Remote working – the long view

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Written by Jennifer C Loftus on 15 February 2022 in Opinion
Opinion

Jennifer C Loftus explores the essential elements needed for successful long-term remote work arrangements

Prior to the onset of COVID-19, an estimated 27% of employers in the United States offered full-time telecommuting arrangements.  Fast forward to March 2020, and almost anyone who could work remotely did so. While that pivot to remote work was born of necessity – personal safety and government mandates primary among them – the return to the brick-and-mortar workplace following the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines was not a given.

Employees enjoy the flexibility offered by remote work arrangements, and many expect such arrangements long after the fear of COVID-19 has subsided. But a successful remote work arrangement isn’t as simple as bringing home a laptop. Here we explore essential elements for ensuring successful long-term remote work arrangements for your employees.

Employers therefore have a responsibility to ensure that remote employees have access to relationship building activities and visibility in the workplace

1. Education is key

It may seem like skills related to using tools such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams are a given now that we’re two years into the COVID-19 pandemic. However, that’s not the case. These software packages, as well as others your organisation may use, have a number of advanced features that often go unused. Provide training and on-demand resources to help your employees get the most out of the tools and in turn help your organisation get the most out of its annual licensing fee expenditures. In the end, your organisation will enjoy enhanced goal accomplishment, productivity, and internal communication. Speaking of which…

2. Communicate, communicate, communicate

According to research from the Society for Human Resource Management, 34% of women surveyed indicate that remote work arrangements have enabled them to stay in the workforce. However, these same women indicate that long-term remote work results in difficulty forming work relationships, a lack of networking opportunities, and less opportunities for pay raises. Employers therefore have a responsibility to ensure that remote employees have access to relationship building activities and visibility in the workplace. These approaches may include coaching managers on scheduling (and following through on!) one-to-one meetings with employees each week and planning networking opportunities inclusive of all team members each month. Performance management feedback also should be provided to all employees on a regular basis, irrespective of where they work.  While the feedback cadence will vary among organisations due to size, pace of work, and culture, performance discussions should be held at least monthly, with the year-end review serving the purposes of annual wrap-up and planning session for the future.

3. Compensate appropriately

The impact of remote work on pay is one of the hottest topics in the total rewards field today. HR professionals are grappling with labour market pay differentials, cost of living differentials, employees’ stated increases in personal expenses due to remote work, and pay equity issues, all while trying to retain employees during the Great Resignation. Providing smaller salary increases every six months, rather than one large adjustment once a year, can provide additional positive reinforcement to employees while only slightly increasing payroll costs. In addition, the faster frequency of pay raises offers an additional “we see and appreciate you” moment for remote employees.

4. Consider diversity, equity and inclusion

Offering long-term remote opportunities can help organisations successfully recruit employees. Employers are no longer constrained by the talent pool in a specific location. Access to a wider talent pool also supports an organisation’s diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives. With wider talent pools comes access to more women, as well as members of varying ethnic backgrounds, ages, and other abilities. However, historical talent acquisition efforts won’t necessarily yield successful DEI results moving forward. Review job descriptions and job profiles to eliminate bias or talent narrowing characteristics and provide training for any resulting knowledge gaps impacting job success. Consider the use of lived experience rather than formal education to tap into the talents of those in minority groups. Rework the language used in the descriptions to avoid gender-biased words.  

As we move solidly into 2022, long-term remote work arrangements are here to stay.  Even if or when the pandemic subsides, employees will continue to seek the flexibility and work-life balance provided by remote work. As such, employers must ensure their remote employees, their managers, and the organisation as a whole are set up for success. Ongoing learning and development opportunities and frequent, meaningful communications are essential parts of this future success story.

To hear more on the future of skills and talent listen to the TJ Podcast for January 2022 where Jennifer C Loftus is a guest speaker

Jennifer Loftus is a national director at and founding partner of Astron Solutions.  

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