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Transitioning to a Permanent Remote Work Business Model

Editor's Note: Take a look at our featured best practice, Effective Communication with Virtual Teams (23-slide PowerPoint presentation). The number of people working remotely has been increasing progressively across the globe. An employee benefits report narrates that around 60% companies in the US offer telecommuting opportunities. According to Upwork, freelancers and contractors have increased by 81% from 2014 to 2017. [read more]

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The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted businesses around the globe. Regardless of industry or market, everyone has felt the pain of adapting to the new normal.

Many companies have shifted to a remote work model as a result of lockdowns and physical distancing requirements. Now, many companies are evaluating the possibility of making that shift permanent. However, this shouldn’t be a hasty decision — there are many factors to consider regarding company culture and employee communications.

Here are some crucial considerations and processes to evaluate when transitioning to a permanent remote work model.

Define the Why

The first step of shifting to a permanent remote work model is identifying why this is the best decision for the company. For many organizations, the decision is two-fold: money and uncertainty about the duration of the pandemic.

Identifying the “why” behind this decision is an important step in creating a continuity plan and streamlining communications. While companies consider their new future plans and how the next few years could potentially look, this decision should be a key factor because defining the why leads to outlining the what, and the how.

Research the Challenges and Opportunities

When deciding whether to shift to a permanent remote or work-from-home business model, businesses are tasked with challenging their assumptions. While the assumption may be lower overhead costs and continuity through uncertain times, it’s integral to ensure the business isn’t pivoting into oblivion.

Research the potential pitfalls of making a permanent change. This could include anything from productivity challenges to inadequate resources to support employees in a work-from-home environment.

Consider the fact that if your business is already operating remotely, you have months of primary research to review. Factor in what has, and has not worked during your temporary shift to remote work. Then, use that data to outline potential challenges.

Empower Employees to Share Feedback

A common mistake among businesses that shift permanently to remote work is the failure to get employee buy-in. Many companies have decided to make a permanent change and communicated the decision without asking for employee feedback. This lack of respect can disrupt employee morale and exacerbate any struggles and mental health issues they were experiencing throughout the pandemic.

Allow every employee to safely and candidly share their experience. This data collection could include virtual meetings and interviews or private surveys. Ask them what they need from the business to make this work. Otherwise, your company could face high levels of turnover once the hiring freeze ends.

Audit and Adapt Your Processes and Tools

Take a deep dive into the tools and processes that your company used before the pandemic. Additionally, consider what you’ve put in place since shifting to a temporary remote environment. When collecting feedback, be sure to ask employees what gaps they’ve experienced in the available tools.

Shifting to a permanently remote structure means adapting to life without a home base. Not having shared equipment means finding ways to send fax online or mark-up documents without printing. It means being unable to quickly stop by someone’s desk to ask about the status of a project.

Shifting to a permanently remote environment means getting into the minutiae of what a workday looked like before, and adapting it to suit the new normal.

Focus on Effective Communication

Ineffective communication has long been the downfall of would-be successful businesses. Without face-to-face interaction or a tangible location, communication can become even more challenging.

Prioritize effective communication by providing the right tools and outlining policies to succeed in a remote work business environment. Help employees manage expectations and consider reframing how communication takes place.

For example, some companies are eradicating email from their organization and encouraging employees to share information via public channels in messenger apps. The logic behind this progressive decision is that no one mistakenly gets out of the loop or drops any proverbial balls on projects. As employees traditionally waste up to a quarter of the workweek on email, this is an effective way to promote productivity.

Shift to a Results-Oriented Model

The traditional nine-to-five workday no longer makes sense. Working from home means the commute is shorter, but the responsibilities are higher. Many employees are juggling work with remote learning and sharing their space with housemates or family members.

Rather than pushing for set office hours, consider making the shift to a more results-oriented business model. Focus on tasks that need to be completed and have set check-in times, rather than dictating traditional office hours.

The core components to making this significant business change include prioritizing employee support, streamlining communication, and updating policies and tools. These pillars lay the groundwork for a successful transition.

26-slide PowerPoint presentation
To quote, Richard Branson, a British business and philanthropist, "One day, offices will be a thing of the past." While organizations still need to travel to reach their physical offices, the rapid changes in the world is requiring businesses to form Virtual Teams. A Virtual Team refers to a [read more]

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About Shane Avron

Shane Avron is a freelance writer, specializing in business, general management, enterprise software, and digital technologies. In addition to Flevy, Shane's articles have appeared in Huffington Post, Forbes Magazine, among other business journals.


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