Over the past few months, most of us can probably agree that remote work presents a learning curve for both employees and employers. With an entire workforce scattered across their various homes, there are many adjustments that have to be made to ensure their success.
In the current COVID-19 world, employers have had to be flexible in ensuring that each employee can balance their responsibilities while away from their usual workspace. With many children taking part in remote learning, parents have had to help educate their kids while maintaining close to normal production levels at work, which now might consist of extra steps or meetings that may not have been as necessary when in a face-to-face environment.
In addition to these learning curves, a few unexpected consequences of company-wide remote work have come to the surface. In the office, there are so many nuggets of information that employees pick up on, but since they’re isolated in their homes, they miss out on this nuance. While most employee training can be done remotely with almost no problem, these subtle things employees pick up on in the office are a bit trickier to teach.
What is missing?
In the mortgage industry, it feels like new rules, guidelines and updates are coming down the line at every turn. Recently, in response to the economic impact of the pandemic, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have been making more updates than usual – as many as one or two per week. Most employees do not have the time or patience to sit down and comb through these new rules multiple times weekly.
Typically, one employee might find this out when they have a loan returned with conditions because of something that has changed. Once they learn of the issue, the employee might vent to a coworker, that coworker might share with someone else or the conversation is overheard and the news spreads.
However, news can’t easily travel among coworkers as it once did. With team members working out of their homes, conversations are not overheard or as easily spread. It’s much easier to mention something to a coworker in passing than taking the time to send a message.
Another element of work that employees pick up on in the office is best practices. This can be tips for getting the best results or work arounds to help save time or cut out tedious extra steps. In the office, it is easy for employees to overhear a coworker’s frustration about a certain task and offer assistance, but this is not so easily done at home. Best practices like these are ones not included in formal training but are still important to know.
What can companies do to help?
As it relates to new rules, it is important that employees are still able to get the new information necessary to successfully complete their jobs at home. Even though the information is already out there, it must be easy to consume and compelling enough to draw attention and encourage people to stop what they’re doing in order to learn. The trick is to make consuming this information as simple as it was when all they had to do was overhear a conversation.
Though it can be challenging, there must be an outlet for the organization to share this information in a way that ensures it will be read and acknowledged. Employees do not have the time or energy to find and read long articles on their own. When sharing critical information with employees, consider the differences in how people learn and be flexible. Some are more visual or auditory, so a video might be best. Others learn best by having a conversation, so a quick weekly meeting might work better. Some may be booked solid with meetings all day and might prefer to check a company message board or newsletter on their own time.
However your organization chooses to share the information, check in and make sure that employees are learning. A call-to-action of some sort can help employees demonstrate they are engaging with the news and ultimately retaining important information that helps them reach success within their own roles.
What does this mean for the future?
Many companies are embracing remote work and have decided to be more flexible in the future, even post-pandemic. With more employees working from home than ever before, it’s important that companies are setting expectations while remote work is in full swing.
Though there are certain learning curves or challenges to working from home, employees should demonstrate their ability to continue the level of work the company expects. Employees must also still be able to work in teams and communicate critical information. Just because they are isolated at home, does not mean they no longer have to communicate with their broader teams.
While setting clear expectations, companies should be flexible in how employees will work remotely. If it is easier to maintain a certain level of work by starting earlier in the day, or finishing later, companies should allow for this. Many employees might want to complete important projects before their kids wake up or after their spouse or roommate has finished important calls for the day. The main priority should be that work gets done on time and gets done well, even if that means employees have to take some time during the day for their family or work later in the evening than usual.
As companies assess what remote work looks like in the future, they must also consider who needs to come back to the office once it reopens and who can continue working from home. Since leaders have seen that it is possible to work from home, it may be tempting to want to continue. This cuts down on overhead and also brings other benefits to the company.
However, some employees may not be able to work remotely for the long-term. Some need a certain level of security that they cannot get at home. Others might need a specific machine or physical tool to complete their work. With that being said, a split of in-person and remote employees may affect things like cross-training or cross-functional teams. Organizations should keep this in mind as they decide how their company communicates from home and who should maintain their work-from-home status, while always keeping the safety of their employees paramount.
Businesses are far from having all the answers when it comes to what remote work should look like moving forward. However, there are many factors to consider. The small things employees are not able to pick up on in theoffice can make a big impact on productivity. It’s important that companies begin developing the best ways to communicate to ensure no employee is missing out on important information.