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Remote Work  - Is It Right for Your Houston Business?

Remote-worker

The Realities of a Remote Work Force for

Small to Mid-sized Businesses

 

There is no litmus test that will definitively say a remote workforce is the best solution for your business. But there are new realities that need to be factored into people decisions. The effect of the global pandemic shocked the work environment in a short period of time forcing business leaders to pivot and arrange for vast numbers of non-essential workers to work remotely during 2020 and 2021. Now in 2022, although many offices have re-opened, we see a trend for eligible employees to choose the work from home set up. Read more here in a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research: NBER Digest Article on Remote Workers

But is it a reality for your business to offer remote work? We at Achilles Group have found with small to mid-sized businesses in Houston, that the answer is a gray area. There are concerns about balancing the productivity and the collaboration needed to spark and build ideas with a trending preference of employees wanting a flexible schedule and/or work environment. This was recently highlighted by Elon Musk’s announcement in May expecting employees to return to the office for at least 40+ hours to develop product as a team. Read more here:  NBC Article - Elon Musk Staff Back at Office .To strike that delicate balance of business output with keeping top talent, a hybrid approach may be your answer and allow your businesses to remain competitive and at the same time give the flexibility employees are looking for.

As Achilles Group engages with small to mid-sized companies in the large metroplex of Houston, Texas, we interact with a wide variety of businesses sizes, industries, and workforce dynamics. And we have seen that the most effective design and implementation of a hybrid work model involves the right type of tasks and set up, a mature, self-disciplined work ethic by the remote worker, and careful goal management by leadership.

  • Workload that can be performed out of the office requires technology i.e., hardware, software, internet connectivity, and cyber security as well as proper space that is conducive to focused virtual conversations (away from pets barking or loud noises from kids) and a laptop and materials on a desk type surface (not lounging on a sofa or bed).
  • Not all employees are able to work independently – it takes a strong work ethic to be open with what they are doing, where they are, and when they are available.
  • Agreements with specific guidelines are recommended to set expectations on how remote work is to be conducted such as keeping cameras on for virtual meetings, setting core business hours of work and availability, being flexible to travel to the office if necessary, and making appropriate dependent care arrangements during work-from-home periods.
  • Goals must be set, communicated, and measured from top leadership through the manager and team lead levels. Actively managing goals involves knowing what people are working on and where they are in reaching the desired outcomes, encouraging employees’ strengths, and offering help if needed – not micromanaging, expecting agendas for a remote employee’s every moment of their day.

How can leaders make coming to the office an attractive option and keep a positive company culture for remote workers? Not everyone is comfortable with the “come in or else” directive in Elon Musk’s example. One CEO we work with decided to lead by example and showed up at the office everyday once it reopened. To promote a positive in-office culture and collaboration, he encouraged and rewarded those returning to the office with spontaneously buying ice cream for the office, planning social hours off-site, and even conducted a fun “hackathon” party with dinner provided. When employees noticed that the leader was present, and a positive culture was reinforcing in office connectivity, more employees started to show up organically – no ultimatums necessary. In addition to making the office a positive experience, it is important to not require in office presence if your employees will only be on a Teams or Zoom call all day long. These items can easily be done at home and employees may develop negative feelings if just coming into the office to be “in the chair”.

If you do have employees working from a remote setting (even in the hybrid model), it is also important to promote a culture that is positive. Recognition goes a long way. Making time for one-to-one check ins, using digital rewards and recognition to highlight accomplishments, incorporating a “kudos” section in meetings for team members to recognize each other, and allowing a few minutes of relaxed chat time before virtual meetings are ways your managers can keep that connection and engagement going.

Although there is no one size fits all for companies, the broad concept communicated by eligible workers today is that they want flexibility and choice – they want you, their leader, to be empathetic to life happening. And since this is impacting key resource attraction and retention, being open to a hybrid work model where expectations are clear, and communication is abundant, amplifies your success of productivity to stay competitive and ultimately profitable.

 

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