Prepared to Oversee A Remote Workforce?
The COVID-19 pandemic prompted industry leaders to leverage IT and implement work-from-home strategies. Now those remote workforces are likely to be the new normal for many, and administrators might want to consider whether they are prepared to oversee them for the long-haul.
But before diving into ways to supervise telecommuters, business leaders need to consider information that supports this post-coronavirus virtual landscape.
“An early April 2020 MIT survey of 25,000 American workers found that 34 percent of those who’d been employed four weeks earlier said they’re currently working from home. Combined with the roughly 15 percent who said they’d been working from home pre-COVID-19, that means nearly half the U.S. workforce might now be remote workers,” according to a Forbes report.
A Brooking research study called “Telecommuting Will Likely Continue Long After the Pandemic” supports those findings. According to research analyst Katherine Guyot and senior fellow Isabel V. Sawhill, higher-income employees working from home reached 71 percent, with only 19 percent who stayed home being unable to perform tasks remotely.
The percentage of people working from home was already shifting away from brick-and-mortar facilities before the COVID-19 disruption. Many new telecommuters are expected to remain given the future uncertainty concerning the virus. But savvy business leaders are also factoring in reduced overhead and capital expenditures as a reason to continue the practice. The new normal will require supervisors to adopt strategies to keep remote workers productive.
1: Trust Your Employees, But Verify
It’s not unusual for those in supervisory roles to worry that production will decline without onsite oversight. While each team has a certain degree of self-motivation diversity, studies point to people working from home being productive in the following ways.
- 20-25 percent can be more productive offsite
- Remote workforce turnover may decrease by as much as 25 percent
- 85 percent of businesses employing remote workers identified productivity benefits
- 75 percent of remote workers say they experience fewer distractions
Surveys tend to point to either workers performing at a higher rate or requiring additional tools. But as an experienced supervisor knows, not all employees have the focus to remain on task without prompting. Fortunately, platforms such as Microsoft Teams deliver monitoring capabilities.
Administrators can review performance data and check in on the status of collaborative efforts, among other tools. Even trusted employees could get off track without responsible oversight.
2: Promote Meaningful Virtual Dialogue
One of the common failings stems from supervisors also feeling out of their element in a remote environment. Relying on sometimes impersonal emails and text messages can create an awkward disconnect between management and valued staff members. It may be worthwhile to consider setting up daily video conferencing.
This more personalized digital interaction can be leveraged to maintain a professional connection, reinforce company values and goals, among others. Platforms such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Face Time, and others, provide a group space to field questions and deliver the definition needed for tasks to be completed on time and without revision.
3: Equip & Educate Remote Workers
It’s an open secret that many employees were thrust into remote positions out of necessity. More than a few work-from-home strategies were pieced together with hodgepodge personal desktops, laptops, and residential-grade modems. Necessity may be the mother of invention, but significant business network vulnerabilities continue to be exposed. For telecommuters to successfully deter and defend against breaches, these and other cybersecurity resources may be overdue.
- Virtual Private Networks to hide remote workers from hackers
- Enterprise-level firewalls & antivirus software
- Cybersecurity education and training about Phishing and other scams
- Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) security
- Managed IT cybersecurity oversight
Business leaders would be well served to applaud the efforts of valued team members to pivot in the organization’s best interest. But, at no fault of their own, many remain ill-equipped to fend off cyber criminals who are leveraging their lack of education, training, and online vulnerabilities to get to your business network.
Little doubt exists that the health crisis disruption forced outfits to forge ahead and embrace remote capabilities. Telecommuting appears to be here to stay, and administrators are tasked with acclimating themselves into a space in which productivity, communication, and cybersecurity oversight may require innovative solutions.