Pre-pandemic, remote work was gradually (but not overwhelmingly) being accepted and adopted by companies across the U.S. In fact, between 2005 and 2017, remote work increased 159 percent, according to research firm Global Workplace Analytics.
The COVID-19 pandemic took the trend into overdrive.
Recent research from the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research shows that currently, a whopping 42 percent of the U.S. labor force now works from home. While the move has kept many employees safe, some business leaders have been concerned about what the switch would mean for team morale and their company’s bottom line.
Alexandra Pearl, director of HR business partners at workflow automation solution provider Hyperscience, surmised that many leaders feared remote workers wouldn’t be as productive or collaborative as they were in the office.
But with six years of talent development experience, Pearl’s instincts said that the dawn of a remote-friendly business culture was a matter of time; the pandemic only hastened the switch.
“Having worked at organizations that were early to the remote-work party, I’ve known for some time that the future of work was flexible,” Pearl said. The key to making remote work successful? Intention, she added.
Below, Pearl shared why so many business leaders had remote work wrong.
Pandemic-related remote work stats from freelancing platform Upwork
- Around 33 percent of managers said they saw productivity increase, a number higher than those that saw it decrease
- About 62 percent of hiring managers are adopting more remote work policies moving forward
What's a preconceived notion you had about remote work prior to COVID-19?
Over the last five years, we’ve seen a shift in the talent market, with employees placing a higher value on flexibility, even at the expense of great benefits or higher compensation. The remote reality that employers find themselves in was inevitable, but without COVID-19, we wouldn’t have gotten here as quickly.
Human beings are creatures of habit; we like what we know and what we’ve experienced. We had a collective habit of going to the office and couldn’t fathom, or intentionally uproot, something that had been the norm for over the last century. As a result, this habit lent itself to many preconceived notions, such as the following: remote employees would feel disconnected; they wouldn’t be able to collaborate as effectively; being remote might hinder advancement due to a lack of in-office visibility. These are all notions that we’ve seen shattered in the last few months.
When presented with a remote reality, employees and employers had no choice but to find ways to collaborate and connect.”
How has your opinion shifted since transitioning to a more remote workforce, and what does this mean for the future of your business?
I knew this larger shift to remote work was coming, but I didn’t know what it would be like when we got here. When presented with a remote reality, employees and employers had no choice but to find ways to collaborate and connect. What continues to stand out to me, and what I believe is the most necessary component to be effective, is intention. We have to be more intentional about our time, what we say and the channel we say it in.
With this idea in mind, Hyperscience has become more intentional about how we operate. One thing I’m proud of is our quick pivot to remote onboarding. Starting a new job is anxiety-provoking enough, let alone during a pandemic. As a result, we intentionally redesigned aspects of our onboarding process to include more communications leading up to the first day. No new hire will ever find themselves wondering, “When will I get my computer?” or, “What will day one look like?”
I spent the last month creating a remote experience strategy, knowing that remote work is our reality for the foreseeable future. We’re also rolling out new initiatives in 2021 to address some of the negatives that we know can come with remote work.