We are aware of what remote working or work from home is, aren’t we? There are many reasons why remote working has gained traction. Commercial real estate prices have seen an upsurge worldwide even as the workforce gets scattered around the world. Having a physical office where all employees can work from is turning unaffordable. And more than anything else, it is the speed and affordability of data that has enabled work from home culture. The same amount of work that can get delivered in office space can now be achieved even without stepping out of the house. What more? Women who had to quit their jobs owing to family commitments can make the best use of remote working to strike a balance between tasks at home and work responsibilities. In the present scenario, when the COVID-19 pandemic has gripped the world, more and more companies are compelled to have their workforce logged in from home than from office spaces.
Work is work, no matter where one does it from. The ultimate aim of doing any task is to add to one’s and the nation’s productivity. Remote working can be a practical model in most scenarios. The payroll, accounts, human resources, and such other departments or even companies engaged in the production of goods in factories can have the personnel working from home. A variety of different sectors, on the other hand, including the IT and BPM industry, banking, insurance, and others, has a comparatively broader scope of having personnel work from home. GitLab, a global tech startup with valuation over USD 2.75 billion, has over 850 of its employees working remotely. The most amazing part is that this is the entire workforce strength of the company, which means it is an all-remote company.
It is, therefore imperative to adopt to new ways of doing business. A lot that needs to get done as the remote working culture to contain the negative impacts of disruptions like coronavirus-induced lockdowns on the economy.
Are companies doing enough to implement work from home?
Every employer in Singapore has shown eagerness in fighting the coronavirus pandemic by being watchful of both the well-being of employees as well as business continuity.
To cite one example, Cisco, the giant having interests in hardware, software, and telecom, has mandated compulsory work from home for its employees in Singapore. Remote working model got entrusted during the outbreak and implemented the following measures:
- Encouraged to organize virtual meetings to maintain business continuity
- Use of in-house video conferencing facility – Cisco Webex to connect with customers and other employees
- Holding regular global calls on subjects, including psychological well-being and a healthy working style.
HubSpot, an enterprise engaged in customer relationship management, is one shining example that has taken remote working to yet another level. Even before the world coming to a near-halt due to coronavirus outbreak, HubSpot facilitated remote working for its employees. The company has consistently ranked in surveys on best places to work, and the remote working element has contributed much to this. The company is committed to enhancing the work from home experience of its workforce and has in place a defined framework on how to go about this.
What are the essentials to implementing an effective remote working model?
We know that more and more companies are coming up with ways to perform a good and productive work from home model. Although many players will have their unique approach to this, it is vital to understand that there are some basics, which are, in fact, central to the entire idea of remote working.
Tech is the cornerstone of any work from home model. Laptops, internet connection, are only one part of this. Another comprises of the intranet of the company that enables communication within employees. Then are apps necessary for smooth operations, for example, Microsoft Teams, Skype, Google Hangouts, and Zoom (this one app has recently made it to controversy owing to hackers causing troubles to users). Many other things, such as collaborating documents and editing within the same deck, also require tech. One of the services that can be used for the formerly mentioned functions is Lark. Technology is the enabler, in fact, the central one, when it comes to ensuring uninterrupted and seamless work from home model. Any company, big or small, MNC or MSME, needs robust tech as the force behind remote working for employees.
We all know that every employee has to abide by specific rules and regulations when within the office premises. These guidelines, more often than not, are so comprehensive that they shape employees’ conduct when in office. From being appropriately dressed to respecting peers, no matter where they are placed in the company’s hierarchy, rules guide one’s behavior. But the same has not been practiced in letter and spirit during remote working. Incidents have been reported where people did not activate mute while on video calls with the team when the situation so demanded. A story of a news reporter’s father changing clothes in the background when she was reporting live went viral. And hence, work from home cannot be left entirely to the discretion of employees. For example, answering the senior’s message/ email/ call promptly, being on mute when not speaking during video conference, and ethically handling sensitive data are some things to be taken care of.
3. Measuring performance
Talent and hard work must be rewarded even when employees are reporting to work from their homes. Many businesses now have digital attendance in place, which records the punctuality of workers. Incentives are linked with performance, and any output is quality-checked. Companies, more so in the wake of events like COVID-19, are shifting towards remote working culture. Still, unless there is a properly defined framework, known to and understood by both the employee and her/ his reporting manager, to assess an individual’s performance when working from home, performance cannot be evaluated. Those delivering better than others must be promoted so that the productivity of the firm is optimum. It is, therefore, necessary that the HR departments of companies have tools like self-service reporting tools to access performance, collaborative project management tools, to automate process-based tasks, onboarding tools for new recruits, to measure performance of remotely working workforce.
Can work from home get the desired results without being prepared?
Preparedness is the key to success. Only readiness can assure that remote working does work for the continuity of the business. Without necessary groundwork it would impact smooth flow of business processes and activities. Therefore, it is imperative to be prepared in advance for the remote working environment – Fast internet connective, laptop availability, remote access to documents & files, having the know-how of how apps to be used and what guidelines to adhere to. And this is where training and development exercises come into the picture.
Incentivizing Remote Working Culture. And how do we do this?
In order to maintain a healthy work environment while working remotely, the employers need to plan certain incentives to keep the employees engaged. As it is equally essential for the employees to interact socially among their peers and share the relationship they had before the normalcy.
HubSpot has come up with an innovative idea to keep employees engaged and content even when they are physically away from one another. Even the coronavirus-induced lockdown hasn’t deterred employees from having fun. How? The firm is making the best use of video conferencing app, Zoom. Employees can use the tool to even have a drink or two with their peers to have a social banter, of course virtually, after having completed the day’s tasks. Such a session starts at 6 pm, and HubSpot has reported many of its employees becoming a part of this unique fun activity to relieve stress.
Google, the global IT giant, has in place for its workforce in Singapore a program where employees teach others at least one skill. It is done online and covers unusual activities ranging from cooking sessions to practicing yoga. Amazed? That’s being innovative when having the staff work from home. Many other companies are engaging in such things to help staff deal with the stress of being confined to one place for weeks. HubSpot even has online tuition services for kids of employees. A common thing in place is sessions of employees with mental health experts.
Indeed, work from home is acquiring new dimensions with time. The unprecedented turn of events is re-shaping what we think of remote working and how to make it better and effective. Undeniably, the role of technology is central in this entire scene. Employees are increasingly becoming aware that any laid-back approach towards the work from home calls by employers can cost them. Tech is enabling a new revolution, let’s wait and watch how it rewrites the entire script of Work From Home culture.