The Challenges of Remote Work for Employers

Companies have offered workers the chance to work remotely for many years, but only under specific circumstances. During the COVID-19 pandemic, remote work became the only way many businesses could continue to operate, so they did their best to adjust to it in the short term. For that brief period, 71% of workers were working from home at least part of the time. Now that most lockdown measures have been lifted, business owners have a new challenge: determining if they will continue to allow staff to work remotely and, if so, how they move forward addressing all the challenges of remote work.

Why Offer Remote Work as an Option?

We are all much more familiar with the in-person work dynamic, and our society is set up to accommodate it, so why would business owners continue to let their employees work from home? There are many reasons, but the largest is that many workers prefer it. More than 50% of workers surveyed want to keep working remotely. Working from home allows them more flexibility, more time with their families, and less time commuting. They can avoid negative work dynamics between coworkers, micromanaging supervisors, and other unpleasant aspects of corporate life.

There are benefits for companies too, the most obvious being cost savings on rent, electricity, and building maintenance. Workers may be more satisfied with their jobs, and productivity has not dropped.

Challenges of Remote Work

There are very challenges of remote work for employers, though. It requires a major transformation of workplace communication, employee management, policies and procedures, and labor legalities.

The first big challenge is management. How do you manage people who aren’t in the building? Ever? Workers may be just as productive working from home, but that does not mean that all labor management can be thrown out. Workers need to have set goals, understand those goals as well as their individual tasks, and be held accountable for meeting them. It is harder to onboard new employees when there is no one for them to meet. It is harder to train people in their tasks using screen shares. Building team camaraderie is exceedingly difficult when people do not spend time together in proximity.

Time tracking, project management tools, and audit trails, as well as regular check-in meetings, either one-on-one or group, can help mitigate the challenges. However, many employers may decide that it is impossible to allow 100% remote work and require some in-person work, even if it is just for training and team building. If this is the case, employers will want to make clear their policies on remote work and enforce those policies for all their employees, so that dissatisfaction or jealousies do not crop up among their workforce based on who is allowed to work remotely.

Communication is another large challenge employers face. It can be difficult to establish effective communication between employees or between management and employees when everyone works together in the same space. There are communication tools available like Zoom and Skype or Discord that allow for the free flow of communication and ideas. It still can be hard to correctly read the intent or mood behind an email or a message. Management must take communication seriously and do whatever they can to encourage employees to discuss the concerns they have when they come up.

Embracing remote workers can allow employers to cast their net more widely for employees with the skills or abilities they are seeking. Still, recruitment and retention have proven to be challenging even when workers have the flexibility to work from home. Workers are demanding better pay and benefits and expecting that, since the company has reduced its costs, it can funnel that savings into their employees. When that does not happen, they look elsewhere for opportunities.

Many people will stay in a job, even a job they do not love because of the relationships they have made at work or out of loyalty to a company that has invested in developing a rewarding work culture. Remember that workers, less visible ones, respond to incentives, and get creative with rewards – both material and otherwise – when you can.

 

If you do look abroad or across the country for new candidates, be aware of cultural differences about work and vet your employees carefully, especially if you will never meet them in person. It can be surprisingly difficult and expensive to fire an unsatisfactory employee, remote or otherwise.

 

Finally, it can be confusing for companies to successfully navigate the legalities around remote work. Be careful in classifying your employees. Just because they are not working on site does not make them independent contractors. If you have questions about employee classification, consult an attorney. You do not want to risk a penalty or, worse, having your business closed because you did not follow the law correctly.

 

There are many challenges involved with offering your employees the chance to work remotely, but that does not mean it is not worth doing. The secret to success with these recent changes are the same as with other areas of business management: effective leadership, effective communication, and creating and following policies and procedures. Approximately four out of five business owners in one survey said they intended to continue offering remote work, either fully or partially, in the post-COVID landscape, so you will not be alone if you make the same choice.

 

Over time new ways of surmounting these challenges will be discovered, and we will look back on this shift in contemporary work as being natural and inevitable. Until then, if you need practical help with this or any other business concern, Prometis Partners is here to help. Call us any time. We would love to brainstorm solutions together with you and help you achieve your goals for your business.

 

 

 

Vincent Mastrovito

Vincent Mastrovito

[email protected]
(616) 622-3070
250 Monroe Ave. NW, Suite 400 
Grand Rapids, MI, 49503

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