Is it time for your business to plan its teleworking framework?

There's been a wide-scale and fundamental rethink about what's possible with remote working.
24 July 2020

Videoconferencing is a big part of the teleworking routine. Source: Shutterstock

  • Seeing the advantages first-hand means many businesses may be ready to adopt flexible working
  • Forward-thinking leaders must be ready to implement workable teleworking operations
  • Benefits include high productivity and a more diverse workforce

One of the (few) silver linings of the pandemic has been a wide-scale and fundamental rethink about what’s possible with remote working. Doubters have, for the most part, been pleasantly surprised by just how seamless the transition can be, thanks to the cloud-based tools and solutions we have now at our disposal.

In the thick of the pandemic, a KPMG study found that about half (54 percent) of workers said their productivity levels have increased. Not only have employees cut out their commute (which takes up close to an hour each day on average), they have full control over their working conditions, and fewer logistical concerns to worry about.

And while teleworking was an enforced necessity for business continuity amid lockdowns, many business leaders will be evaluating whether flexible working has staying power, having earned a new perspective on its other potential business benefits, which can include smaller, less central office footprints, and access to a wider pool of talent.

In fact, a survey by Gartner revealed 82% of company leaders now plan to allow employees to work remotely, at least some of the time, as we begin to return to the workplace. Another 43% of companies will grant employees flex days, and 42% will offer flexible working hours.

“The question now facing many organizations is not how to manage a remote workforce, but how to manage a more complex, hybrid workforce,” said Elisabeth Joyce, vice president of advisory in the Gartner HR practice.

“While remote work isn’t new, the degree of remote work moving forward will change how people work together to get their job done,” Joyce added.

While we are still in the earlier stages of the teleworking revolution, there are many signs that show teleworking will play a huge role in the future of the workplace. Looking forward, there are major considerations in the design of a teleworking framework for companies aiming to manage a hybrid workforce of remote and office employees.

Invest in tools, not space

The changing nature of work will directly impact office space. While we may see sanitizer stations, contactless technology and social distancing in the near term, the continued adoption of teleworking will see physical working space and functionality undergo a dramatic transformation.

In an extreme example, rents in San Francisco – which have for decades remained sky-high thanks to the proximity of Silicon Valley and limited space – finally dipped, as tech giants like Google, Facebook and Twitter ‘went remote’. With many of these firms deciding to keep flexible working policies in place, in doing so setting a precedent to others, we could see the movement of workers and part-time workspaces to lower cost areas on city peripheries. 

As we emerge from the pandemic, savvy business leaders will see that the need to invest in office space is becoming secondary to the need for talent and tools that enable productivity to take offBesides ensuring work continuity, investing in the right tools has helped sustain collaboration and connectivity, which moves us to the second point of ’employee engagement.’

Staying connected

Employee engagement is more crucial than ever as work teams and departments are separated beyond the physical boundaries of office space. Video conferencing has skyrocketed in the previous months as these essential tools help teams stay connected with face-time. Organizations will fare well by having a robust communication infrastructure and strategy in place to suit the different contexts and applications of interaction such as weekly matchups, team discussions, meeting with clients, and others.

As we enter a digital-first communication era, tech giants have been aggressive in releasing new features. Microsoft’s Teams recently announced the latest updates to make “virtual interactions more natural, more engaging, and ultimately, more human.” Meanwhile, Zoom has been focusing on ramping up its security features, as well as developing Hardware-as-a-Service, including a standalone 27-inch screen with wide-angle cameras in anticipation of an appetite for more robust, high quality videoconferencing features moving forward. 

Hiring and onboarding

Hiring and onboarding processes have become more complicated in the context of the pandemic. Even so, there are some benefits that can be seen, such as the simplification of scheduling interviews, which can save both employers and candidates time.

But remote working could also enable to companies to hire out of their ‘city limits’, allowing them potential to build a diverse workforce as their recruiters become ‘location-agnostic’.

“This is an opportune time, albeit one that was completely unforeseen, to truly create new systems that support diverse work spaces and cultures, by offering remote and hybrid options, developing anti-biased systems that allow talent vulnerable to ‘other-ism’ (ageism, sexism, sizeism, racism, etc.) an equal opportunity,” said Ericka Riggs, foundation and inclusion director at the Ad Club told Digiday.

“If there is a silver lining to come out of this tragedy, it will be that companies gain competitive advantages by intentionally rebuilding with the guiding principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion, which has been proven to drive greater outcomes for profit and for the culture.”

Hiring managers can also lean on new technology such as cognitive automation for a hand in optimizing the interview processes. Cognitive automation can also improve the onboarding process by automatically creating computer credentials such as Slack logins, business email accounts, and providing candidates with the necessary information for orientation.