Changing Attitudes On Remote Work

While the pandemic did not, arguably, happen overnight, many brick-and-mortar businesses certainly felt that way as local and state orders compelled them to shutter physical offices. Suddenly, the established workflow routine was as disrupted as it could possibly be – and in many cases, resources were hastily inventoried and cobbled together into a network by necessity. Even despite the need, the idea of employees working from home – in some cases a scenario previously offered as an earned reward, or a signing perk – is one that was still nervously embraced initially by businesses across the nation.

 

Management In The Age Of Remote Teams

The quintessential stroll through the office to peer over shoulders may be an outdated modality in terms of management, but it had a way of reassuring C-suites. True, businesses have had to navigate a variety of questions in light of their new, tech-connected workforce, but those questions have opened and improved both communication and worker satisfaction as an unintended result. Managing remote workers affords leadership more chances to connect, change, and course-correct in the moment.

Managers have had a considerably more personal view of their employees as human beings, rather than simply as work personas. With the distance offered by a screen, employees have felt more comfortable discussing ideas and issues they may have hesitated to bring up in a boardroom with dozens of eyes on them. With the ability to record meetings hosted via video chat platforms such as Teams or RingCentral, it’s become easier for managers to spot employees that dominate the conversation (knowingly or unwittingly), potentially drowning out other collaborators. It’s a connection that has worked the other way around as well: employees can also review topics covered in more nuance via recordings, rather than missing points as they struggle to keep notes in real time. This positive change has been recognized by many businesses as they measure productivity working from home.

Collaboration Tool Hybrid Approaches

Some businesses fared better than others in the great work-from-home movement that started in 2020. If their tech was reasonably up-to-date and portable, such as docked laptop systems or cloud-based services, the movement to a remote workplace didn’t come with more growing pains than necessary. For others, those due for upgrades and an IT-level overhaul, there was more to learn and do. However, even this wasn’t necessarily a drawback, as it forced an honest assessment of tech capabilities from companies that may have otherwise been reluctant to do so.

With this “new normal,” many businesses discovered remote working was fairly budget-friendly – and not terribly difficult to implement. Remote working setups were not, even immediately pre-pandemic, as clunky, expensive, or peripheral-based as they might have been in years prior. In light of Covid-19, new innovations to existing work-from-home technology and new offerings on the marketplace drove functionality higher and cost even lower. Cloud-based services helped bridge the gap between bring your own device (BYOD) approaches, company-issued hardware, and an ever-growing list of devices like headsets and webcams. When used in conjunction with providers like managed print services, the redefined office became a new and powerful component of industry, albeit without walls to hold it back.

 

The Hidden Cost Of Physical Offices

The larger an office is, the more expensive it is to operate – that’s the generally accepted cost of doing business. Even for offices that don’t offer benefits like catered weekly lunches or commuting reimbursement, merely the costs of keeping the lights on, IT in-house, security in place, and janitorial services operative are difficult to justify when they’re seeing roughly the same level of results and productivity out of their remote staff working from home. And with the skyrocketing prices of rent – particularly in urban areas in major cities across the U.S. – remote working policies have become increasingly more attractive to businesses as the economy flounders in light of the coronavirus. In fact, many companies are even considering a permanent work from home scenario. 

Then comes the interesting question of salary. Pay rates are, and should be, tied to both skill and experience, but geography factors heavily into the equation when large cities are involved. Businesses in headquarter-packed metropolitan areas like Boston and New York City understand that they need to offer competitive salaries to attract local talent; however, the remote work movement stands to level the playing field. Now that companies see that most (if not all) positions can be handled strictly by home-based workers, they’re no longer constrained to hire strictly local talent – or their salary requirements.

 

Growing The Virtual Workforce

While moving the existing in-office workforce to a series of virtual teams is no longer the insurmountable hurdle it once seemed, what about onboarding? In 2021, it’s entirely conceivable to source, interview, hire, and onboard an employee without a single handshake ever taking place. While it arguably lacks the warmth of one employee showing another “around the office,” in terms of efficiency and tracking, digital onboarding can’t be overstated. 

With virtual meeting capabilities now easily in reach of both human resources and management teams, new employees never have to nervously wait outside the wrong office to ask a question, and can review onboarding materials and remote work guidelines at their own pace – even after-hours on their own time. This takes a lot of the stress and pressure out of the equation, ensuring they start their tenure at a new company on the right foot. These differences that come from working from home vs. the office often lead to greater employee job satisfaction.

 

The Future Of Remote Management: The ‘New Normal’ In Business

Even though social interaction by the coffee pot isn’t what it used to be, instant messaging systems, like microsoft teams, are built into most modern business software to help employees keep in touch with one another. These same systems can also very easily send out a remote work survey, track metrics, schedule brainstorm meetings as needed, and keep the “new normal” office humming along – perhaps even better than before.

Managing remote workers in a digital setting has had its trial-by-fire in 2020, and emerged as a viable and thriving way to do business. As even the tech-averse have seen the results of a workforce that has had its pressure dialed down and connection amped up, it’s hard to argue that using remote workers is no longer a radical move or special situation: it’s where smart business is heading.