As we transition into a post-COVID world, business leaders are rethinking their long term operations. Even with the easing of lockdown restrictions and the growing number of vaccinations, both of which enable businesses to reopen their shared spaces, there is set to be a significant number of employee roles that remain remote. This is because the previous year has demonstrated that, among numerous financial and environmental benefits, productivity also has the potential to increase.
It is estimated that at least 26% of the UK’s workforce intend to continuing working remotely to some degree with, interestingly, over 65% stating that they believe they are more productive. This runs contrary to what some may have previously assumed. Not only is it a particularly high percentage but, as technology began supporting teleworking positions before the pandemic, some public figures, such as Lord Alan Sugar, previously spread the opinion that working from home would ultimately be detrimental to productivity. Two-thirds of employers in 2020 saw the opposite occur.
The ability of businesses to transition into the new normal, however, it is not without challenges. In fact, while there are many potential benefits to remote working, they are not automatic. Management techniques and employee personalities that, previously, have performed exceptionally well may not have the same benefit within a remote workplace. What worked previously may now be problematic.
The Right Personality
Speaking to payroll services experts on the subject of working within the new normal, People Group Services, Albert Ellis describes his belief that “the trust factor is now enormous.” As office spaces become office networks and teams become veiled behind screens and software, a new approach is required. We cannot assume that previously established rules and qualities transfer to this new environment. Working relationships are now a fundamental of good business. Ellis adds, “How do you penetrate the wall of a virtual networking situation when you don’t have integrity, trust, and relationships?”
Those managing employees must now lead in different ways. Characteristics like autonomy and self-motivation are more important for staff who can no longer be overseen in such close proximity, however, both high and low levels of autonomy require consideration. For example, a dependent employee may require more guidance and structure, but highly independent remote workers have more difficulty switching off, leading them to work longer hours and risk burning out.
The Right Leadership
A greater understanding of each employee’s circumstances is also required. No longer do teams operate on even ground and effective management necessitates recognising the individual working scenario of employees. Factors such as childcare, professional space limitations, and mental health, are certain to be much different for each person, requiring different considerations and management.
Without this extra consideration, Albert Ellis tells of the mental health consequences employees may encounter. “They might wake up on a Monday morning, having had a hard weekend, and not feel that contact”, Ellis notes, which transforms professional life into “a grind.”
The New Normal
Motivating a team, even within a shared working space, is not as easy as you might expect. Previously, 78% of employees claimed they would not work significantly harder for a 10% bonus. We might expect financial motivators or the promise of job security to be influential factors and, while they remain important for employees, they are not as critical as we may be inclined to believe.
The new normal, that of working from home or professional flexibility, demonstrates that fundamental qualities of professional life are often far more important and that our professional desires are different. In deciding to adopt a remote working workforce, you are taking on these essential new supporting factors. Management, if it wishes to gain the benefits of increased productivity, must move away from a one-size-fits-all approach, adopting a personal, considered approach instead.