Whenever humanity faces a problem as tremendous as a global pandemic, it unequivocally necessitates societal change. In a pandemic, these changes are often tangible as they disrupt the very norms of our daily existence and activities.
If necessity really is the mother of invention, we must utilise the time that we have to experiment with these changes in order to form a better society moving forward (even though we hope for the pandemic’s hastened conclusion). That is to say, if we waste the opportunities to test innovative approaches to work now, we only have ourselves to blame should our business fall behind in the long run.
The difficulty in establishing a long-term work-from-home strategy is that it takes diligent observation and intervention in the short-term. For this reason, forward-thinking businesses should use the time of uncertainty to take decisive steps that will gear the business towards success no matter the long-term outcome at the end of the uncertainty.
In the short-term
As with any sustainable project, setting up your business for successful remote work requires a well-laid foundation from which to create a culture of productivity and excellence. The first step in the process of building this foundation lies in dissecting and analysing your current technology and infrastructure to see what kinds of gaps exist.
Some gaps are easy to pinpoint (such as working with desktop computers in the office instead of laptops). Others, however, might not be that simple to pinpoint (such as workflow procedures once communication moves from verbal to digital communication).
Once these gaps are identified, planning must take centre stage. Business owners must ask themselves which tasks are more urgent in developing a remote workplace and which are of least importance. Naturally, adequate infrastructure needs to be in place before company-wide remote work can become a serious consideration.
After planning and setting up the basic infrastructure for remote work, the next step is to experiment. Execute your plan and continue developing your approach to remote work. Eliminate or analyse the elements of remote work that is ineffective and continue refining the approaches that do work. Just remember that when experimenting with remote work, one cannot expect perfection from the get-go.
In the short-term of planning for remote work, communication is of the greatest essence. Continue to explain to your employees what developments are under way, and when refining the process, be sure to clarify why changes are being made. For the most part, a successful long-term strategy for remote work will revolve around a new remote work culture being formed. Remember that your employees are the ones most affected by the changes and that it is by the habits that they form now that future standards for remote work will be set.
In the long-term
Long-term strategies for remote work will mostly develop out of the actions that you take in the short-term. However, there are things that happen in the long-term that cannot be adequately addressed in the short-term.
For one, business owners will need to start thinking of new ways to formulate job-descriptions for their vacancies and have a framework in place for integrating new employees into business processes. They must also consider the impact of in-office learning where a hands-on approach (although sometimes seeming slightly intimidating) can go a long way to developing skill and ability to perform essential tasks in the relevant industry.
Furthermore, business owners must deliberate which positions are suited for remote work and which, if any, are not. Finding that balance will rely on the insights gained from initial short-term planning. Other HR issues can also arise when implementing a work-from-home policy, which present new challenges to discipline. Managers will likely need to invest quite some time in research and training to ensure that they are equipped for the demands of digital supervision/discipline.
Remote work also poses new challenges to security. Business owners will have to invest in their digital security infrastructure and train their employees in cyber-protocol to ensure the safety of the business and its clients. If a wide-scale remote work is to become a global phenomenon, cyber-smarts will become non-negotiable.
Another consideration that must be made is how to build a cohesive business structure and cultivate real relationships between employees in a remote setting. Great work comes more naturally when employees have found a sense of belonging; creating that belonging will be more difficult (although not impossible) in a remote work setting. That is to say, even if remote work becomes a long-term objective, business owners should find ways for their employees to meet up and form real bonds with their co-workers.
The take-home message
One thing that business owners must remember is that remote work must only be pursued insofar it leads to a more productive, happier workforce. How they experiment with an approach to remote work in the current global climate can prove extremely beneficial in the long-term. However, finding that sweet spot will require some effort (and failures) before the successes can shine through. However, if remote work becomes the norm and you have the company culture in which it thrives, you will only be doing yourself a favour.
This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)