By July last year, during the height of the first wave of COVID-19 infections, 44% of employees in the US worked from home. Meanwhile, more than half of respondents in a recent international survey stated they are working completely remotely. Ian McAlister, General Manager at CRS Technologies, believes this distributed environment will be part of the status quo for some time, necessitating companies to consider the wellbeing of their employees.
“Even though the temptation might be to rapidly adopt digital solutions in the move to enable people to remain productive during these uncertain times, the focus must be on a people-centric approach. When all is said and done, the business is only as good as its employees. Yes, technology is the key enabler, but the mental health of people is vital to ensuring the longevity of the organisation,” he says.
McAlister believes that this requires a mind shift from within the company. For example, where previously it might have focused on ergonomics in an office setting and what colour to paint the walls, now it is about creating a culture beyond the physical walls of the office building and urging people to buy into it. This stems from the value people see in the business and not just its physical building.
Change of culture
This change in culture forms the cornerstone of how successful the business will be in a distributed environment. Moreover, even traditional human resources processes can greatly benefit from a remote work culture.
“Moving paper-based processes such as leave applications, payslip distribution and the like to a digitised system introduces a level of automation that frees up human resources staff to focus on more strategic deliverables.”
McAlister adds that there are several considerations when it comes to creating this new culture. “Each employee must be aware of what the goal of the team is and how it aligns to the broader business strategy. They need to understand what each of their roles are in this regard and how they will be measured against these objectives. Central to this is continuous communication, especially when not all employees are in the office.”
For its part, CRS has introduced several processes to help ensure a smooth transition to a remote working environment: Firstly, it has put in place regular staff chats. “I make a point of speaking to every staff member at least once a week. This gives them a platform to talk and share personal experiences in a way they might not have been able to do in the past.”
“We also host phased meetings where small groups of people from the same department come in on successive Fridays to share insights and obtain information on the direction of the organisation. The company provides a finger lunch and drinks, which facilitates a social setting.”
According to McAlister, one of the most significant changes has been the move from performance appraisals to outcomes-based deliverables.
“This gives employees more responsibility for the decisions they need to make. While senior leadership is always available through digital means, the intention is to empower people to problem-solve for themselves and accept more responsibilities. Fundamentally, the work environment has changed. With more people fulfilling their roles from home, companies need to think differently about how they manage and keep in contact with those employees,” concludes McAlister.
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