The pandemic forced organisations to shift to a work-from-home model. If ever there was a question as to whether or not businesses and their employees could stay productive with a majority or all of their staffers working remotely, the pandemic put that theory to the test.

In fact, as the virus lingers on, what was supposed to be a temporary contingency plan could very well end up becoming the new normal for many.

This begs the questions as to what the future of hiring and managing a remote workforce may look like?

The concept of working from home isn’t new, however, it isn’t something that many business leaders adopted as their working patterns. There were trust issues around weather employees would actually do their work if they were not in the office. It was usually only seen to be certain members of staff or very limited to exceptional circumstances. In a previous role I worked in, I was able to log in from home but was only allowed to work from home if it was snowing or my kids were ill and it was expected that I would be in the office the rest of the time. This was a common story amongst so many prior to the pandemic.

In March 2020, the virus forced all businesses to send their employees to work from home, many were working from kitchen tables or setting up makeshift desks in bedrooms or garages. This then came with its own complications of businesses needing to find ways of communicating and keeping this flow going.

A poll run by Monster found that 72% of job seekers are hesitant about returning to the office, 70% of employers said that they will be flexible if their staff didn’t want to return to the office.  In order to maintain social distancing, a third of employers will reduce the number of staff in the office at any one time, with 18% allowing their employees to work from home more or indefinitely.

Because of this uncertainty, many businesses, including Facebook and Shopify have said that they will keep their staff working from home for the rest of the year and some will look to offer this indefinitely.

It was difficult to get everyone working from home successfully and the transition back into the office will be just as difficult. However, many businesses have seen the benefits to employee health as they have a better work / life balance, and some have seen that it has improved their green initiatives and sustainability as all employees are reducing their travel, which in turn reduces the amount of greenhouse gases emitted.

What does remote recruitment really look like?

If remote work continues, the effects will be felt when it comes to recruiting, onboarding and employee engagement efforts. The very nature of remote work means that it doesn’t matter where your candidates live, which can really open up talent pools. You no longer have the geographical constraints when your staff are able to do their job from anywhere.

Interviewing remotely using platforms such as Zoom, Google Meet and Teams is something that has proved very positive during the pandemic, however it is important to have multiple people as part of the process or using more than one format (interview, task, presentation etc) to enable you to get a clear picture of their capability. You should make sure that you provide the candidates with instructions for using your video conferencing platform as they may not have experience of using it, as well as allowing extra time in case of connectivity issues and preparing your questions in advance so that you are ready and organised.

Onboarding remotely

Once you have decided to offer the job to the perfect candidate your next step is onboarding and this now needs to look different if their jobs are going to be remote. You need to think about how you’re giving your newest hires exposure to your culture quickly and letting them feel a connection and form relationships. You need to think about what life will look like for the newest employees on day one, week one, week two , etc. In the office, they can show up to the lunchroom and ask questions, but remotely, they are not able to do that. Instead, it’s about giving them opportunities to have more digital experiences with their colleagues, whether it’s Zoom happy hour, Friday morning coffee, keeping new hires in a cohort and facilitating a weekly meeting where they can all talk with each other. You could also send them a welcome box, host a virtual welcome lunch, send out a group email introduction, set up mini video meetings each day for the new hire to meet a few people at a time and stay connected even beyond week one.

How to keep your teams engaged

When everyone was sent home initially, everyone wanted to do what they could to stay productive, however can this be sustainable in the long term with many still working from home over 12 months later? A lot of times, employees can look around their workplace and see and feel the culture. But now that many are working from home, how do you give employees that same experience? You should be constantly aware of what is going on with your team at home, their potential stresses and mental health as well as managing their workload. As a manager, you should continue to provide constant feedback to those at home as well as looking at ways in which the staff can voice their feedback or concerns easily. Recognition is one of the most powerful tools a manager has for keeping their staff motivated, so don’t forget to recognise success and achievements as often as possible.

You should also look at how you can keep the social team bonding element of work going with many staff working remotely. Look at what you can do to keep up momentum with virtual quizzes, bake offs, who can grow the tallest sunflower etc.

If you would like more information on how we can support your virtual workforce planning, please call the office on 01723 313505 / 01904 862642 / 01482 762199 or click here for more information.