Remote Work is On the Rise Due to COVID-19

By Aakash Gupta,
business.com writer
|
May 07, 2020
Image Credit: ake1150sb/Getty

The spread of the novel coronavirus has led to a drastic increase in remote work. What benefits could it offer?

The unforeseen crisis emerging from the recent COVID 19 pandemic has galvanized businesses to break the fetters of a predictable brick and mortar workspace and switch to a more contemporary one. In other words, remote work is the order of the day and managers are stressing on the benefits of remote management to boost team productivity and employee engagement in these unprecedented times.

While the remote work model has a lot of advantages like work flexibility, reduced expenses for both the employer and the employee, more family time, etc, telework in a quandary also entails the challenges of maintaining employee productivity

Technology has made work from home easy and effortless, but, as the technical hurdles fade away, strategic questions will still concern managers. This is especially true for small businesses bootstrapping itself from the struggles of market volatility. Remote management can help managers ace the tricky art of juggling people, schedules, projects, and budgets. 

Clear visibility across the enterprise

Visibility is critical in a remote work module and thanks to a bevy of smart tools, tracking progress and getting real-time work updates has become facile. Managers can deploy easily configurable resource management tools with their existing systems and allocate the right resource to the right task based on their skills, experience, location, availability, and cost rate. When work is uniformly distributed across the enterprise, you can achieve team efficiency and maximize productivity. Smart scheduling tools empower you with a centralized view of your remote workforce schedule in entirety which further enables you to track their progress. You can also provide feedback and take corrective measures if employees are lagging or underperforming. Having clear visibility of future and pipeline projects, existing employees can be trained and upskilled ahead of time to meet future demand.

Improved employee engagement and retention

Contrary to the popular belief, studies have shown that staff productivity has increased by 13% in a work from home setup. Lesser distractions at work, flexible hours of work, and better work-life balance has improved employee retention. After all, the workforce wouldn’t have to endure dreary commutes that can tank both productivity and mindset. Weighing the significant cost of training a new hire or finding a qualified replacement turnover can be detrimental for smaller businesses. By adapting to a work-from-home arrangement, you will not only save on pricey office rentals and parking but will also enable your employees to use that spare time wisely. To make the most out of remote work, one must imbibe certain traits like self-motivation, ability to self evaluate, resourcefulness to name a few. This refreshing read is a silver lining amid the unsettled times and is about a leader who made the most of the remote work arrangement by deploying some easy yet effective tips.

Transparency across a distributed workforce

One of the major challenges of managing a remote team is communication barriers. A virtual work arrangement increases the potentials of ambiguity and confusion among distributed teams. While we can’t step into a colleague’s cubicle for a brainstorming session or have daily or weekly face to face team meetings, thanks to technology, remote work collaborative tools have increased team cohesion and transparency. A quick daily meeting at the start of the day will help establish clear goals, prioritize important tasks, and provide a head start to your remote workforce on how to reach their target. Virtual employees also have the advantage of social presence with the help of telepresence tools. So, face-to-face communication, real-time messaging, access to the same documents and collaboration on cloud-based drives, an internal board or social media page where all employees can share ideas or chat informally has facilitated effective remote management.

Artificial intelligence and project management

Digital transformation has created a paradigm shift in project management along with other operations. Reports show that project managers daily spend a lot of time on administrative work like managing updates and dealing with check-ins. AI bots with its unique ability to wiretap patterns have helped managers reduce half their time spent on busy work and focus more on complex processes, team engagement, and employee efficiency. It also supervises effective scheduling, reminders, and follow-ups dismissing the need for human intervention. AI-enhanced data visualization helps recognize bottlenecks to help take corrective actions ahead of time. This saves human time on various efforts while ensuring that nothing is overlooked. AI-enabled project management systems are a blessing in disguise due to its ability to manage complex analytics and provide predictable outcomes based on its scrutiny of every moving part in the process.

Results-oriented and not the hours logged in

Most managers have paranoia imagining their employees lying on the couch updating their daily activities on Instagram instead of being fecund. However, your team productivity and the time they log in are wholly beside the point. Would you prefer an employee who clocks in 8 hours but delivers only 2 to 3 hours of work or someone who only works for 3 hours but delivers quality work? ROWE or Result-Oriented Work Environment is one that lets you focus only on goals and metrics while empowering your resource pool to work flexibly with better results. As a manager who advocates remote management, you are putting it out there that you trust your teams to deliver and value results over hours. When you delegate work and solely assess your staff productivity based on the results and not on the hours logged in, your appraisals also reflect impartiality and non-discrimination which evokes a sense of engagement and belonging within the employees.

Autonomous and future-ready workforce

The future is already remote, and remote management facilitates a diverse pool of autonomous, intuitive and agile workforce who will easily adapt to the changing business trends. Telework gives you access to a limitless talent pool and leverages the likelihood of making a perfect hire. Instead of hiring someone who simply meets the qualifications and experience criteria, appoint someone who resonates with your company's values and is ready to go above and beyond. A geographically distributed workforce from various backgrounds will help generate innovative ideas for your business. When you have a diversified team of self-reliant, capable, and hardworking people, your time as a manager is made available for more productive things like employee engagement activities rather than micromanagement. 

Cost-saving for the employer and the employee

Savings on telecommuting is a win-win remuneration for both the employer and the employee. When you have a distributed workforce, you automatically save on the amount otherwise spent on office space, utilities, and incidentals. According to Global Workplace Analytics, employers can save more than $11,000 on telecommuters working half time which is a lot of money considering the millions of employees shifting to remote work in the past few years. 

Likewise, employees also benefit while working from home and save costs. According to the World Economic Forum, an employee spends several thousand on buying lunch, commuting to and from the office, childcare services, and workwear every year. These savings can be used for future savings and investments instead. 

The shift to the remote workforce will emphasize more on collaboration and compromise across the enterprise. The absence of communication in person will pave a pathway to learning new skills and touch base in out-of-the-box ways. Yet, the benefits of remote management will outweigh the expenses incurred on retraining managers for improved communication skills. Though the transition might take some time for both managers and remote teams to adjust to, it is a huge step towards creating a future-ready workforce. Remote management backed by smart efficient tools and software will facilitate better communication and urge most managers to ditch the concept of brick and mortar offices in favor of remote work.

I’m Aakash Gupta, Head Business Consultant at Saviom. Over the last 5 years, I’ve used a combination of practical experience and field knowledge to help several MNC’s practice smart resource management strategies. I enjoy exchanging thoughts with domain experts such as yourself and look forward to working with you on future projects.
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