5 minute read 13 Jan 2021
Power plant worker energy industry

Why remote working is the way forward

By EY Global

Multidisciplinary professional services organization

5 minute read 13 Jan 2021

Discover the tools, such as Microsoft Teams, organizations can leverage to improve their remote-working capabilities.

In brief
  • Enterprises across the globe are moving toward remote-working options.
  • The new reality of work from anywhere (WFA) will change clients’ workplaces and management styles.
  • To help facilitate remote-worker productivity during this challenging time, we attempt to guide organizations in rethinking the management of remote work.

I n early 2020, in a matter of just a few weeks, the world changed. For companies and other organizations, the COVID-19 pandemic altered decades of business-as-usual practice, where workers reported to an office, participated in meetings and went about prescribed routines to get the job done. One thing is clear from the resulting chaos — most organizations throughout the remainder of 2020 and beyond will have to quickly master new ways of doing business and collaborating. Businesses will need to prioritize getting work done in ways that are easy-to-do yet powerful enough to meet the demands of the enterprise. Much of this work will now be accomplished away from the office, at least for the near future — and to varying degrees, perhaps forever.

In this unprecedented time, companies need to stand ready to support their customers and partners with expert advice on crisis management, remote-working tools, and other solutions to keep businesses functioning, and workers safe and productive. We all play a part in helping each other through the turbulence.

Before the pandemic hit, 5.2% of US employees worked from home full time, while up to 43% did so at least some of the time. Now, with COVID-19 having closed many workplaces, that figure has skyrocketed around the globe. We know that after the pandemic ends, not all workers will be returning to the office. Teams across the globe are moving to remote work and work from anywhere (WFA) is here to stay.

 

Before the pandemic

5.2%

of US employees worked from home full time.

Here are top-of-mind thoughts on how this new reality will change our clients’ workplaces and management styles, as well as digital tools to make work happen productively and collaboratively.

New organizational capabilities needed

Remote working is one area in which leading organizations must develop new capabilities. Once considered a nice-to-have option and a lure for attracting top talent, remote working is suddenly a strategic imperative — both to keep the enterprise safe and running at a minimum level today, and also to prepare for how work will get done in the future. If WFA becomes a standard way of operating in the future, organizations will have to create new process that address multiple areas. For example:

  • Asynchronous decision-making and collaboration
  • Behavior protocols for working online
  • New metrics to consider at performance review time

Managing in a virtual workplace

The manager’s toolkit must also expand in a remote work world. Managers are learning on-the-fly about how to lead employees who are working nowhere near campus. One change that experts are pointing to is that managers must lay out the new priorities of the workplace. Some tasks, for example, will be too difficult to tackle from home, and workers should not waste their time and productivity trying.

According to the latest survey, all employees who spend at least some (but not all) of their time working remotely have higher engagement than those who don't ever work remotely.

Tools that can make a difference

Earlier this decade, there was a movement by some employers to phase out work-at-home options, after a much-quoted Gallup survey showed that of those who worked at home became less engaged more than 20% of the time. However, in its latest survey, Gallup changed course. According to the latest survey, all employees who spend at least some (but not all) of their time working remotely have higher engagement than those who don't ever work remotely.

One reason for this change could be the dramatic improvement in digital remote work tools over the last 10 years. These are designed around the need to communicate and collaborate, overcoming previous roadblocks to employee engagement. Building a digital workplace allows a mobile workforce to continue to be productive by removing physical boundaries, transferring workloads to the cloud and leveraging software that permits employees to share, connect and continue to collaborate.

Leveraging technology

We realize that many organizations are swimming as hard as they can just to keep their heads above water. The thought of adding even more of a cognitive burden by having to rethink remote working options and technologies could be a tough ask. However, the benefits of simple, high-quality remote-working solutions are significant:

  • Seamless integration to a digital workplace: By creating a digital workplace in the cloud, information is accessible from anywhere, at any time and on any device.
  • Productivity gains through enhanced collaboration: These tools increase productivity by making all collaboration, conversations, chats, online meetings, shared files, decisions and tasks, available in one application.
  • Increased focus: Remote work tools can compartmentalize information into channels or categories, so that workers can easily coordinate their work and find what they need when they need it.
  • Increased transparency: Built-in tools such as targeted messaging and notes allow group leaders to easily communicate and document decisions to specific people or the team at large.

Researchers call ground-shaking events such as the COVID-19 pandemic economic “shocks.” No one will argue with that description and the effects it has created already on business practices. But in every disruption lies opportunities to learn, pivot and grow. Companies that can master this new digital workplace will not only survive but also create competitive advantage by being able to innovate at speed, get products to market faster, and re-engage with customers in new ways that are responsive to their own changing realities.

Summary

The COVID-19 pandemic has altered decades of routine where workers reported to an office. Organizations now have to prioritize running the business in ways that are simple yet powerful. With the pandemic having closed several workspaces, firms have realized that work from anywhere (WFA) is the way forward. EY helps guide organizations in rethinking the management of remote work. 

About this article

By EY Global

Multidisciplinary professional services organization