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Is Working from Home Here to Stay?

Many companies that were previously doubtful about allowing team members to work from home were able to successfully establish remote work programs in 2020. A survey of 800 employers conducted by HR firm Mercer found that 94% reported equal or higher levels of productivity during the pandemic.

According to said Lauren Mason, a principal at Mercer, “Historically, there has been a perception in many organizations that if employees were not seen, they weren’t working…this forced experiment around remote working as a result of COVID-19 has shattered those perceptions to prove that most employees can actually be trusted to get their work done from home.”

A Gartner, Inc. survey of CFOs and Finance leaders in 2020 revealed that nearly 75% expected to transition a portion of their team members to permanently remote status, even post-pandemic. Nearly a quarter of participants planned to have at least 20% of their on-site team members work from home. Tech giants like Twitter and Facebook have responded to their own work from home experiences in 2020 by announcing that staff will continue to work remotely for the indefinite future.

Reducing Physical Office Space

With more team members working remotely, companies are finding they can reconfigure or reduce their physical office space. Some experts say the demand for large physical offices will decrease substantially as companies realize they can save money by having fewer on-site team members. Outdoor equipment retailer REI has already taken this step by selling its new, 8-acre campus before ever moving in, planning to use multiple smaller campuses as its headquarters going forward. In a press release, REI states, “…the company will lean into remote working as an engrained, supported, and normalized model for headquarters employees.”

Increasing Team Member Engagement

A side effect of working from home is that it requires team members to become more engaged and to communicate more via email, messages, and virtual meetings. Regular check-ins with coworkers and supervisors are critical for staying visible. Team members who are working from home also need to take responsibility for highlighting their professional achievements and seeking out new opportunities. 

It’s up to management to make sure that clear expectations and policies are set for working from home. Team members who don’t know what they’re supposed to be doing are less likely to feel enthusiastic about their work. Information about working hours, virtual meeting attendance, communication channels, and getting help should be made easily available.

Improving Performance Management

In companies that properly track who is doing what, working from home can be empowering for team members who are productive. Getting ahead depends less on how diplomatic you are in the office and more on what you get done. Appearing to look busy and other strategies employed by poor workers in a physical office are not as successful when you’re working from home. 

Effective performance management for remote workers requires digital tools and apps that allow team leaders to get a clear idea about what team members are doing when working from home. These tools need to go beyond time reporting to help measure productivity and collaboration.

Providing Enhanced Security

Using computer networks to support working from home has required many companies to beef up their cybersecurity measures. Secure data transfer is one of the biggest concerns, especially with many remote team members having their own devices and networks. Many companies have had to redesign their IT infrastructure to address new risks presented by a remote working environment; others are scrambling to play catch up after making the shift to remote work without properly addressing security gaps.

Working from home in 2020 has taught many people that they can still be productive at work without commuting to a physical office each day. Going forward with remote working will disrupt the norm in many companies—and it’s still too early to tell how the disruption will play out.

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