3 Main Components to Working Remotely
Remote work is undeniably the new normal. As of June 2020, nearly 70% of the US workforce was working remotely — and that’s not likely to change any time soon. A PWC study found that half of employers expect that most of their workers will continue to work remotely, at least part-time, after the pandemic subsides.
Though the tools that facilitate effective remote working have been readily available for years, most organizations were reliant upon outdated processes and legacy systems in some way or another. The first wave of the pandemic forced companies to adopt new solutions strictly out of necessity.
As organizations shift from short-term tactical thinking to reimagining how their businesses will run in the post-COVID world, many decision-makers are attempting to create plans that will stand the test of time. The most successful of those plans will address the three main components of remote work: people, processes, and technology.
1. People – Facilitating Connection Remotely
One of the most significant challenges of remote work is maintaining a cohesive company culture. The pandemic and all of its associated challenges are undoubtedly affecting the mental health of remote workers.
According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 40% of U.S. adults reported struggling with mental health or substance use in late June 2020 — almost three times higher than in 2019.
The vast majority of employees are not accustomed to remote work and may not have a good sense of routine or work-life balance under these circumstances. When compounded with the lack of face-to-face interaction, employees may need more to continue to feel supported during this time.
Fortunately, making employees feel appreciated doesn’t just contribute to a positive company culture — it’s also good for morale and productivity at large.
These new working circumstances can bring about stronger and more meaningful connections as employees virtually invite each other into their homes and lives, with the right technology, of course.
2. Processes – Ensuring the Benefits of Remote Work Outweigh the Drawbacks
Remote work can facilitate numerous operational benefits, but it’s not without its pitfalls. With commutes eliminated, time typically spent commuting translates into an additional full day’s worth of work each week. What’s more, employers can enjoy savings on rent, office supplies, furniture, and perks like communal snacks and happy hours.
The inefficiencies created by a remote workforce can easily outnumber the efficiencies if employers aren’t careful. Working from home runs the risk of unpredictable distractions and demands — ranging from catching up on household chores, to homeschooling children and caring for pets.
Maintaining and cultivating effective communication habits have proven challenging for many organizations. A recent study found that many people have been able to maintain or improve productivity during lockdown, but fewer have been able to do so on collaborative tasks.
Without face-to-face meetings, whiteboards for collaborative brainstorming, and off-the-cuff check-ins, many organizations must rely exclusively on digital tools to communicate. These means may include instant messaging software, email, video conferencing, and voice calling. While these tools are effective at facilitating simple conversations it’s estimated that up to 93% of communication effectiveness hinges on nonverbal cues.
Organizations should encourage employees to seek means of communication that allow for greater nuance than tools like instant messaging and email. It’s not just internal communication that can benefit from this — more than half of customers still want to speak to a human being about their questions or complaints. Organizations that enable customer service agents to speak to one another and to customers via voice or video conferencing will set themselves up for greater success.
3. Technology – Implementing the Right Tools with the Right Capabilities
As the initial panic of a global pandemic is subsiding, many organizations are realizing the tools they chose back in March aren’t completely suited to their needs.
Organizational decision-makers must determine precisely what their teams need and what capabilities will help meet those needs most effectively. For instance, without the transparency afforded by an office environment, meaningful insights into activity and productivity are certainly top-of-mind for many decision-makers.
Business leaders need reliable data applications employees are using, the extent to which they are using certain platforms, with whom they’re communicating, and how often they are communicating with those people — especially in customer service or sales. A reliable CRM with an integrated communication tool can seamlessly provide these insights and empower leaders and employees to make more informed decisions.
One things for certain, organizations need to remain adaptable in the face of the unknown. It remains to be seen if and when there might be a large-scale return to a “normal” office-based work model in the future. No matter what the future holds, organizations and employees are almost certain to think differently about people, processes, and technology.
When developing and selecting new solutions to fit current circumstances and anticipate how they may change in the future, organizations must prioritize communication, collaboration, and productivity. A CRM-integrated cloud-based CTI solution is certainly a first step in the right direction of effectively optimizing internal communications and critical business functions.