the previously defined processes.
  6. Provide training. When ready, have extensive communication and training for the help desk team and end users.

The ideal help desk should not only ensure that problems are solved quickly, but should also support employees in the home office so that they can efficiently use their time.

Remote Teamwork Solutions

With general technical problems handled, tools must also be implemented to support teams in communicating, planning and moving tasks between one another. The lack of this type of tool is a key concern expressed by those who have recently shifted to the home office environment.

In fact, in the referenced study, of those who had been struggling to work from home:

  • 15 percent were challenged by not knowing what their teammates were working on,
  • 14 percent had a hard time measuring team results, and
  • 13 percent had difficulty keeping track of their own tasks.

For nearly half the people, facilitating work is difficult when people aren’t routinely chatting about it in an office setting. Remote work software can be used to help add structure to communication and tasks in order to avoid these difficulties. Remote work solutions should bring together all information that teams need to get their jobs done, such as tasks, calendars, contact information, business process automation and reporting.

By using one tool to centrally manage all of these, both employees and leaders have an up-to-date, clear understanding of what the current work is, how to get it done, and when issues are creeping up.

Corporate Culture Supports Remote Employees

However, tools can’t solve all of the problems. While there are many advantages to working from home, those making the change may long for the benefits of working in a traditional office. Respondents shared that they missed seeing their colleagues and that they feel “stuck” in one place for too long.

In order for the positives of working remotely to last long-term, management teams need to think about how to counteract these losses by:

  • Encouraging conversation about change. Change is hard, so provide outlets for employees to discuss this and share what has been working well.
  • Hosting virtual offsites. Plan time for employees to come together and talk about key topics, much like you would do in a traditional offsite. Be sure to have an agenda, include breaks, keep sessions to 90 minutes and have options for socializing.
  • Creating a virtual coffee break. Give people a chance to chat about non-work topics or play games together. What could bring people together for a reason other than talking about tasks?
  • Deploying a chat tool. Offer a tool that lets people ask quick questions, share fun information or talk about personal topics. It helps promote that “around the water cooler” feeling. There are plenty of programs like Microsoft Teams that are perfect for this. It’s also a good idea to get PBX integration for Microsoft Team for more means of communication.
  • Hosting a non-work contest. For instance, give people a reason to break free of their homes by holding a fitness contest. Or, try a virtual company-wide 5k. Contests give people an outlet for being engaged socially with colleagues.
  • Defining and following processes. Processes help people know what is expected when, and reduces worry about doing the right thing. Plus, they keep work flowing smoothly when time zones make it hard for everyone to be online at the same time.

While the Corona crisis has been a challenge for businesses and employees alike, it has also opened the door to expanding remote work opportunities. The study shows significant benefits to working from home, from saving commute time to spending more time with loved ones. But to maintain the current situation, leaders should be investing in tools and creating shifts in their corporate culture to keep productivity and employee satisfaction high long-term.

About the Author

StrategyDriven Expert Contributor | Sabine RiedelSabine Riedel is a member of the Management Board of OTRS AG. With her expertise in the areas of corporate development and leadership communication, she is responsible for the development and expansion of international HR strategy and the conception and implementation of measures to implement the company-wide corporate culture.

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