The pandemic has supercharged the shift to flexible, hybrid remote and multi-locational working, changing the way companies thinking about how work will be managed in the future.
Businesses of all sizes are taking concrete steps to reorganize themselves for new working patterns. Everyone from multinationals such as BP and Deutsche Bank, smaller innovators such as Spotify, to tech stalwarts such as Salesforce and Microsoft are announcing new policies that will allow permanent work-from-home or hybrid arrangements. Some recruiters are even trying to lure top talent with assurance they will be able to work from home
At the same time, coworking space providers such as IWG and WeWork are pitching themselves as a convenient option between fixed offices and remote options. Many businesses are investing in collaboration tools that enable teams to be productive and creative when they are not physically together.
So what do these changes mean for business leaders?
As hybrid and remote workforces become the norm, managers with experience in primarily face-to-face, fixed-office environments will have to modify their approaches and respond to new issues to remain effective and keep today’s workforce productive.
Here are six areas to considers.
1. People and security risks
The rush to remote working means new cybersecurity risks, with many people accessing the internet through a home router, possibly without firewalls and antivirus software. Equally, many businesses had not planned for staff to be working from their kitchen table where family and flatmates can see their screens. Managers must set up new policies and procedures to ensure the safety of corporate systems and data for remote working setups.
2. Skills And Performance
The move to hybrid and remote working has changed working cultures and processes. Some managers will be challenged to demonstrate they are adding the same value in the new model. Automated workflows, for example, could make the in-person manager less necessary. Conversely, others will find their skills are now more suited to remote management thrive in the changed environment. We will see redundancies and also an intense phase of adaptation and retraining.
Managers and leaders have to learn new ways to check on the mental and physical health of their direct reports and staff. This can happen remotely, of course, but digital connections may be poor, sound may be delayed or unclear, and some team members may be less willing to confide in their manager remotely. New technologies and platforms are coming on stream to help in this area, but in some instances, in-person communication is better when it comes to assessing mental and physical health. So, managers may have to work harder here.
Leaders must learn to navigate the new terrain of remote communication or pay the price. Communicating with people in person is quite different from communicating remotely, and often requires more care and sensitivity. At the same time, video conferencing tools make it easy for employees to assemble virtually and take their leaders to task on working hours, conditions or management missteps. Successful managers and leaders have to learn to communicate well virtually as well as in person, and to ‘toggle’ between the two.
Several high-profile business leaders have expressed reservations about remote working being viable for all situations: group brainstorming, for example, or deep diving into a thorny or complex strategy issue. While conference rooms can be replaced by video calls with shared online whiteboards, the experience may not be as effective. Managers and leaders need to seek ways of encouraging, nurturing and sparking creativity in their teams when they are apart.
The final part of the puzzle is dealing with the administrative burden that managing this new hybrid and remote workforce brings. Many companies are seeing a surge in requests for alternative work arrangements as staff ask to change their assumed work location. They might want to work from another state, from more than one location or even from another country. These requests add complexity to human resources tasks and may have tax and risk assessment implications. Assessing and processing these new demands quickly and efficiently requires new technology and tools.
Equus helps HR and mobility managers deal with alternative working arrangements and solve the challenges of remote work management with our PinPoint Remote Work solution. Click here to find out more.