Although catapulted to new heights by COVID-19, remote work was on the rise even before the pandemic. In 2019, a Zapier report revealed that 95% of U.S. workers desired to work remotely and that 74% were even willing to quit their job in order to do so. At the time, reduced commuting costs, flexible locations, and more time with family were enticing to workers. Now, many of these reasons still hold true today—just with health and safety precautions taking priority.
While a portion of leading employers did embrace the concept before the pandemic, the majority did not. It wasn’t until COVID-19 forced nearly the entirety of U.S. office workers––95% to be exact, according to Global Workplace Analytics––to become regular telecommuters practically overnight. Now, more than a year into the pandemic, there’s no denying that the rise in remote work has fundamentally reshaped the future of where, when, and how people work.
To keep up with the new normal, an uptick in the use of analytics has been a key driver for many HR teams. Workforce analytics have long been used to improve internal processes and compliance, boost employee productivity and performance, and uncover trends and opportunities for improvements. And while they still aim to do all that, thanks to the rise of remote work, there are new ways to go about it.
Here are a few new ways analytics are now being used as a result of the rise of remote work:
1. To Evaluate the Value of the Office
With the pandemic challenging the conventional standard of the physical workplace being a necessity, more and more employers are now taking a deeper look at analytics to uncover the true value of their office spaces. While cost-saving benefits—such as foregoing rent payments—come top of mind when thinking of abolishing office spaces, analytics play a large part in delivering insights that illustrate how the office affects productivity, performance, and employee engagement. Leading HR teams are using analytics to better understand the impact of their physical workplaces and how they correlate to the success of their organization. If you’re weighing options on what your workforce will look like if you don’t head back to your HQ, analytics may help you identify whether the office factually contributes to goal achievement, collaboration, and innovation or if that can be achieved from virtually anywhere.
2. To Support Company Culture
A top concern of many HR leaders is that virtual work hinders culture and connectivity. With many physical workplaces designed to promote collaboration with a team atmosphere, there are questions about what the loss of the physical workplace will mean for continuing company culture. This leaves leaders challenged with how to replicate in-person mentoring and development in a virtual setting. There are no easy answers, but an analytical approach that explores collaboration, performance, and productivity data has been helping organizations give HR leaders a better understanding of what areas matter most for building strategies that go beyond traditional office walls.
3. To Create Customized Employee Experiences
Since the rise of remote work, more HR leaders are now using technology to monitor employee engagement and well-being to understand employee experience. There’s a greater emphasis on ensuring a positive employee experience, as the shift to remote work affects all employees differently, and HR leaders aim to accommodate them all. Leading HR teams recognize that not all employees are experiencing virtual work the same way and are beginning to plan accordingly. To combat this, many organizations began using analytical data to assess ways to increase engagement, experience, and productivity in the new reality. Analytics provide key insights for improving employee experience by identifying how and why people are engaged with what they do, how that translates into the business metrics, and what companies can do for each individual employee to not only retain them but also maximize their value.
4. To Increase Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Strategies
With the forthcoming environment of conversation––that is, social media––race, ethnicity, and gender have become influential topics of awareness. Over the last few years, topics like these have become a cornerstone for the recruitment and hiring process. And with remote work creating an open opportunity for a workforce overhaul, HR leaders are taking advantage by revitalizing ideals of staff and the workplace using analytics. Many companies are introducing and prioritizing diversity and inclusion strategies with the help of analytics, tapping into data to determine employees who are isolated or have less access to leadership. These insights could give organizations the chance to hear diverse perspectives and make better decisions around developing talent and recruiting new hires.
Global Workplace Analytics predicts that by the end of 2021, we will see 25%–30% of the workforce working at home on a multiple-days-a-week basis, with those who were working remotely before the pandemic increasing their frequency and a significant upswing in the adoption of remote work for those who were new to it until COVID-19 struck. However, even after the pandemic subsides, the remote working world will remain, with a recent McKinsey & Co. survey showing that by 2025, there will be a shift to remote work or hybrid remote workforces and a growing reliance on analytics tools to manage the workforce and other key functions. The time is now for HR leaders to explore how to best manage and develop their workforces moving forward—and they’ll likely find analytics have the answers.