The beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 changed the traditional workplace as we knew it forever. To combat a worldwide risk of infection, the pandemic made remote work the new normal – between 2019 and 2021 alone, the number of people working from home tripled from roughly 9 million people (5.7%) to 27.6 million people (17.8%).
Fast-forward to 2023, some employees are being called back to the office to resume their pre-pandemic work routines. Although some will suggest that remote work was just a temporary fad, many companies are still embracing remote work today and over 68% of the workforce prefers the flexibility of working from home.
Will remote work stay the course?
With the economy showing signs of uncertainty and the pandemic behind us, business leaders are asking themselves how to best manage their remote workforce to produce the best possible results.
As Chief Transformation and People Officer at a company that has embraced remote work for over 15 years and employs over 500 people globally, I believe that great results and positive company culture are not dependent on in-person management. Rather, there are other key principles that lead to strong employee engagement, which is what ultimately leads to great results and strong company culture.
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Our company this year ranked #1 on Ad Age’s Best Places to Work list and won numerous other best workplace culture awards. The following are best practices we have found to maintain a best-in-class work culture and stellar business performance.
Trust in Your Employees to Boost Engagement and Performance.
Trust is an essential factor in remote work, and some employers may be initially hesitant about embracing remote work due to the lack of control. Some employers may initially worry that productivity will decrease and employees will abuse the benefit of working from home. This feeds into a common misconception that remote workers are disengaged, but those who spend 60% to 80% of their time working remotely are actually the most likely to be engaged. The less time employees spend in the office, the more progress they say they make. Moreover, an engaged workforce also produces the best financial outcomes, which is critical at a time when companies are preparing for a potential financial downturn.
Today, employees want autonomy over where and when they work, and embracing remote work can help companies attract talent. In fact, 87% of workers offered at least some remote work embrace the opportunity and spend an average of three days a week working from home. Prioritizing flexibility and fostering trust in employees can play a significant role in boosting performance, retention and engagement.
Address the Unique Challenges of Remote Teams and Set Them up for Success.
As the workplace evolves, the role of the manager is evolving, too. With remote teams facing unique challenges and a greater risk of the breakdown of communication by design, they must be set up for success strategically.
In our organization, we have a dedicated role to address the unique challenges of remote work. Known as the “Team Success Partner,” the responsibilities of this role include monitoring team health, fostering trust and cultivating psychological safety. Managers can regularly consult these full-time internal business consultants to improve their understanding of the challenges that remote employees face and contextualize their responses accordingly. Managers and employees can also give feedback in the form of pulse surveys and through Goodway Council, which is a group of employees that serves as advisors to the leadership team.
By tackling remote work challenges head-on and prioritizing intentional and consistent communication with employees, companies can help employees maximize their performance, boost engagement and reach goals as a team – no matter where they’re located.
And just because a company operates remotely, it doesn’t mean they have to lose out on the value of in-person connection. For example, we invest in bi-annual in-person summits, as well as leadership retreats and offsite meetings each year, which allows us to reap the benefits of in-person connection without compromising on the flexibility of remote work. These opportunities give employees the best of both worlds and can pay dividends all year long.
Prioritize the Growth and Development of Younger Employees.
As millennials and Gen Z become the majority of today’s workforce, companies are placing more emphasis on growth and development in order to attract and retain younger employees.
According to Gallup, 87% of millennials rate development opportunities as important to them in a job while 76% of Gen Z say that learning is key to their success.
We believe in the infinity loop, where we put our employees first so they can take care of our clients, which ultimately becomes a virtuous cycle. By embracing this philosophy, we are always thinking about employee experience first and it fuels our culture and our growth.
Our employees also have monthly meetings, called “on-tracks”, that focus on professional development, which covers employee well-being, growth and performance and what the company is doing to help employees reach their career goals. This is particularly important in a remote working environment where it’s critical that employees know companies are connected to them and invested in them.
Looking Ahead, Remote Work Is Here to Stay.
The workplace as we once knew it will never be the same, and all signs point to remote work being here to stay. Companies and their employees are still radically embracing remote work post-pandemic, which has been proven to drive performance and be effective for many different industries and verticals.
With remote work now being what the majority of employees want and have come to expect, companies that re-enforce commuting and demand staff go back to the office are putting engagement, retention and their bottom line at risk.
By embracing remote work, tackling the pitfalls head-on, and listening to what employees really want, employers can draw and retain top talent, boost employee engagement and performance and come out on top in a dynamic and unstable market.