HR Management & Compliance, Talent

Are All Staff Ready for Permanent Remote Work?

COVID-19 has led to companies shifting millions of workers to remote work. What initially seemed like a temporary necessity has slowly transformed into a long-term strategy for many organizations.

izusek / E+ / Getty Images

Across the country, companies are reevaluating their work-from-home policies, and many are even downsizing their commercial real estate footprint as they plan to shift to permanent remote work or some kind of hybrid of the old and the new normals.

Benefits of Remote Work

By and large, companies have been pleased with the results of the forced remote work experiment. For decades, companies have resisted calls for greater use of work-from-home policies, fearing that staff will slack off without the manager’s watchful eye or that teams will struggle to work together effectively.

But nearly a year into widespread remote work, companies’ worst fears have not been realized, and their willingness to part with some of their commercial real estate is just one example of how they are coming to appreciate remote work.

But what about employees themselves? The ability to work from home or from anywhere in the country or around the world has been a dream of many employees for years, but it’s not a universal dream.

Some workers have always preferred coming into the office, while others have found that their experience with remote work has not lived up to their expectations. Still other employees—and their managers—may have found that they simply aren’t as effective at their jobs when working remotely.

Considering Individual Employee Work Preferences

When considering their long-term solution for remote versus in-office working arrangements, companies need to consider these crucial differences in employee preferences and abilities. A general rule for companies to follow should be to evaluate each employee individually where possible. Get an idea of their preferences, and evaluate their performance both in-office and remotely.

At least for most current employees, employers should have ample data to make that evaluation. With new employees, that task may be a bit more difficult, as they may not have had a chance to work in-office before being hired; however, recruiters and managers can try to get a sense of their aptitude for remote work through direct questions and behavioral interviews.

Additionally, the position an employee fills is important. Some jobs just aren’t a good fit for remote work. Even if an employee prefers that option and has demonstrated the ability to be an effective worker in that environment, the position itself may require being in the office. This could be due to specific equipment or infrastructure needs or the dynamics of a team.

No One-Size-Fits-All Solution

It’s easy for companies and employees to look back at the last several months and assume the future is remote work. While the future might look like that for some, it’s overly simplistic to assume it’s the answer for all employees at all companies. Managers and HR teams need to consider individual situations, as well as the needs of specific positions.

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