Remote Work: Temporary Solution or Long-Term Strategy?

April 17, 2020
Inside HR
Engagement & Retention
Strategic Planning
Read time: 3 mins

Over the years, increased technology capabilities have offered employers the opportunity to consider remote work options. Some have embraced the flexible option, while others have resisted, for a variety of reasons. During the COVID-19 pandemic and safer-at-home state mandates, many employers were quickly forced to transition to remote work in order to keep their business running.

As employers and employees plan for the recovery phase of the COVID-19 impact, many are asking: What will the “new normal” will look like? Some employees are asking to work remotely on a permanent basis, so now is the time for employers to assess their strategy.

Here are three simple steps to take when determining how remote work fits into your business:

Step 1: Evaluate 

In reviewing the past month, how would you rate the success of employees working remotely? What technology issues did you encounter? Were employees productive? Did they seem more engaged? Were the lines of communication open? If trust was an issue, what was the root cause? What worked better? What lessons were learned? Talk to your managers, employees, and even customers to understand what worked well and what obstacles they experienced. Consider using a survey tool to collect feedback and consolidate responses.

Step 2: Analyze 

Use the data collected during the evaluation stage to analyze your options. Involve key stakeholders such as your IT team, leadership team, and finance team to analyze the impact on the business. Identify the benefits as well as risks to the business. If you continue to offer remote work as a key employment strategy, what technology investments are needed and how much will that cost? Is there potential cost-savings in reducing your physical office space? What training might managers and employees need to allow remote work to flourish?

Step 3: Implement  

After thoughtfully evaluating and analyzing options, it’s time to implement. Depending upon the outcome of your analysis, the implementation may take some time, especially if significant technology investments need to be made to support long-term remote work arrangements. In our current environment, if you decide to bring all employees back to the workplace, you will need to develop a transition plan that supports ongoing social distancing, sanitizing, and an overall healthy workplace. 

Also keep in mind your organization’s culture and employer brand. If flexibility and trust are valued, not allowing remote work as an option will be seen as a disconnect. And it doesn’t need to be an “all or nothing” decision. Many employers allow employees to work remotely one to two days per week on a regular basis. This might be a good compromise.

Whatever your decision, communication is an important aspect of your implementation process. Openly share with employees the process used and data collected when making your decisions. In the end, if you decide to bring all employees back to the workplace, sharing the business reason behind your decision will go a long way in creating understanding.