Adapting to the Future of Work in a Remote Environment

Image credit: iStockphoto/nensuria

As governments worldwide, including Southeast Asia, mandated employees quarantine at home, companies launched the most massive remote workforce enablement experiment in the world. The move was driven by the desire to maintain business continuity, protect workers during a pandemic, proactively address ever-changing regional requirements, and remain committed to meeting customers’ evolving business needs.

For some companies, the move was relatively seamless due to their existing dispersed, digital workforce. Still, it was a series of trials for others, as they sought to rapidly enable remote workers while protecting staff, whose roles demand a continued physical presence.

All indications are that remote working, or a hybrid model that combines different forms of remote work with traditional on-site presence is here to stay.  Here are some shared insights, best practices, and tips from our journey at Vertiv to help you adjust to the “new normal” way of working.

Vertiv began the remote workforce enablement journey in 2018 and accelerated it dramatically this year due to the global pandemic. In our Vertiv offices across the region, including Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, and the Philippines, we triggered our business-continuity process. We implemented split teams, starting in late January, as a pre-emptive measure to keep our employees safe while ensuring that we could still maintain customer deliverables.

We got everyone comfortable using video conferencing and other digital collaboration tools, published guidelines for employees working at home, and provided guidance for managers to maintain morale and productivity.

Business continuity motivations drove our journey in 2018 and the desire to provide a better work-life experience that would create business flexibility, drive employee productivity, and retain workers in a competitive industry. These are the considerations that must guide the move to a new way of working.

Here are some tips to help your company better adapt to a new remote workforce environment.

Get business inputs on remote working. To make remote working your new standard, it is wise to get cross-functional input from various departments such as human resources (HR) and other business units. At Vertiv, HR business partners led this effort, conducting workshops, surveys, and business needs reviews.

Some key factors to consider:

●      Business and customer requirements

●      Nature of work to be performed and key roles

●      Regional cultures and processes

●      Required digital tools

●      Business continuity and security 

Move swiftly amidst changing conditions. You may have piloted working from home in one of your offices, but now you need to scale across your network, fast. Your HR team is best placed to roll out the new procedures, ensuring they comply with governmental mandates, making sure the employees are comfortable and have the necessary technology, and determining if the new procedures are clearly understood. As the new measures kick in, companies should set up a business continuity team to meet daily, discuss progress, address issues, and plan mission-critical work.

Communicate to employees with empathy. This change to working practices is momentous. Workers need time to adapt to new circumstances and processes, and they need reassurance that managers understand their challenges and be patient as they adapt. The leadership team must communicate early and often while being empathetic and transparent about process changes. 

Develop an employee value proposition. The health crisis may have initially driven remote workforce enablement, but it is now a valuable tool to help attract, develop, and retain employees for the long term. Vertiv views working from home as an essential recruitment and retention tool.

Create a remote workforce enablement toolkit. Standardizing enablement processes, such as onboarding, technology packages, and services, can help speed up enablement. Virtualized desktops enable one-to-many deployment that saves IT teams’ time and effort. To move fast, Vertiv let staff take their equipment home and accelerated our collaborative software deployment plan to equip everyone with the same productivity tools.

Ensure Business Continuity. Many companies have adopted cloud services, such as online backup, disaster recovery, and desktop as a service (DaaS) to create business continuity. Take the same approach with your staff.

Consider change management. Any significant change to work practices will have its share of resisters. That may include your management team that is accustomed to face-to-face contact with staff and customers. Develop a full-fledged change management and communications plan that considers the why, what, and how of remote work. Share new processes, controls, and desired outcomes, and report back on how incidents are resolved or how processes are being improved.

Plan for disruption. As workers adopt new tools and practices, there will be challenges. Managers, IT staff, and savvy team members can help solve technological issues. Creating new tip sheets, sharing best security practices, increasing service desk staff and hours, and communicating when issues such as connectivity challenges arise are ways technology issues will be resolved.

Treat workers equally. Most companies have staff who have presence-based roles, such as manufacturing line workers and managers, physical security teams, and delivery staff that cannot be virtualized. Create a one-company value proposition that expresses your concern about employee well-being and communicates what you are doing to include and value all workers equally.

Consider the whole person. Employees will have a challenging time balancing work and family. Conference calls with children’s voices and dogs barking are a part of the new normal. Show grace as the staff is adjusting. Managers should check in through one-on-one meetings with team members and drop corporate formality on video conferences to ease tension. Some companies have even set up virtual coffee and cocktail hours to build camaraderie.

While working from home, one of our basic needs as human beings is to be socially connected to others for a sense of belonging. When organizations reimagine the future of work, they will need to balance achieving business results through a remote workforce and maintaining a culture of connectivity and inclusion.

Provide flexibility. Companies will need to be ready to revisit remote workforce enablement. During the preliminary stages of remote working implementation, it would be counter-productive to make assumptions. Employees will typically have a variety of needs, which will have to be aligned against business needs.

The last critical point is that when we teach people to work from home, it is about the work activity and not the location.  Internal and external customers require interaction, and they deserve timely response and service. We strive to help employees adapt to the concept that “work is what I do, not where I am.”

Paul Churchill, vice president of Southeast Asia, Vertiv, authored this article.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of CDOTrends. Image credit: iStockphoto/nensuria