As companies grapple with COVID-19 and the impact it is having on the workforce, we are learning that a growing trend previously viewed as a benefit is now becoming a requirement as employers scramble to implement work from home policies and technology requirements. 

One of the biggest workplace trends as we enter the new decade will be increasing remote work opportunities.  As of last year, 69% of employers surveyed by the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) reported that they offer some sort of work from home arrangements. Not only is the sheer number of work-from-home opportunities increasing year over year, but a larger variety of positions are being transitioned to include remote capabilities.

Common positions that have added remote capabilities include:

  • Administrative
  • Data entry
  • Project Management
  • Customer Service
  • Information Technology
  • Consulting
  • Accounting and Finance
  • Marketing

Employees who work from home report having a better work-life balance saw increased productivity and focus, and report feeling less work-related stress. According to a survey by Robert Half, 77% of workers said that they would be more likely to accept a job if it offered the ability to work from home.

Remote work is not a passing trend. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the share of Americans working from home rose from 3.3% in 2000 to 5.4% in 2018. Worldwide, 70% of employees work remotely at least once a week.

As many companies continue to replace full-time staffers with freelancers and remote employees, others are concerned that such practices are greatly affecting culture and connectivity. Some pitfalls to be aware of include:

  • Employees may lose a social connection to their coworkers. Socializing is important to building trust and support in the workplace. Working from home removes interpersonal collaboration and socialization. This can equate to feelings of isolation.
  • Employees may experience issues with work and personal boundaries. For example, parents or pet owners may be forced to transition between their personal roles and professional roles throughout the day when working from home. This can cause disruptions to work flow.
  • Employees may struggle with creativity. According to the Harvard Business Review, “a creative work life requires social relationships and serendipitous interactions.” Bursts of creative problem solving often result from daily interactions that may not occur if workers are not physically sharing space.

There are steps organizations can take to maintain their company culture and uphold interpersonal relationships while transitioning positions to include remote capabilities. First leaders should determine what kind of culture they want to create. From there, employers should review the day- to-day agenda of each role in the company to determine which roles would be suitable for remote options. Next employers should survey the physical and technological needs of each department in order to catalog changes, upgrades, costs, and security risks that would be required to allow work-from-home access.

By setting remote workers up with the right tools, creating a culture of appreciation, modeling expected behavior, and scheduling regular in-person check-ins, organizations can foster a healthy remote environment.

Kim Wylam
President, Managing Partner
Digital graph, data analysis
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