Long-term Remote Working: A HR Perspective
As companies all around the world are implementing a remote working policy with no definitive timeframe as to how long this might continue we now must address the challenge of long-term remote working.
So, what talents, training and thought processes do we need to optimise long-term remote working?
While companies have talked about flexible and remote working, there’s been very little evidence of putting it into practice. Until now. However, remote working is now a necessity rather than an option. Even global tech giants like Google, Indeed, Amazon, Facebook, and Twitter, who provide products to enable remote working, have a primarily office-based workforce themselves. In fact, there has been minimal testing of their wide-scale remote working policies until recently. Now we’re faced with the prospect of long-term remote working, are we really prepared for this?
Amid the chaos, one thing is clear: We need to harness flexible and remote working. And find an approach that is sustainable in the long-term.
Remote Working Long-term
In a recent article, BuzzFeed’s Alex Kantrowitz quotes Jennifer Christie, Twitter’s head of human resources as saying: “We’ll never probably be the same. People who were reticent to work remotely will find that they thrive that way. Managers who didn’t think they could manage teams that were remote will have a different perspective. I do think we won’t go back.”
The big question is not whether or not flexible working is here to stay? It is. What we should be asking is, how can long-term remote working successfully deliver for businesses and employees?
The three central plinths of successful remote work are delivery, flexibility and accountability. Firstly, delivery requires a clear set of business goals and managed timelines, that both parties need to agree upon. See our Guide to Managing a Remote Team. Secondly, flexibility on both sides need to be considered. Because while some employees are happy to simply avoid the commute, others will require more flexibility around childcare or family commitments. In this case both the company and employee will need visibility and a degree of consistency around work-hours and availability. Thirdly, and most importantly for businesses is accountability. Employees, need to prove they can commit to the deliverables, standard of work expected and meet their KPIs.
The Talent Challenge
In the long-run, remote or flexible working is simply not for everyone. Some will prefer not to work remotely, others are not suited to it while others are made for it. So how can employers and employees themselves figure out who’s best suited for remote work? Interestingly, we can identify the characteristics, behaviours and key skills that indicate whether someone is suited to working remotely, successfully. Some of these attributes are obvious, others less so. Long-term remote workers are highly organised, disciplined, independent thinker, troubleshooter, motivated, flexible and always learning.
Let’s examine these characteristics in pairs. Highly organised and disciplined individuals have the ability to plan short, medium and long term goals and activate them in a timely way. The question that follows is, do they need high-levels of support, inputs or approval or are they independent thinkers and troubleshooters? These are the characteristics needed to originate, create and develop ideas and to find work-arounds to the inevitable challenges that arise. What follows from this is the question of flexibility and motivation. Remote workers need both in spades. The ability to know when to pivot, a keen awareness around changing landscapes and the motivation to rework and adjust accordingly. Rigid doesn’t work well in this scenario.
Finally, always be learning. It’s critical for remote workers and their managers to take ownership of their learning and development. While a certain amount of learning can be achieved organically it is essential to build-in structured learning that aligns with both the remote workers career path and the organisational goals.
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