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The Biggest Mistakes Companies Make When Transitioning to Work from Home

Work from home could be here to stay post-pandemic, and that has companies scrambling to figure out what kind of plans for everything from resourcing to the technology they will implement to secure this impending future. 

There is more than just anecdotal evidence to back up the bold claims about work shifting from the office to the home environment. To start, employees really seem to prefer it. 

A recent survey by Global Workplace Analytics found that 68% of global respondents feel that they are successful working from home and 77% of respondents feel fully productive at home. Most convincingly, 76% of those surveyed would like to continue working from home*.

Yet, as novel as it sounds, work from home and the logistics that support it weren’t invented yesterday. 

In fact, some firms, such as Gitlab (founded in 2014) utilize remotely-based teams exclusively. 

And on a massive scale: Employing 1,300 people in 66 different countries, Gitlab knows a thing or two about the logistics behind remote work. While Gitlab is certainly a pioneer in the future of work, they didn’t get there without a few hiccups along the way. 

Harvard Business School professor Prithwiraj (Raj) Choudhury recently told a CNBC Workforce Executive Council virtual event, “You can’t keep doing things the way you did in the physical world. ... You have to invest in a multi-month, maybe multi-year, organizational project, and most importantly, convince senior managers. 

What are some of the biggest mistakes in transitioning to this model?

Lack of Executive Buy-in

Employees at all levels need to embrace the new business productivity model or it will fail. Why? Management will be drawn to the physical location if that is where executive-level employees work. This, in turn, will pressure lower-level employees to have “face time” in the office as well. With everyone on board, no one has a reason to break from the mold and eschew working from home for time in the office. 

Poor Coordination and Communication Technology

The software a company uses to promote working from home has as much of an impact on the productivity of employees as anything else. In addition to open and transparent communication and a willingness to share concerns, the technology a company uses needs to be able to both coordinate tasks and manage productivity in a way that is understandable to multiple employees. This limits the “siloing” effect often seen in offices where employees stick to what they know.

Hybrid Models

Many experts have noted that the creation of hybrid models leads to a division within the employee base that hampers full utilization of their talents and resources.

Why is this the case? It is because teams can become bifurcated into an in-house team and a work-from-home team with more perceived power and influence being accorded to the in-house team that comes to the office regularly. You want everyone working from the same playing field and that starts with having a uniform and universal policy in this regard. 

Old Expectations on Top of New Productivity Models

Companies cannot copy and paste real-world models for measuring productivity in a virtual environment. For one, companies need to get rid of the “arrive early, leave late” rule as it does not make sense for online work. 

Further, the time spent or when someone works on a project is less important. More important is how a company defines output to measure employee productivity. Similarly, raises and promotions have to follow an outlined and understandable process given the added vagaries such a process could have in an online environment. 

How can companies avoid these roadblocks to a successful transition to working from home? 

One key factor that many companies such as Gitlab have embraced is open and transparent communication as well as codification of the company’s policies, expectations, and procedures for working from home in a book. This, complemented by the availability of robust software tools such as ShowMyPC for collaboration, remote access, and online meetings, is enabling companies to make a level playing field for all employees, remote or in-house.

*https://globalworkplaceanalytics.com/global-work-from-home-experience-survey

**https://www.cnbc.com/2020/11/17/worst-work-model-of-the-future-its-not-all-office-or-fully-remote.html

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