As many companies seek to get somewhat back to normal, the definition of the modern workplace has changed underfoot. And with COVID variants on the rise from coast to coast, many business leaders – from corporate executives to Main Street entrepreneurs – are looking for ways to keep employees safe on the job while dealing with workers’ new preferences in where and how they work.
This increasingly means supporting a remote or hybrid workforce. According to statistics compiled by findstack.com, 16 percent of companies worldwide are now 100 percent remote, which doesn’t sound like much, but consider the number of remote workers is up 44 percent over the past five years, 51 percent over the past decade and 159 percent just since 2009. In the U.S. alone, nearly 60 percent of workers are now remote and 85 percent of managers in one survey believe remote work teams will soon become the norm.
And while almost half of companies don’t allow remote work arrangements at all, labor shortages and ongoing concerns over the pandemic are likely to change that and fast. In fact, some experts predict nearly three out of four departments will have at least one remote employee by 2028, the site reported.
But even as more people are choosing to work the bulk of their time outside the office, that doesn’t mean they’re never there. As LinkedIn reports, nearly 6 in 10 employees describe their ideal work setting as one that incorporates a hybrid remote/in-office arrangement. That has added to companies’ jitters over rising infection rates and how to provide as safe a workspace as possible.
“Workplace safety guidelines from federal, state and local authorities are rapidly changing in response to the highly transmittable Covid-19 Delta variant, and employers may want to update their policies accordingly,” writes Lisa Nagele-Piazza for the Society for Human Resource Management website, shrm.org.
“Employers also should stay up-to-date on changing mandates from state and local governments and recommendations from industry groups. In response to the uptick in coronavirus cases, some locations, such as Los Angeles County, have reinstated mask mandates in public indoor settings.”
The American Staffing Association issued a guidebook last year, “Safely Back to Work: Best Practice Protocols” detailing 77 recommendations for amending the workplace. The suggestions range from the relatively simple – reconfiguring work stations, enforcing social distancing and staggering shifts and lunch hours – to more involved, complicated and expensive measures such as upgraded ventilation and air circulation systems and providing dedicated transportation systems for workers, sanitizing between trips.
One important strategy for employers, be they in a hotspot or just accommodating an increasing number of remote workers, is to stay up on the technology that allows the firm to support operations remotely.
As Rebecca Corliss recently wrote for Owl Labs, “Today's remote employees need the right tools to help them be productive and succeed. By integrating modern technologies, you can achieve both of these objectives while simultaneously positioning yourself as an innovative place to work.”
Recruitment.com recommends the following breakdown of tech by department:
- Business management software that provides for accounting, documentation, human resources, and other business functions
- Communication tools for quick check-ins, meetings and webinars
- Project management systems to track tasks while boosting time management, prioritization, delegation and collaboration
- Data and security products to secure communication and to protect and store critical data
This episode of Connecting Business addresses many of these very concerns: keeping employees socially connected… managing employee expectations… helping teams find a healthy work-life balance… all while remaining committed to employee wellness and to changing the way leadership approaches internal communications. Jordyn Dahl, Entrepreneurship Editor at LinkedIn and Mary Michaels, Chief Human Resources Officer at Windstream Communications discuss how the past 18 months of hybrid workspaces has impacted the way we will do business for years to come.