Why Remote Work is Here to Stay

While COVID-19 has been a booster rocket for workplace changes, the trend toward out-of-the-office work had been spiking prior to the pandemic.

If you have not made the adjustment of leading employees that you cannot see, get ready because by the Year 2028, three-fourths of all industries will employ people working someplace other than a company office.

Here is why:

  • Millions of dollars saved in real estate costs.
  • 67% of managers of remote workers say they are more productive.
  • 63% show fewer unscheduled absences.
  • 25% report less turnover.

And what do employees think about working remotely?

  • 80% wish to work from home, at least some of the time.
  • 24% say they would take a 5% pay cut to avoid commuting.
  • 75% report fewer distractions.
  • 78% say they have less stress.

Decades ago, I worked in an office on the twenty-third floor of a downtown building in a large city.  Even though I enjoyed the work, I clearly recall the lengthy commute, congested traffic, limited parking, window-less offices, the boss’s office a few doors away and the relief of weekends.

Although fifty years later, these conditions still exist for most; I think they are short-lived.


Sources: https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/acs/; https://globalworkplaceanalytics.com/telecommuting-statistics; https://www.owllabs.com/state-of-remote-work/2019

Five Steps in Transitioning to Remote Work

(Part 5 of 5)

The COVID-19 pandemic will no doubt accelerate the already fast-moving trend of working remotely; but if you are still transiting employees to laptop freedom consider identifying:

Tasks. Work done on computers can be performed in outer space if there is an internet connection.   Customer service jobs were among the first to go remote; but purchasing, accounting, human resources, medical records, and education are moving out quicker than ever.

Employees.  Very gregarious individuals and those who drift to social media when the boss is out may not be good candidates.  Conscientious performers with great keyboard skills will likely produce wherever.

Policies.  Enact clear and practical work policies for the former 8 to 5’ers.  Does the job require instant availability during work hours?  Or, is it OK to mow the lawn at 2:00 p.m. and complete job tasks at 2:00 a.m.?  Are pets allowed near remote workstations?  Spouses?  Children?

Tools.  Ensure that all remote workers have the proper apps for video conferencing, collaborating and chatting.

Transition.  Allow individuals to work offsite one day a week for six months.  If things go smoothly, transition to two days . . . three days . . . full time.  

Like death and taxes, remote work is here to stay.  Companies who demand worker presence 40-hours a week will likely be left with low efficiency producers.


How to Ensure Effective Meetings of Remote Teams

Ten minutes into a remote meeting, unusual sounds began emanating from Walsh’s monitor.  A participant wrote in the chat room, “Walsh, you need to mute your mike.  You have some nasty things going on there!”  Walsh remained unaware as the video images of other members revealed obvious attempts to refrain from laughing out loud.

Guidelines for effective remote meetings include:

Purpose.  State an objective, such as:  The objective of this meeting is to _____.  Add an agenda of 2-4 topics and send to participants at least one day prior to the meeting.

Structure.  Define the meeting date, time (account for time zones) and length (30-60 minutes.)  If some team members are physically present, require all to participate as if they were remote.

Etiquette.  Even with professionals, establish meeting rules such as:  mute mikes when not talking, leave your video on, look into the camera, avoid distractions (noisy jewelry, folding papers, barking animals) and multitasking (texting, emailing, taking calls).

Training.  Train all members on the features (file sharing, chat rooms, white boards, polling, recording) of your video conferencing software.

Engage.  Begin with 3-5 minutes of informal talk among members.  Ensure that every member has a responsibility—report on an action item, comment on another member’s suggestion, provide status updates, respond to periodic polls.

Follow-up.  Make summary notes (Consider recording the meeting and making it available to all staff members.) and distribute them by the end of the day.



How to Ensure Accountability of Remote Workers

(Part 3 of 5)

“I’ve allowed four of my staff to begin working remotely two days a week,” commented a manager, “but I still worry that some may spend too much time, gaming, mowing their lawns or taking kids to the park.”

Some managers hover over remote staff by employing rigid work schedules, screen checks, end-of-day-work reports, and time logs.  Such practices are more likely to alienate than to engage employees.

Several companies successfully employ some version of a “Results-Only-Work-Environment” (ROWE) where employees are paid for output—as indicated by KPI’s, metrics, dashboards, checklists, proof-of-work—rather than hours worked.

Fortunately, apps such as Sococo, Slack, Asana and Basecamp are very efficient tools for allowing managers to “trust but verify” remote worker collaboration and output.

One manager reported, “In our Monday video conferences, I ask team members to list six or seven of the most important tasks they wish to finish.  The following Monday we review the lists.”  Between Monday’s the manager and team members rely on the Sococo app to cooperate on challenges, surprises, updates, and whatever.

Bottom line—if you cannot trust your employees to work when you are not watching them, you probably need to get different employees.



How to Manage a Remote Workforce

(Part 1 of 5)

“Although I was unsure how the shutdown would impact my work, it only took me a few days to get comfortable working from home,” commented a long-time employee, and I for sure don’t miss the forty-minute commute and the scramble for parking.”

Although you may not have noticed, working remotely (from home, a co-working space, a coffee shop, or anywhere in the world) has been trending for several years.

More than 40% of us worked remotely at least some of the time prior to COVID-19 and that number has more doubled in the last 15 years.

Dell reported $12 million savings a year in less office costs, and Global Workplace Analytics calculates that companies can save more than $10,000 per person annually by allowing employees to work anywhere.

As remote working benefits both employers and employees, the trend will likely increase.  However, being out of the office does introduce leadership challenges.

Some managers fear that employees being out of sight will also develop into being out of mind.  Concerns about work measurement and accountability arise, communication and collaboration become more critical, and remote workers report feelings of isolation and loneliness.

Future blogs offer suggestions for managing a remote workforce.