Most of us are forced into trying it now. Many of us are intrigued by the idea of it even after quarantine. But what does a long-term remote work strategy really look like?
Too often we’re offered a remote work blueprint from highly successful tech companies like Google, Shopify, and Amazon. But what is possible for local government and main street businesses? Is there a simpler version of the expansive technology toolsets employed by these companies full of technologically savvy employees? Can my law firm, health care practice, municipality, fill-in-the-blank realize benefits from remote work with a strategy that fits us?
The answer can certainly be yes! A strong culture and clear organizational goals influence the ability to create a simple and effective technology plan that moves you towards supporting a thriving remote workforce.
- Gaining interest in remote work
- Value created
- Culture considerations
- Technology required
- Putting it all together with a checklist
Gaining Interest in Flexibility and Remote Work
As we’re hearing more questions about remote work from our clients, we’re also seeing compelling data from the market and VC3 employees:
- 3 out of 4 CFOs surveyed indicated they will take action to move more of their employees to remote work. ~ Gartner
- 42% (up from 25% in 2015) stated they are making a more flexible workplace a priority. ~ Center for State and Local Government Excellence
- 20% of VC3 employees want to work from home all the time
- 60% of VC3 employees want to work from home at least 3 days per week
The interest is clear which indicates there must be something behind the curtain. But what is the value?
The Business Benefits to Adopting A Remote Work Strategy
The true benefits to your organization can, of course, vary depending on your set of circumstances. However, here are a few that seem to be more common and backed up by data.
- Lower Office Costs - You need less office space when you have fewer employees in the office. Real estate cost savings for the organization can vary widely based on market and size, but it also has wide-ranging implications. You’re spending less on desks, chairs, mugs, cups, coffee, office supplies, and so on. You can plug some numbers into this online calculator to get a rough idea of your cost savings as a fun exercise.
- Lower Employee-related Costs – Remote work has shown an ability to reduce employee absenteeism and lower turnover.
- Employee productivity can increase – one study found an increase of 4-5% and another found 35-40%. It makes sense that this benefit can depend on the type of role and organization.
Improve Employee Benefits
- Broader Hiring Pool - You can more easily hire employees from out of state, around the country, or around the globe when the pressure to be in the office no longer exists.
- Employees Save Money - Cost savings for the employee can be as much as $5,000 as they save money on everything from eating lunch out to gas to dry cleaning.
The potential benefits are compelling, which is, of course, driving this renewed interest. But does your organization have the culture to realize those benefits?
Understanding Your Culture and How It Might Support Remote Work
Much of the literature on remote work at some point agrees on this: you need a strong culture. How do we keep our employees engaged and enthusiastic about where the organization is going?
It can be easier in an office setting to achieve culture almost by osmosis. Simply being there creates an opportunity for cross-departmental conversations and cohesion around the coffee pot. So, how do we recreate some of the atmosphere and value of an office in a remote world?
Here are a few examples VC3 actually uses and finds valuable to support remote employees:
- A carefully considered and easily accessible vision, mission, and organizational goals;
- A monthly all-hands meeting to keep everyone updated on our company’s progress;
- Employee scorecards with 1-3 key performance indicators to maintain performance clarity;
- A widely adopted chat tool where employees discuss projects, share kudos, and have fun together.
Ultimately, an organization will benefit from identifying new communication channels; creating new communication norms; and ensuring a safe, simple, and sometimes anonymous feedback loop is present between employees and leadership.
Perhaps some of the items discussed are not yet present in your organization or would not work. Remote work isn’t always a good culture fit and it’s important to understand your organization’s and employees’ appetite for remote work early on.
You’ll notice in the few examples we shared that technology is present, but not at the forefront. However, to implement these culture changes and enable remote employees, you might need a few new technology tools.
Setting Up Your Employees for Success with the Right Tools and Processes
A glance at those highly successful tech companies we mentioned earlier may make you feel like you must invest heavily in all new technology. Thankfully, that doesn’t have to be your course of action.
It may be wise to take a crawl, walk, run approach. Test the waters with a pilot group of employees without breaking the bank or torpedoing operations.
Here are the technology categories you’ll need to consider:
To crawl, you really need this one. Employees must be able to easily access all applications, documents, and data required to perform daily tasks. Cloud technology becomes your best friend.
Not only will you need a video call platform like Microsoft Teams or Zoom, but you’ll also need a computer, camera, and audio equipment to support those video calls.
You also should look into a group chat tool like Slack or Microsoft Teams. This allows for quick, structured work conversations as well as some needed fun conversations for team building.
Project Management and To-Do Lists
Visibility is crucial to keeping everyone in sync. Digital tools are a great way to achieve that visibility with options like Microsoft Planner, Basecamp, and others you can keep track of tasks and projects. We wrote a helpful post on how to use Microsoft Planner!
Data-driven Performance Management
Keeping the visibility theme going, it’s a great idea to create a series of metrics for each employee or role. These metrics allow for managers and leadership to measure output and performance in lieu of measuring the input of an employee’s time at his or her desk. Beyond creating this employee scorecard, it’s helpful to have an online visual dashboard that shows real-time progress on these metrics. Such a dashboard is now far more in reach for most organizations with a tool like Microsoft’s Power BI.
Supporting a remote workforce does bring to mind some new cybersecurity challenges that need to be overcome. Hopefully, the following are already in your cybersecurity plan, but each becomes even more important with remote employees:
- Protecting remote access
- Careful user management controls
- Employee awareness training
- Minimum home requirements for network security and patches
Putting it All Together
Offering remote work is not a simple project nor should it be a decision reached lightly. You have to consider your business goals, organizational culture, and technology toolset. You are best positioned to understand your business and culture. But maybe you’d like some help understanding the technology required and how to best align it with your organization.
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