Over the past year we’ve all become accustomed to working from home and now, the number of businesses setting permanent remote working strategies is growing. Consequently, this affects HR departments and their ways of working. The office is losing its status as the daily workplace and communication between colleagues has shifted to virtual channels. In order to manage remote workers appropriately and effectively, a manager who specialises in remote work could become more and more relevant in HR departments across the world.
When companies opt for full time remote work and remove the option of a physical workspace for employees, new challenges arise. The entire workforce loses fixed meeting rooms which can severely affect the cohesiveness – both within and across teams. This is when with the support of the wider HR department, the head of remote steps in. It is important for them to encourage effective team building and provide even more support for new employees when they are first settling in.
Our recent research (registration) found that 61% of workers say they can get more done in an 8-hour workday when remote and 62% say they are happier when working remotely. That’s why 95% of our own employees will no longer come into the office for the full five-day working week. Employees across the globe have proven they can work from home successfully – a seemingly taboo subject prior to the pandemic.
Businesses now need to listen to their employees and implement new ways of working in line with demand. We are already seeing this happen, as almost all of the UK’s biggest employers have confirmed that they do not plan to bring staff back into the office full-time. This means that those once temporary strategies need to evolve into permanent strategies that will ensure a productive and supportive workforce.
With more and more employees working from home, they need to be able to stay in touch remotely. Businesses should be encouraging and facilitating teams having the opportunity to meet in person whether that be for breakfast or a short walk during lunch. This is only, of course, provided government measures allow it and the appropriate safety measures are put in place.
In order to achieve a cohesive workforce, companies should also consider how thy can reintroduce spontaneous office meetings. This could be in the form of virtual hangouts, with the help of online meetings and video conference tools, to simulate morning or afternoon meetings in the kitchen. These are not fixed appointments, but spontaneous meetings, as they would happen in the office. Employees can drop by when they have time, need a break, or want to catch up with a few colleagues. In this way, the watercooler moments characteristic of the traditional office environment are still retained.
Since the pandemic began, people have gained greater insight into the private lives of their colleagues – and this is a positive. Backgrounds such as book walls, decorations, or family members give employees a completely different impression of their colleagues. Getting to know each other on a more personal level: What books do they read? Where do they live? What is their family situation like? These candid moments can make all the difference for isolated colleagues, providing a welcome insight into the lives of their co-workers. This has, arguably, been one of the greatest bright spots of the lockdown and will hopefully continue even after the pandemic.
The significant changes over the last year have given us a greater understanding of the importance of empathy amongst employees and managers. Whilst some have a higher level of Emotional Intelligence (EQ) than others. The pandemic has taught all employees more empathy, resilience, adaptability, and flexibility. Such soft skills will become a standard, viewed as a basic requirement for HR practitioners and those in management positions, and businesses with a head of remote who can spearhead this development will see the greatest impact on employee wellbeing and success.
Employees are the most important resource of a company. Their mental health is just as important as their physical wellbeing. Continuous lockdowns have pushed us all to our limits. Home-schooling, the isolation from friends and the care of extended family members have added a noticeable amount of stress on top of our professional lives, with little or no compensation.
A head of remote might just be the job we didn’t know we needed. Able to always keep an eye on remote workers and support them in the best way. However, this will involve significant changes both at management level and in cooperation with HR departments. New requirements will need to be met to put employees at the heart of operations and drive a successful remote centred company.
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