The number of organisations moving towards a remote workforce has increased at a steady pace over the years leading up to 2020 and this trend is certainly showing no signs of slowing down, with working from home rising rapidly as a consequence of the Covid
–19 outbreak. What was deemed a temporary solution for many organisations is now looking to be a more permanent reality for large segments of the workforce who realise they do not need to be on-site to perform their daily work tasks.
Recent studies have shown that the majority of employees largely enjoy the flexibility of remote work and are performing effectively, despite some of the challenges it presents. There are also clear organisational benefits, including cost savings, being able to select from a broader talent pool and increased productivity. Indeed, according to Global Workplace Analytics, over two thirds of organisations are seeing an increase in productivity from remote workers.
With remote work only continuing to increase in popularity amongst employees and organisations, it is also important that employers realise it is not for everyone and enabling success entails much more than simply propping employees up with the right technology and infrastructure. It will no longer be enough to hire someone based on the required role, specific skills and experience. Employers will also need to make conscious decisions when recruiting and upskilling people to ensure that they have the workforce attributes required to succeed and contribute to the organisation’s performance from a distance.
So, what skills, characteristics and behaviours should be considered when hiring new employees and developing existing ones in the context of working from home? Below are the top five personal attributes that should be sought or developed when building a remote workforce:
Communicating effectively is often something employees at all levels find challenging at the best of times – and remote communication adds an additional level of complexity. Sharing ideas, updates, and information, whilst also setting expectations are critical tasks in many scattered teams, that depend upon clear and consistent messaging and interaction. With many organisations embracing multi-channel communication, remote workers need to identify the most appropriate platform to convey their message, as well as doing so in alignment with relevant norms or guidelines and establishing an effective cadence of contact.
On top of being a strong communicator, a remote worker must be able to develop meaningful relationships – virtually, with colleagues and customers who they might never get the opportunity to meet in a face-to-face environment. Beyond being naturally adept at establishing a rapport with a wide variety of other people, this entails being proactive about reaching out to and intentionally connecting with others.
Working independently and comfortably determining how best to complete a given task, with limited direction, is vital. Remote workers often need to be able to solve problems and track down needed resources without relying on constant support. Individuals who thrive on autonomy tend to handle these situations more effectively.
Being self-disciplined is also essential for the home worker, who does not have their manager there to ensure they are accomplishing everything expected of them and remaining productive throughout the whole workday. They can prioritise their own workload and take responsibility for their own learning and development. Such individuals are better suited to self-motivation when it comes to reaching goals and performance standards.
Lastly, it is important that employees are able to manage their own emotions to relieve stress, empathise with others and overcome challenges that occur in and out of their professional environment. This will not only create a more positive experience for individuals who work remotely, but also have a constructive impact on those they work with closely throughout the day. Emotions can just as easily spread through virtual teams as physical groups, so being able to mitigate the effects of negative ones and generate positivity are key skills.
These attributes are critical for remote employment success because they also enable the workers to mitigate two of the most concerning risk factors – loneliness and burnout. Individuals who are effective communicators, autonomous and proactive about building and maintaining relationships, are better able to cope with and resist feelings of isolation.
Self-disciplined employees are more effective at setting and keeping to a routine that enables them to not only complete their work on time, but also sign off at the end of the day – a key attribute, as many remote staff struggle to disconnect from their job. Maintaining a productive and healthy routine is an effective method for guarding against burnout.
Lastly, strong emotional intelligence, including awareness of and the ability to manage one’s own emotions, is critical in the defence against both loneliness and burnout.
In conclusion, to be in a stronger position to unlock people potential in a remote work environment efficiently, I believe HR leaders should follow this checklist:
- Assess for the five key attributes when hiring remote workers
- Build the attributes into development plans of existing employees
- Ensure the infrastructure for effective communication is in place with appropriate channels, then set clear expectations
- Keep teams small to allow members to develop strong relationships and a sense of belonging
Following these guidelines will not only set an organisation up for successful home working, but also tend to the health and wellbeing of its staff. This is an opportunity for companies to begin adapting to the future of employment and reap the benefits of properly managed distanced teams. Remote work is on the rise; those who recognise this and leverage it effectively will undoubtably have the edge on competitors.
Jenny Merry, Market Leader for UK, Ireland and France at Kincentric