The “new normal.”
The entire world knows what the ubiquitous phrase refers to: social distancing, remote working, masks, hand sanitizer, no sports, no school, no visiting loved ones at nursing homes. The novel coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic has changed the way we live.
For office workers, most of whom left their on-premises job sites to work at home during the early stages of the pandemic, being a remote worker may transition from a temporary “new normal” to the “next normal.” While the lasting impacts of the crisis remain unknown, the likelihood that organizations will increase their number of remote workers seems apparent:
Nearly all employees feel confident about working remotely, which is a positive indicator of the success of the “next normal,” but employees are only a small part of the equation.
Are organizations ready for managing a remote workforce?
They got a crash course in making remote operations work, but as the movement continues, many companies will need to more deeply evaluate their technological and cultural capabilities, as well as how prepared their information ecosystem is to serve all employees and customers, everywhere.
As a starting point for that evaluation, agile enterprises need to ask themselves – then structure their organizational cultures, systems and processes to answer – the following five questions as they look at the future of an expanding remote workforce.
Although a Gartner poll from May 2020 of chief security officers and sales leaders found 50 percent expect in-person meetings to begin again before a Covid-19 vaccine is released, that leaves half their peers leaning away from the prospect. Combine that divide with the knowledge that newly remote workers may eventually return to work only to ask, “Can I work remotely again?” and it becomes apparent that virtual meetings are an inevitability. How can organizations set the stage for a remote-friendly environment?
Transforming a face-to-face workplace into a distributed workforce doesn’t happen without intention. To make the effort more effective, organizations need to assess internal and customer capabilities for getting the job done digitally. This includes evaluating and closing the gaps around:
For years, digital transformation has been used to describe the journey that future-focused companies embark on to stay agile and competitive. But digital transformation isn’t a one-time shift – it’s an ongoing business investment that pushes organizations to keep pace with changing informational challenges and the technologies that address them, like intelligent automation and low-code configurability. 79 percent of organizations realize they need to digitally transform in order to survive, according to AIIM’s state of the industry – content services report. How many were on the journey when the world changed, and how quickly can those who were behind catch up?
Organizations struggling to work remotely are hungry for business as usual, likely because their information isn’t scalable, or because it’s locked in an outdated enterprise content management (ECM) system. To adapt, they’ll need to evaluate their digital transformation stage and consider:
Data security breaches are a major area of concern for chief security officers and chief information officers. During times of upheaval, the risk is even greater. In fact, cybersecurity breaches in hospitals and healthcare providers’ networks have seen an almost 50 percent increase this year compared to last year during the same time period. How can remote workforces remain secure?
People, technology and processes are the three areas to focus on, according to McKinsey & Company’s “Cybersecurity tactics for the coronavirus pandemic.”
A commitment to organizational culture can be a driver of engagement for a remote workforce. Companies that live their strong values have employees who buy into important visions for the organization: why the company exists; where it’s going; what it believes in; and how it lives up to those expectations through day-to-day operations. How can organizations instill these core values in a remote workforce?
The values of an organization help define the type of work performed, and how it gets done. With employees remotely connected, it can be harder for teams to feel as embedded in company culture as when they’re on site. To keep the company values visible and actionable, organizations need to stay committed to a delivering a positive employee experience that engages and recognizes valued work.
Today’s employees require purpose, development, coaching and connection to feel engaged, to know their work contributes to something bigger. Smart organizations will facilitate and encourage these tactics in both remote and on-site work environments. If that’s not the case, disengagement can drive business outcomes down, and even have a contagious effect on team morale. Managers, who Gallup reports can account for up to 70 percent of variance in employee engagement across business units, have the opportunity to make a major impact on the work of their team and, ultimately, the success of the organization.
The importance of recognizing employees can’t be understated. Just two in 10 employees strongly agree that their performance is managed in a way that motivates them to do outstanding work, according to Gallup. Recognition is one step toward a better outcome. Brian Kropp, distinguished vice president, research at Gartner, says during periods of disruption, employees’ desire to be recognized for their contribution increases by 30 percent. Managers have a duty to prioritize that recognition – especially when a crisis creates vulnerability among the team. Recognition can include public acknowledgement, regular positive feedback, peer-nominated awards, monetary rewards, celebrations of project milestones and even travel incentives.
Remote working is simply another way of working. If employees are running errands or binge-watching streaming services, consider the issue a lack of properly defined remote work culture and underperforming management, not a remote worker problem. In fact, remote workers are highly efficient when objectives and expectations are clearly defined. A study done by Prodoscore showed a 47 percent increase in year-over-year productivity among its customers, at a time when more of them had gone remote than ever before. How can organizations show they believe in their remote workers?
For leaders making the shift to managing a remote workforce, consider these tips:
The idea of allowing more employees to work remotely has been percolating and upwardly trending for years, but Covid-19 acted as a catalyst for the “next normal,” in which the possibility for an increasingly remote workforce may be inevitable. As organizations evaluate which roles and responsibilities best fit future goals, they also need to consider the technological and cultural impacts of going virtual.
All business revolves around positive relationships – with employees, customers, partners and even with technology. When smart enterprises judiciously audit and evaluate the full spectrum of their capabilities and deploy their remote workforce, the result can be exceptional outcomes generated by exceptional people and processes.
When smart enterprises judiciously audit and evaluate the full spectrum of their capabilities and deploy their remote workforce, the result can be exceptional outcomes generated by exceptional people and processes.