A strategic approach to remote work
Remote work is not a new phenomenon, but COVID-19 has caused us to more readily embrace it. Organizations that had not previously considered remote work approaches are suddenly seeing it as their new reality. This article explores a strategic approach to a remote work strategy.
Pre-pandemic, some organizations where exploring or had already adopted remote work policies as a mean to fulfill talent and business objectives, while most organizations maintained in-office cultures. The pandemic has challenged the norm, and as a result, organizations that had not previously considered remote work approaches are suddenly seeing it as either a temporary short- to mid-term response to the global situation, or in some cases, even as a permanent long-term strategy.
In the past 6 months, both employees and employers have experienced firsthand that working remotely works. With many people still working remotely due to the pandemic, it is an opportunity for organizations to explore how remote work will be approached in the future, and whether it is a desirable and sustainable long-term solution. Global Mobility functions are in a unique position to define, lead and manage the strategy and implementation of such a solution.
The process of defining and operationalizing a remote work strategy can be split into three key components:
1. Defining the organization’s remote work approach
The first step is to determine the organization’s remote work philosophy or approach. This means identifying what the business objectives and the corporate strategy is and whether these objectives can be reached with a remote workforce. A useful exercise to determine how remote work fits into the organization’s strategy is to create a ranking of business priorities, such as costs, talent attraction and retention, compliance, employee experience, etc. and measure the impact of having a remote workforce against those priorities.
When determining the organization’s remote work approach, it is also important to look at the workforce profile. There are some job profiles which clearly need to be on-site, and others that are clearly suited for remote work (if this is in fact a desirable approach for the business). The remaining workforce will have to be assessed to determine which roles are suited for a remote work arrangement. The organization may choose to limit remote work to certain roles or certain geographical areas where the organization already has an established entity, for example. Making clear decisions around eligibility to work remotely will be key to limit risk exposure and costs. A compliance risk and cost assessment will also help the organization determine whether remote is something that should be encouraged, tolerated or perhaps not implemented at all.
2. Setting policies and guidelines
Once the general approach to remote work has been identified, it is essential to develop a decision-making framework to manage remote work requests and mitigate compliance risks, and to articulate this through clear guidelines for approving and managing remote workers. At this stage, it is helpful to answer the following questions:
- What are the different remote work scenarios and who is eligible to work remotely?
- What are the guidelines for approving and managing remote workers?
- What are the compliance considerations or guardrails to minimize risk exposure?
- What will the benefit and employment terms be for the remote employee?
By mapping out these considerations and setting clear guidelines, the foundation is being set for developing company policy guidelines for eligibility and compliance.
3. Operations and processes
Finally, in order for remote work to be an integrated part of the mobility journey, the business should determine who the stakeholders are and what each of their roles and responsibilities are in order to create a strong governance structure with clear assigned ownership. Assigning roles and responsibilities will allow the organization to create a supporting process and the necessary tools to streamline said process. This will include steps from approving and documenting remote work approval processes, to back-end operations such as payroll. The complexity of these supporting tools can range from simple guidelines and decision trees for internal use, to technology tools that keep track of remote workers and the associated compliance obligations.
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