Many experts have said that remote work is the “new normal,” and some businesses have taken that to heart. Tech companies like Google and Uber have vowed to keep their employees working remotely until at least 2021. Even some financial giants have indicated a preference to keep employees out of the office workspace as long as possible.
Other employers are eager to open up and welcome employees back. Still others are using a hybrid model, with some employees in the office and others working from home. Employees might split their hours between two locations.
As people start getting serious for the fourth quarter push, you might wonder what the best strategy is. No matter what option you choose, having the right tools will help you manage your team the right way.
The Virtual Office
As noted, some companies are moving their workforces to remote work, almost entirely. Is this the right move for your business?
It will depend a bit on your technological capabilities and what your team members do. Many roles, such as accounting, HR, payroll, marketing, and sales can be done remotely.
Other positions, such as picking and packing orders, cannot be done from home. Even tasks your IT team must perform might need to be done on-site, such as upgrading network infrastructure.
If your business is focused on providing a service for customers, you may be able to do this remotely. You could video conference with clients. Chatting online or over the phone are other options.
If you review your team’s roles and decide remote work is the best option, look at your technology. Do your employees have access to all the tools they need to work from home, or can you offer workarounds? Are there systems they require that can only be accessed from the office?
You’ll also want to develop excellent policies for working remotely. Technology is also key here. A human resources information system, or HRIS, can help you track your team’s productivity when they work from home.
Consider adding a communal workspace to the virtual office. This could be as simple as your Slack channel or gathering small groups of employees in the office occasionally. Doing so can help the team collaborate more effectively.
Mixing the Office and Remote Work
Another option you have is a hybrid model. Instead of working remotely all the time, your team members spend some time in a communal space.
This might be the office itself. You could invite some team members to return to the office on a part-time basis. Maybe employees come in for a short shift once a week, and they rotate who is in the office at any given time. You’ll see one set of team members Monday morning, and another set on Tuesday afternoon.
This helps keep groups small, as well as limiting social bubbles.
Hybrid solutions also allow team members to work from home, so you still need to ensure you have great work from home policies. You’ll also require the right technology in hand here, such as the HRIS helping you measure productivity and track employee goals.
The hybrid model allows team members to access the tools they need anytime. Have people schedule ahead to help limit how many people are in the office at any given time, and provide flexibility for all team members.
Welcoming Everyone Back
Whether you plan to welcome everyone back now or sometime in the future, you’ll want to consider these points.
Employees wanted flexibility with regard to work-from-home options before lockdowns. Many will continue to advocate for these policies. You may reduce their remote work hours, but you should consider leaving the option in place for team members. This means keeping your technology up to date, offering continued access to tools, and making sure you have great policies for remote work.
You’ll also want to take a look at the office itself. New safety measures and more will help your team members feel more comfortable as they return to work.
Whatever your organization ends up choosing to do, it's important to consider all the different aspects of this new landscape and what your employees may prefer as well.