Do companies need a ‘Head of Remote’?

Jo Deal at LogMeIn agues that companies need specialist skills and resources to manage an increasingly hybrid workforce

The pandemic has proven employees’ ability to work from home and now, businesses across the country are putting permanent remote working strategies in place. This has meant a fundamental change in the ways of working for HR departments, managers, and leaders. The office is no longer the standard place for communication and there has been a huge shift towards using virtual channels in our day-to-day lives. Personally, as well as technically, much has changed.

A thought leader who specialises in remote work could now become the norm in HR departments, to carefully plan an environment where remote workers remain happy and feel supported.

New ways of working

Our recent research found that 61% of workers say they can get more done in an 8-hour workday when remote and 62% say they are happier when working remotely. That’s why 95% of our own employees will no longer come into the office for the full five-day working week. Employees across the globe have proven they can work from home successfully – a seemingly taboo subject prior to the pandemic.

Businesses now need to listen to their employees and implement new ways of working in line with demand. We are already seeing this happen, as almost all of the UK’s biggest employers have now confirmed that they do not plan to bring staff back into the office full-time. This means that those once temporary strategies we put in place during the pandemic need to evolve into permanent strategies that will ensure a productive and supported workforce.

Be spontaneous

With more and more employees working from home, they need to be able to stay in touch remotely. Businesses can still facilitate in person meet-ups, subject to local safety measures but if half of the team are nowhere near each other, then putting other practices in place can keep the human connections and team building.

Social events and trivia nights can be replicated virtually, and we’ve all experienced our fair share of video conference happy hours. One of the harder things to replicate is the spontaneous meetings that happen by chance in an office, however with a little planning, you can simulate the unplanned.

When you leave a physical meeting room, you may bump into someone coming in and this can be replicated using online meetings and opening the “virtual hallway” so that people bump into each other for a quick chat. You can create a video room at 10am or 3pm every day and encourage the morning coffee crowd who used to head to the kitchen at that time, to pop in with their mug and say hi to those they used to chat with while the kettle was boiling. Employees can drop by when they have time, need a break, or want to catch up with a few colleagues.

In this way, the watercooler moments characteristic of the physical office environment is still maintained.

Get personal

Since the pandemic began, people have gained more than a glimpse into the personal lives of their colleagues – and this is a positive. Backgrounds such as book walls, decorations, or family members give employees new insights into their team members. Getting to know each other on a more personal level than the job they do helps forge new connections: What books do they read? What art do they like? How many dogs do they have?

These often-candid child and pet filled moments have brought humour and personality into our work lives at a time when we needed it most and has, arguably, been one of the greatest bright spots of the lockdown. We need to find ways to continue this going forward helping build out a tightknit community of employees who know and support each other, no matter whether they’ve met face to face or not.

The value of empathy

A successful business has its employees at its core. The understanding that both the mental and physical wellbeing of staff is important can only bring benefits to the business and its culture. The stress on both our personal and professional lives has left many feeling pushed to the limit at time. The combined effect of home-schooling, isolation from friends and the care of extended family members has meant we’ve missed out on a lot, with little or no compensation. A few words of support from our manager can go a long way to letting us know we are not alone.

Emotional Intelligence (EQ) levels differ from person to person, but when times were tough, comforting messages from employees and managers helped us get through uncertain times. Not every manager is skilled in the areas of empathy and flexibility; providing training in these critical skills for your managers will help build the resilience and adaptability we all need and prevent burnout and drop out.

Planning for a competitive advantage

Over the past 18 months we have all managed to work remotely, but to do it well, it took time, planning, and conscious effort. As we now move into a flexible more hybrid set up, with a blend of some employees being fully remote and others being part time in the office, the role of a head of remote takes on new significance.

It may not have felt easy at the time, but we were all in the same remote boat. Now, we have a blended situation. We need to ensure that companies cater to all employees, giving them the flexibility they want without any penalty or career consequence. Someone needs to champion the planning, putting HR programs such as hiring and promotions through a new “hybrid remote” filter, re-evaluating benefits that matter in this new age of flexibility and helping leaders focus on outcomes – not hours in the office.

The companies that invest in this role and consciously plan around a hybrid environment will create a flexible environment where all their employees can thrive. They will become the employers of choice for a labour force that has declared a strong preference for a flexible work life

Jo Deal is Chief Human Resources Officer at LogMeIn

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© Business Reporter 2021

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