Jason Jones is a managing principal who oversees the Remote Advisory Services service line at Cresa.
With many associations able to return to offices later this year, it will be crucial to create a workforce strategy that takes advantage of both remote and in-person opportunities. A carefully crafted approach can improve employee engagement, productivity, and financial results.
When the COVID-19 health crisis first hit, the number-one issue of the day was survival. The lightning quick shift to remote work forced companies to develop short-term tactics that are not optimized for long-term balance and sustainability—especially for a future workforce that will split its time between home and the office.
With several more months of health concerns ahead, forward-thinking organizations are making the most of this time to prepare for a new workplace paradigm. Visionary leaders are looking over the horizon, post-COVID, for how to integrate what they have learned about remote work into a balanced and sustainable workforce strategy that supports workers no matter where they are. This is an opportunity to use both remote work and the central office to better compete for talent and accelerate performance of the organization. We call this new paradigm “Workplace 2.0.”
An important step in creating Workplace 2.0 is to develop a workforce strategy that incorporates remote work as a key component. This is a logical precursor to designing office space and developing a complementary real estate strategy. Cresa has developed a roadmap to help organizations navigate this journey. The roadmap evaluates several critical requirements of a successful workforce strategy. Here are five of the most important elements:
Job roles suitable or convertible to remote work. Organizations must determine the degree of remote-work suitability for each job. How is work performed? How long, and how often are intra-team and inter-team interactions? In addition to existing ways of working, there are many processes that can be converted from analog processes to virtual processes to facilitate remote working. Look for software that helps automate or digitize legacy workflows.
Forward-thinking leaders … know they soon will have a significant opportunity to launch their vision for exciting new ways of working that leverage the advantages of remote work while maintaining the benefits of a shared office.
Personal aptitude for remote work. Not everyone in a job suitable for remote work is also a good personal fit for remote work. This is a struggle for both the manager and the employee. Many people do not have the temperament or desire to work remotely. Psychologists have studied traits that help the employee and manager better understand their aptitude for working remotely. Coupled with training, personnel assessments help the employee and manager work together more effectively.
Technology. The technologies that enable remote work can be broken into four areas: communications (e.g., network, voice, collaboration), performance management, document management, and cybersecurity. The key is to get each of these working together seamlessly. For example, voice, video, and collaboration tools can be combined through modern unified communications platforms that allow employees to work with minimal friction while moving between software applications. Performance management software tracks key performance indicators set by employees and managers. This provides critical feedback to both employees and managers on how well each is meeting expectations and producing output. Document management allows organizations an accessible repository of digital files and a methodology for controlling how documents are shared and stored. Cybersecurity threats are elevated when operating outside the protective fold of the local area network. Nefarious actors are increasing their attacks through home gaming systems and other household equipment. The efficacy of each component is maximized when integrated with the others.
Physical space. Perhaps counterintuitive, physical space is a key element of a holistic workforce strategy that leverages remote work. Organizations will better compete when leveraging a shared, central office to provide a place for employees to gather for creativity, relationship-building, mentoring, and serendipitous conversations that only occur in-person. Workplace 2.0 is a network of flexible, convenient, and on-demand spaces that allow freedom of movement and require purposeful collaboration, whether in-person or through digital mediums. Leaders must now be purposeful about their frequency and method of collaboration, and physical space provides a time-tested tool, which should be designed to support the workforce strategy.
Leadership. Leadership drives culture and communication—and pulls the organization forward to its vision. Workforce strategies that incorporate remote work must embrace a culture of trust, and leaders must take the first step to trust employees to accomplish their work, as well as communicate their trust so employees feel it. In addition, leaders should communicate both high-level mission and specific details freely, often, and with candor. Employees must know what is expected and how they are performing relative to goals. This is how they feel valued, which increases employee engagement and leads to a host of benefits, such as lower absenteeism, reduced turnover, and higher customer lifetime value.
Forward-thinking leaders are preparing for the day when health concerns no longer restrict where employees work. They know they soon will have a significant opportunity to launch their vision for exciting new ways of working that leverage the advantages of remote work while maintaining the benefits of a shared office. To avoid being caught flat-footed or rushed to approve plans, they must use this time wisely to evaluate new workforce strategies and study the wide-ranging ramifications. Ultimately, their visionary workforce strategy will maximize productivity, facilitate recruitment and retention of talent, improve financial results, and increase the diversity of their workforce.