During the past two years, many employees had their first experience of remote working thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. Some struggled with the isolation, others found that they were more productive and that not having to commute was a significant bonus. Now that things have settled down, and the enforced remote working pattern has resolved in many organisations into an optional or hybrid-remote workforce model, business leaders need to pay attention to five long-term consequences.
1. Impact on company culture
Company culture can struggle to survive if most employees work remotely. Zoom fatigue can eat into team morale. Employees performing their role at a distance may find their engagement and loyalty diminishing.
A hybrid model, requiring remote workers to spend at least two or three days per week at your business site could work well, especially if you encourage your teams to collaborate and build relationships at times when they are physically together.
Additionally, seek to reinforce company culture as a set of ideals and operating methods, rather than as a material environment. But you can also redesign the environment to promote collaboration, providing team-working areas and dedicated video conferencing rooms with all the technology needed for onsite and remote workers to communicate with each other.
2. Need for clear policies
The hybrid-remote solution could become a confrontational free-for-all if there are no clear guidelines and stated policies covering management’s expectations regarding when onsite attendance will be required, or which times of the day are regarded as ‘core hours’ for remote employees.
Set clear guidelines for hybrid working, combining flexibility for employees with the needs of the business. For example, employees may be required to spend two days in the office per week, or three days if they have a customer-facing role. Teams need to coordinate to make sure they spend time onsite together whenever necessary, and are able to contact each other at core times when working remotely.
Provide flexibility, so that periods of concentrated physical attendance could, if necessary, be alternated with intervals of remote-only working (such as school holidays for staff with childcare responsibilities).
3. Productivity risk
Productivity can suffer if remote workers do not have access to the technological support they need to complete their tasks. This is particularly significant where teamwork is required.
Ensure that employees have access to devices – such as laptops and phones – that are easily transportable between their home and your business site. Check that internet speeds are adequate and stable at remote locations, and arrange transport of any specialist equipment that is not able to be carried with ease and without risk.
If necessary, provide training in the video conferencing software your organisation uses, and set appropriate rules – that cameras must be turned on during meetings, for example. Consider using a team productivity app like Slack or Trello.
4. Compliance risk
Your workplace health and safety obligations do not cease because your employee is offsite. You still need to ensure that they have access to equipment and working conditions that will mitigate the risk of health problems or accidents. Your employees also have a responsibility to take reasonable action to ensure that their work environment is safe.
There are also additional considerations around insurance and security.
Check your workers compensation insurance coverage to make sure you are covered for remote employees.
Create a formal remote working policy, and make sure all employees have read it, understood it and agreed to it. It should stipulate the type of work that can be performed remotely, and set suitable boundaries between working and non-working periods in order to reduce stress and fatigue. You may need to assess each employee’s home working set-up from a safety and ergonomic standpoint. This type of checklist will help you to do it without actually having to visit their home. Make sure you inform and regularly remind employees of their obligations around workplace health and safety.
Also from an insurance perspective, verify that you are covered for your equipment when it is located in employees’ homes, or being transported between work and home. In addition, have a plan to ensure that company equipment is returned to the employer in the event that the employee resigns or is terminated.
Review your IT security arrangements to ensure that privacy and information security is maintained for your business, your clients and any other related parties.
5. Talent attraction and retention
Flexibility around working locations and hours has quickly become a key component in attracting and retaining top talent. In the current situation, where the national unemployment rate of 3.4% is the lowest for half a century, employers are struggling to fill vacancies.
In order to attract new talent and also to avoid becoming a victim of the Great Resignation, employers need to be prepared to offer flexibility, and to make this clear not only to potential job applicants, but also to their current workforce. Put details of flexibility near the top of the list when describing roles and benefits in job advertisements. For current employees, put your words into practice by setting and communicating flexible working policies.
We can help you understand and mitigate hybrid-remote workforce risks
For your hybrid workforce strategy to be a success, it is important that managers and leaders universally agree upon and lead their workforce to align with the strategy developed. If this is done, then having a hybrid workforce model can be an extremely effective solution for maximising productivity within your organisation, as well as supporting your talent acquisition and retention strategies.
Bentleys’ advisors have combined years of experience in assessing and addressing business risks to help businesses to grow. If you’d like some advice in this area, why not make time for a chat with us, to find out how we can help?
Disclaimer: This information is general in nature and should not be relied on as advice. It does not take into account the objectives, financial situation or needs of any particular person. You need to consider your financial situation and needs and seek professional advice before making any decisions based on this information.