HR Analysis: How to implement a successful WFH model

HR head offers advice on the best way to pivot to remote work

HR Analysis: How to implement a successful WFH model

Key Takeaways

  • The average cost to upgrade or enable remote work tech is A$370 per employee
  • Training and development are essential when deploying new tools - 67% of remote working employees desperately want more coaching on this
  • Maintaining company culture across remote teams takes a lot of planning – virtual happy hours just won’t cut it

As the world continues to battle the impact of COVID-19, employers are left to consider whether or not a remote working model would suit their organisation and their people.

According to Gartner, 88% of businesses encouraged employees to work from home during the pandemic – with 52% of people remote working once a week and 68% once a month.

However, while it may sound cost effective to have everyone working from their own homes – for employers it can be pricy.

The average cost to upgrade or enable remote work tech is A$370 per employee. This might sound paltry for a small-scale operation, but for large conglomerates that will rack up a hefty bill.

The key is not to ‘panic buy’ new technologies before understanding what issue you need to cater to within the organisation. For the most part, companies will already have access to the necessary tech – so bulk buying shiny new platforms just for the sake of it is like pouring money down the drain.

Selecting the right technology

HRD spoke to Jomana Elweni, director of human resources at Orangetheory Fitness – an internationally renowned fitness franchise – who recently implemented a fully remote working model throughout her organisation.

“In the past we have allowed flexible working – so if employees needed to work from home, they were somewhat technologically prepared - but for the most part we were in the office,” she told HRD.

“As such, when we began that transition towards working from home, the immediate concern was setting up employee accounts.

“This was a big change for a lot of our people – not coming into our office was a totally new concept for them. This is when we decided to launch our Digital Efficiency Project.”

The Digital Efficiency Project brought together all of the technology resources that were available to the organisation – highlighting the ones which would make work more efficient and help keep employees productive.

“The number one focus was on DropBox – so we ensured all employees had access to this,” continued Elwenni.

“It was extremely important that everyone could access the platform and all the files they needed remotely.

“Following this, we set up Zoom accounts for everyone so that they could utilize the video conference tool for all virtual meetings.

“Another great help was FreeBusy – it’s an AI scheduling tool which makes coordinating remote meetings much easier.

“However, I’d say the biggest transition we made was the Microsoft integration. We’ve always worked off Excel and Word, however remote work made us realize just how much more there was to Microsoft.”

Invest in training and development

A key part of implementation is training. There’s no point in buying new tools without teaching your employees how to use them.

For Elwenni, she emphasized the importance of upskilling your employees thoroughly.

Training and development as a whole have taken something of a back seat during the pandemic – however, this can be counterproductive, not to mention damaging.

Research from ATD found that companies which invest in training generate double the income per employee when compared to organisations that choose not to.

Training in remote work takes planning and consistency – but it could mean the difference between keeping top talent or seeing them jump to a competitor.

In fact, 67% of remote working employers desperately want more training - more specifically they want to receive it all online.

Elwenni handled all of this implementation training internally, via their operations team, however some companies may look for help from outside consultancies.

How to monitor productivity

Traditionally-minded employers can be reluctant to switch to a wholly remote working model, worried primarily about a drop in productivity.

For HR, it’s all about securing that C-Suite buy in. Measuring the ROI of any people-led investment is the only way to make a convincing argument to the board.

Six out of ten employers identify ‘reduced costs and overall savings’ as a massive benefit of switching to remote work. What’s more, one third of employees would gladly choose remote work over a pay rise – giving leaders the option of rewarding employees by non-monetary means.

The savings on rent, utility bills, employee expenses, and payroll are also huge advantages to switching to a fully virtual system.

Additionally, 95% of employees believe remote working has had a high impact on personal retention – with two thirds of workers opting to take another role purely to cut down on their commuting costs.

Throughout all these proposed changes, HR must keep abreast of worker sentiment.

Elwenni explained how Orange Fitness sent out employee pulse surveys every 90 days which measured engagement and morale levels.

“Having been communicative throughout the process, we observed that everyone actually transitioned very smoothly,” she told HRD.

“Our people are still getting the same amount of collaboration that they would in the office. As for productivity, I wouldn’t exactly say it’s skyrocketed – but it has maintained which is great considering the current climate.”

Fostering a collaborative culture

The main issue of contention for Elwenni was maintaining an all-encompassing company culture through virtual teams.

This is a fairly common concern for employers and employees used to working in an office environment. With 56% of employees preferring an inclusive culture over a high salary – it’s one of the most important aspects to look out for when moving to remote work.

“The biggest issue would emphasize is understanding your culture – how it pulls together and what values define it,” explained Elwenni.

“You need to fully comprehend all aspects of this before you try to take it virtual – which is not as easy as it sounds.

“A lot of organisations rely on virtual lunch meetings or happy hours to pull people together - which is fine – but it’s not the defining points of an authentic culture.

“People crave training and development; they want that constant collaboration and face-to-face interaction – all of which needs to be available remotely.”

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