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The pandemic accelerated an ongoing remote workforce trend by forcing companies to pivot and conduct business with people from home offices and dining room tables. A reported 41.8 percent of the workforce was considered remote at the height of the outbreak, and 36.2 million people are expected to remain offsite through 2021.
Few organizations were prepared for the watershed events that changed the way entrepreneurs, CEOs, and other leaders manage operations and achieve business goals. Decision-makers faced substantial challenges sometimes marked by trial-and-error efforts. But business executives learned some valuable lessons with more than a year of experience managing remote workforces under their belts. If you rank among the many professionals still searching for the special sauce, compartmentalizing leadership into the following areas could prove invaluable.
Videoconferencing and electronic messages cannot replicate the passion executives inspire when addressing staff members in-person. The subtle voice inflections and body language typically doesn’t translate electronically. A recent Gartner study indicates that industry leaders would be wise to consider the following ways to maintain remote workforce enthusiasm.
Although government officials and news reports point to eventual herd immunity, everyday people still live with a sense of uncertainty. One lesson worth considering is that people do not always remember precisely what you said. But they do remember how you made them feel.
Organizations that succeeded during the early months of the pandemic implemented strategies that reimagined two things — structure and process.
Companies with inherent ambiguities in these areas quickly discovered the remote shift only amplified such disconnects. Remote workers appear more productive when groups are pared down because that helps them communicate well. Consider reducing large teams that functioned well in brick-and-mortar landscapes into more specialized outcome-driven subgroups.
Supporting that initiative, replicating the pre-pandemic process online remains essential. Although some outfits benefited from flexible hours during the early months, restoring on-time work starts, scheduled departmental meetings via online platforms, and reducing process ambiguity help define structure and expectations.
Business executives were widely tasked with ramping up remote infrastructure to handle workforce migrations. Work-from-home realities meant quickly increasing IT budgets and enlisting third-party experts to enhance Cloud-based capabilities, among other challenges.
Just as companies began settling into online productivity, hackers rolled out unprecedented attacks targeting newly-minted remote workers. To say that experience was something of a fluid battlefield would be something of an understatement. But the challenges of the initial workforce shift remain in place, and technology continues to evolve. Decision-makers would be well-served to support remote workers in the following ways.
Wide-reaching tools exist that prove beneficial in terms of productivity. If industry leaders expect remote workers to adapt and overcome for the remainder of the pandemic and beyond, they will need the tools and IT support to succeed.
Leadership until the end of the pandemic and the remote workforce realities afterward call for a rethinking of methods. The basic concepts of motivation, structure, process, equipment, and support remain largely intact. Perhaps the critical difference involves leveraging online platforms and IT innovations more decisively.