In a recent Gartner survey of 229 HR leaders, 41% of organisations reported 81% or more of their employees are working remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic, while another 15% said 61-80% of employees are working remotely at this time. The survey also showed that many workers plan to work remotely more often in the future.
“While 30% of employees surveyed worked remotely at least part of the time before the pandemic, our analysis reveals that post-pandemic, 41% of employees are likely to work remotely at least some of the time,” said Brian Kropp, chief of research for the Gartner HR practice. “Ultimately, COVID-19 has many employees planning to work in a way that they hadn’t previously considered.”
Though remote workers are highly productive, the turnover risk is much higher. Another recent Gartner Survey of more than 5,000 employees found that 48% of fully remote employees exhibit high discretionary effort, versus 35% of employees who never work remotely. The survey also revealed that remote-working employees exhibit a 13% higher high intent to stay with their current employer than those who never work remotely.
In the current environment, many employees are working remotely for the first time and are now doing it full-time. In tandem, managers are having to direct remote employees and teams, and many of them have never managed remote workers.
To help organisations manage remote talent during the COVID-19 pandemic, Gartner developed the NEAR model. The model includes four steps:
Gartner analysis finds that two-fifths of remote employees want more self-directed work. Managers must trust their employees and shift away from directing their work to coaching them to success. To do this, managers should focus on employees’ work product and outputs rather than processes.
Enable New Relationships.
A Gartner 2019 Employee Survey revealed that 41% of respondents don’t feel connected to colleagues when working remotely and 26% of employees feel isolated when they work remotely. Managers must work with HR to learn signs of distress so that they can recognise them among their direct reports and colleagues.
“Organisations have been very pragmatic and have done well adapting to the new normal from a technology standpoint,” said James Atkinson, vice president in the Gartner HR practice. “Now managers need to step in and help their employees build social and emotional connections to ensure individuals feel connected to their colleagues and the organisations, and to help teams continue to work together seamlessly.”
Accentuate the Positive.
Employees working fully remotely are nearly twice as likely to receive corrective feedback (focuses on behaviour that was not successful) most often. To promote two-way communication, managers should focus on making discussions with remote employees open, evidence-based and forward-looking. Managers should also make sure to acknowledge what is going right while citing specific examples.
Revamp Team Expectations.
Many leaders have assumed the majority of people working remotely are individual contributors, however, Gartner analysis shows that fully remote employees are 3.5 times more likely to work across five or more teams. It is crucial for managers to set expectations with individual team members and the larger team to ensure effective individual contributions and team collaboration. Managers should also emphasise individual and team objectives in these conversations.
“While most organisations are not currently hiring, nor are the majority of workers actively seeking new jobs, organisations do need to consider how they are managing their workforce,” concluded Kropp. “If companies are not thinking through the employee experience they are creating, they could face significant attrition when the labour market opens back up.”