By Katy Macek
We are still learning the long-term effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the remote work trend will stick around, and some think it could alter the workforce landscape — for the better.
The rise of remote work started as a necessity for most office jobs back in March 2020. Upwork’s “Future of Workforce Pulse Report” estimates an 87% increase of remote work from pre- pandemic levels by 2025. A Gartner, Inc.,
survey found that 74% of CFOs expect to permanently shift some employees to remote after the pandemic. Companies such as Twitter, Square and Facebook have announced indefinite work from home (WFH) policies for many employees.
Britt Gottschalk, CEO and founder of Madison-based ReVise Consulting, built a whole company around helping local employers develop remote-work best practices.
“With this shift, not only have we had the opportunity to rehumanize workspaces but also to change what a healthy employee culture means by giving employees tools they need to continually succeed,” whether they’re in the office or working from home, Gottschalk says.
She thinks it could be the potential “rebirth of corporate America” — if it’s done right.
“Having a butt in a seat doesn’t show that people are doing work,” Gottschalk says. She thinks employers should continue to take this time to reevaluate performance metrics that better reflect the quality of work getting done, rather than the number of people in the office.
Expectations should move from how many hours are spent in the office to the consistency and quality of the employee’s deliverables. Hitting key performance indicators will still matter, but the criteria should change to reflect how organizations work in remote and hybrid work environments.
“Before it was easy for someone in-office to have a vague description of their duties and fly under the radar doing sub-par or little work,” she says. Increasing an individual employee’s autonomy while also depending on team projects will allow for a check-and-balance structure in a remote environment.
The one thing remote work cannot do is replace human interaction. To be effective, it must instead change the focus of that interaction from unstructured coffee-room chats to intentional meetings where every minute matters.
“You can’t develop an app that’s going to replace these meaningful interactions and the work that gets done by employees who feel purposeful,” Gottschalk says. “If we don’t pay attention to what employee engagement is going to look like, we’re going to be in big trouble.”
“Meaningful” is key — it’s all about maintaining connection and collaboration, she says. Keeping employees engaged prevents feelings of apathy and isolation, which leads to lower levels of productivity.
This means using virtual spaces to create events ranging from small-group luncheons and book clubs to planning randomized interactions with coworkers and creating “faux commutes” that mimic the start of the work day and recreate office life with purpose.
Remote work not only benefits employees’ work-life balance but can also improve the company’s talent pool by finding the candidate who is the best fit for the job — not just lives closest.
Additionally, the flexible lifestyle of remote work can lead to retaining high- quality employees regardless of changing life situations.
Gottschalk also thinks remote hiring and performance metrics will help elimi- nate unconscious bias for employees of color, the LGBTQ community and others from lower socioeconomic classes.
“The judgment will be more around the quality of work delivered, on what kind of timeline, and what their background looks like on video calls, which can be easily blurred or changed,” she says.
Now that employees have gotten a “taste of the apple” of flexible work schedules, she says, they’ll “want the whole thing.”
“This has given the power back to employees to say, ‘this is how I want to live my work life. I don’t live to work, I work to live,’” Gottschalk says. “How employers choose to respond to that could decide the future of their company.”