At the start of the pandemic, 88% of organizations encouraged or required employees to work from home as a temporary safety measure. Now, one year later, remote work continues to reshape the way many businesses operate. For those that have proven success despite new working conditions, long-term work from home (WFH) arrangements are becoming the standard.
As an estimated 70% of the workforce will still work remotely at least five days per month in 2025, companies should evaluate whether they have a long-term plan for remote work. If you haven’t already, consider revising your WFH policies and exploring ways to help employees during these unprecedented times.
Read on to learn how you can better support your teams as they adjust to long-term remote work arrangements.
Establish a Digital Support Structure
In-person conferences and classes are quickly becoming a thing of the past as more companies allow employees to work from home. However, continuing education (CE) programs are sensible investments that benefit both employers and employees as they can help teams expand their existing skill sets, learn new skills, and collaborate in a safe and socially-distant environment. Offering these resources can also encourage growth, development, and knowledge sharing among teams.
Fortunately, many of the same continuing education resources that were once offered in the office are available online. To support career advancement, consider offering a media library of resources like webinars, CE classes, and certificates that employees can complete on their own time. Establishing a content catalogue of learning materials will grant employees the opportunity to learn at a pace that is comfortable for them.
Help Create a Productive Work Environment
When employees first made the transition to working from home, many took swift action by turning guest bedrooms, basements, and even closets into temporary workspaces. As more permanent work from home accommodations come into play, managers should encourage employees to create a more established workspace that is free from normal home life distractions. Having this space can help employees stay focused on their work and mentally separate personal and professional responsibilities.
Working from home long-term will also require that they have all of the necessary equipment to perform their jobs. As an employer, it’s your responsibility to ensure your employees have what they need. To help offset these costs, some companies have offered home-office stipends to reimburse employees for equipment, like monitors, desks, and other work-related tools for their home office space. These may either be lump sum payments or allowances provided on a monthly, quarterly, or annual basis.
Manage Employee Relocation Requests
Whether for personal reasons or out of necessity, almost one fifth of U.S. adults have either relocated or know someone else who relocated due to COVID-19. For instance, many employees are taking advantage of long-term remote work accommodations to move to more spacious, comfortable, or affordable areas. When approaching relocation requests, you should communicate openly with employees, especially if their move will result in a change in salary. You should also discuss your company’s plans for eventually returning to the workplace.
As many employees have experienced the mental and financial impacts of COVID-19, you may want to explore ways to help them alleviate the cost and stress of moving. For instance, you could offer a relocation package that provides reimbursement for moving expenses. You can also support employees who are looking to move by offering home buying and selling advice and sharing financial resources. Although you may not be able to monetarily assist in the move, connecting them with a reputable realtor or suggesting that they look into the qualifications for an FHA Loan, which allow for a smaller upfront payment as opposed to other conventional loans, can help make relocation manageable and more affordable during uncertain times.
Foster a People-Focused Culture
Regardless of whether they’re in the office or working from home, employees perform their best when they feel supported and heard by leadership. Creating a two-way dialogue is essential for maintaining an open and transparent culture within your organization as employees not only grapple with the impacts of COVID-19 but also their day-to-day work concerns. Remember, your employees are your greatest assets. Understanding and addressing their needs is one way you can show that you care, and help them realize their value at the company.
Empathy goes a long way in the workplace, especially as employees learn to balance competing responsibilities. Be sure to listen to your team’s needs and make reasonable accommodations, whether they have a family to support or personal matters that may conflict with work. Encourage your employees to address any personal hardships and leverage your company’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) to resolve issues that may be adversely affecting their ability to work.
Promote Wellness at Home
Most companies already know that happy and healthy employees are more productive, but what they may not have considered is how they can best help remote workers maintain their health at home. The pandemic introduced a host of new stressors, such as financial strain, childcare concerns, feelings of isolation, and work fatigue, which can all hinder an employee’s ability to work effectively.
Luckily, there are several ways you can encourage employees to prioritize their wellbeing, regardless of their location. For instance, you can reward extra time off, host a virtual corporate wellness challenge, or provide stress management resources like meditation apps or virtual workshops. You should also provide employees with non-work related ways to interact with one another like collaboration platforms and virtual happy hours. If you’re unsure of what benefits your employees may need, consider conducting a wellness survey, so you can better understand where you need to focus your time and resources.
As companies continue to adopt new ways to operate, they will also need to consider how they can support employees through the transition to full-time remote work. Use this list as a starting point to help ease the process.