The road back to normal after the coronavirus lockdown has passed is likely to be a tricky one. For one thing, a pandemic of this scale is unprecedented in modern times. Millions of people have been suddenly forced to work from home, even those who had never been in this situation before.
As economies and workplaces reopen, likely at half strength, it will be a cautious re-entry into territory that is no longer familiar to many. Plus, a large segment of the workforce may still remain furloughed, or reluctant to return to the physical workplace for several reasons, ranging from a fear of using public transport to a lack of childcare support and everything in between.
This begs the question, will people even want to come back to work in the post-pandemic universe?
As a business owner, you need to start thinking about how to address all these big questions now. Excluding industries and places where you actually have to show up for things to work, like in hospitality, manufacturing, salons and so on, businesses that can go remote should seriously consider doing so for the next year.
Steps companies can take to go completely remote
According to WFH strategy experts, it typically takes six to twelve weeks for a smooth transition from on-site to remote work even at the best of times. Thanks to the pandemic control measures, the time frame for that has changed to “immediately” for a lot of companies.
To adapt, organisations can study other organisations that are ahead of the WFH curve, particularly IT firms in Silicon Valley that have historically been cutting costs by having a percentage of their employees permanently WFH. They can also tap into consultants with expertise around networking and security that can help them transition their employee database to a more established, long-term WFH setup with software-driven solutions.
With a large segment of the workforce in WFH mode, companies will see savings in terms of real estate and overhead costs. Some of these funds can be diverted to help modify employees’ home office spaces and outfit them with good internet connectivity, desks and chairs, headphones, and PCs or laptops. The savings will have to be weighed against other expenses like new client meeting and acquisition costs or employee travel costs.
Support for WFH employees and avoiding disengagement
Employees will also need support to adjust to the idea of not being in an office and miss the camaraderie. For this, companies will have to address deeper issues and find solutions for online collective downtime, or occasional formal or informal meet-ups.
Companies will have to lay down policies about inclusion, call etiquette, avoiding gender stereotyping (for instance, women working from home face this risk) and a clear demarcation of WFH hours vs. time off. Virtual meetings should be inclusive, interactive and collaborative, just as they would be in a physical conference room. This is vital towards maintaining maximum transparency and clarity in communication.
Meetings should also be structured so that the available time is utilised most efficiently, and every attendee has a clear idea of what they are supposed to do after they hit the exit button. Employees working from home will have to play their part, and be at their proactive best. This is an honour system at best which will only work if everyone does their best.
All in all, companies that embrace their digital transformation and transit to this new work order have the best chances of surviving and maybe even thriving because it demonstrates the agility we’re all looking for right now.