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What to know if your workforce is suddenly working from home.


Dr. Neil Morelli


How to get the most benefits from a remote work model.

Almost overnight, coronavirus fears have forced even the most skeptical leaders to embrace remote work as an option for their employees. The odds are that your business is among thousands across the country now having to manage a mostly remote workforce for the first time.

Sure, managing remote workers comes with its own challenges (more on management tips later). But to ease your mind, here are a number of benefits that come with allowing employees to work from home.

A survey from Indeed found employers who offer remote work options say it improves employee morale, reduces turnover and absenteeism, and lowers operational costs.

bar chart of the benefits of remote work

There are also economic benefits enjoyed by employees and environmental benefits for everyone else. Dell, for example, estimates that its remote work program (used by 58% of its employees) avoids over 136 million miles of travel per year, saving employees over $12 million in fuel costs and over 35,000 metric tons of CO2e.

Indeed also found that remote work options can attract more and better talent. According to a survey of job seekers and employees on remote work:

  • 47% of job seekers say that a remote work option is important to them when choosing a job.
  • 40% of employees would consider taking a pay cut for the option to work remotely.
  • 37% of employees have considered looking for a job that offers remote work.

There are real benefits to allowing remote work, but only 40 percent of global companies currently offer it as an option.

If your business is now having to adjust to a large portion of your workforce now working from home, what are some tips for managing remote workers?

If you are among the companies finally admitting this is a good option for employees – or you are being forced to embrace it to cope with the pandemic – there are a few issues to consider:

Don’t assume that remote workers need to be micromanaged or completely left alone.

Remote work makes it difficult to measure productivity in 15-minute increments or for employees to document their every move while working off-site. So, for some managers, the temptation will be to constantly check-in or find ways to scrutinize every task or activity. For other managers, employees who are out-of-sight-out-of-mind will feel isolated and unsupported. Don’t let your managers fall into either of these traps!

A 2017 survey of remote workers found certain management traits dramatically improve their performance and job satisfaction. The survey revealed that successful managers:

  • check in regularly
  • are good listeners
  • trust and respect their teams
  • inquire about progress without micromanaging
  • communicate frequently

In other words, the managers who shine when working with remote employees are the ones who trust and empower their people, while also providing support and direction. This could look like hosting virtual stand-up meetings, or scheduling calls to check in on progress, but otherwise leaving their people to work unencumbered. The key is to judge them by the quality of their output rather than hours on the clock.

“You cannot overestimate the influence a manager has on his or her team’s ability to engage in a dialogue and create a collaborative and healthy culture,” says survey author Joseph Grenny. “When managers model stellar communication, the rest of the team follows suit.”

Consider updating your recruiting process to look for candidates who will thrive in a remote work environment.

Pre-employment assessments can be a quick way to measure the personality traits and cognitive abilities – and ultimately the team dynamics, management needs, and project capabilities -- of current and future employees as you figure out how to deploy remote work options.

This can help you ease into the transition and ensure the employees you let work from home have the skills and disposition to do well.

Even if the coronavirus disappears in a few months, the desire to work remotely most likely won’t. Making sure you hire people who will do well in these conditions is the best way to make it work.

Check out the next blog in this series on 5 ways to quickly identify candidates who thrive in a remote work environment.

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