During the first few months of 2020, organizations around the world implemented telecommuting policies and employees began to work from home.
These measures were implemented to reduce the health risks posed by the novel coronavirus, but some believe the remote working trend will continue even after the pandemic ends.
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Below, we’ll learn more about the pros and cons of telecommuting, then discuss how telecommuting will affect tomorrow’s workplace.
The Explosion of Remote Work in 2020
As we all know, the COVID-19 pandemic fueled the growth of the remote working trend in early 2020.
To mitigate the risks associated with this virus, organizations made rapid changes, including:
- Requiring employees to work from home
- Redirecting business services for an online audience
- Investing in cloud computing and telecommuting software
- Implementing remote training solutions
- Redesigning workflows and management practices for a virtual workforce
Many employees have responded favorably to the new virtual workplace, and some have even claimed to prefer telecommuting.
There are, after all, a number of perks to telecommuting, such as:
- The ability to work from home
- Greater scheduling flexibility
- No commutes
- Freedom to spend more time with family or friends
Employers also gain by allowing employees to work remotely – employees are often more productive, for instance, while also reducing office-related costs.
Benefits such as these have prompted some to suggest that tomorrow’s workplace will become completely virtual, but research suggests otherwise.
Will Employees Work from Home Forever?
Research by SHRM suggests that only around 5% of employees want to telecommute full-time after the pandemic ends. However, they also suggest that employees would be more open to hybrid working schedules that mix on-site and off-site work.
Research from Morning Consult aligns with these findings, though their numbers differ slightly.
In one report, they found that:
- 24% would not want to work from home
- 20% would like to work from home 1-2 days a week
- 23% would prefer to work from home 3-4 days a week
- 32% could work from home every day
If these findings pan out, then we can expect the post-COVID workforce to become more virtual.
Though we can’t know exactly how much of the future workforce will be remote, most organizations can expect an increased preference for telecommuting.
Organizations willing to accommodate these preferences should begin adapting their operations to suit a workforce that is more fragmented, more virtual, and more digital.
Tips for Preparing the Workforce for the New Normal
Working from home is clearly here to stay, so it is important not to treat telecommuting like a temporary measure.
Here are a few tips to help prepare the workforce for a more remote, virtual future:
Bolster workplace health and safety measures
According to a study performed by Korn Ferry in June, 2020, around half of workers are fearful of returning to work, due to health and safety concerns.
At the same time, however, 3 out of 4 did feel that their employers would create a safe and healthy work environment for them to return to.
These findings offer important and actionable insights.
On the one hand, employers must recognize the necessity of creating healthy and safe work environments.
At the same time, they must establish a strong two-way dialogue with employees about those safety measures. Proactively assuring employees that the work environment is safe, for instance, can help reduce health-related fears, which could hinder productivity and morale.
Find ways to manage remote workers effectively
While workers can be more productive and satisfied when working remotely, managers must understand that a fully virtual, digital workplace differs from the analog office of years past.
Extra steps should be taken to manage and collaborate with a virtual workforce, such as:
- Establishing regular check-in times and daily meetings
- Standardizing communication procedures
- Setting up online “social gatherings” with workers
- Creating new accountability systems to track performance
These types of mechanisms can help maintain order and mitigate some of the downsides associated with telecommuting, such as poor communication or feelings of isolation.
Provide training and support that can be delivered anywhere
Employees must continually reskill and upskill, regardless of whether they are working online or in the office.
Providing them with remote training solutions, such as digital adoption platforms (DAPs), can significantly enhance productivity, performance, and job satisfaction.
These tools help employees become more proficient and self-reliant through in-app training.
Common features of digital adoption solutions include:
- Product tours that onboard new employees into a software program, by introducing the application’s core features and capabilities
- Automated software tutorials that take users step-by-step through a workflow and provide ongoing training
- The ability to automate repetitive tasks and workflows, which can free up employees’ time for more interesting and valuable activities
- Software analytics that provide insight into users’ in-app behavior and, as a consequence, their training needs
Digital adoption platforms, when combined with other virtual-friendly training methods, can ensure that employees continue to perform at their peak ability – no matter where they are located.