A Gartner survey of 229 HR leaders on April 2 revealed that nearly 50% of organizations reported 81% or more of their employees are working remotely during the coronavirus pandemic. Another 15% of those surveyed said 61-80% of employees are working remotely at this time. The Gartner survey showed that many workers are planning to work remotely more often in the future.
“While 30% of employees surveyed worked remotely at least part of the time before the pandemic, Gartner analysis reveals that post-pandemic, 41% of employees are likely to work remotely at least some of the time,” said Brian Kropp, chief of research for the Gartner HR practice. “Ultimately, the COVID-19 pandemic has many employees planning to work in a way that they hadn’t previously considered.”
Though remote workers are highly productive, the turnover risk is much higher. A 1Q20 Gartner Survey of more than 5,000 employees found that 48% of fully remote employees exhibit high discretionary effort, versus 35% of employees who never work remotely. The same survey revealed that the percentage of employees exhibiting high intent to stay with their current employer is 13 percentage points higher among those who never work remotely.
New model to manage remote employees
In the current environment, many employees are working remotely for the first time and are now doing it full-time. In tandem, managers are having to direct remote employees and teams, and many of them have never managed remote workers.
To help organizations manage remote talent during the COVID-19 pandemic, Gartner developed the NEAR model. The model includes four steps:
Normalize self-direction. Gartner analysis finds that two-fifths of remote employees want more self-directed work. Managers must trust their employees and shift away from directing their work to coaching them to success. To do this, managers should focus on employees’ work product and outputs rather than processes.
Enable new relationships. The Gartner ReimagineHR Employee Survey, fielded in 4Q19, revealed that 41% of respondents don’t feel connected to colleagues when working remotely and 26% of employees feel isolated when they work remotely. Managers must work with HR to learn signs of distress so that they can recognize them among their direct reports and colleagues.
“Organizations have been very pragmatic and have done well adapting to the new normal from a technology standpoint,” said James Atkinson, vice president in the Gartner HR practice. “Now managers need to step in and help their employees build social and emotional connections to ensure individuals feel connected to their colleagues and the organizations, and to help teams continue to work together seamlessly.”
Accentuate the positive. Employees working fully remotely are nearly twice as likely to receive corrective feedback – which focuses on behaviour that was not successful – most often. To promote two-way communication, managers should focus on making discussions with remote employees open, evidence-based and forward-looking. Managers should also make sure to acknowledge what is going right while citing specific examples
Revamp team expectations. Many leaders have assumed the majority of people working remotely are individual contributors, however, Gartner analysis shows that fully remote employees are 3.5 times more likely to work across five or more teams. It is crucial for managers to set expectations with individual team members and the larger team to ensure effective individual contributions and team collaboration. Managers should also emphasize individual and team objectives in these conversations.
“While the majority of organizations are not currently hiring, nor are the majority of workers actively seeking new jobs, organizations do need to consider how they are managing their workforce,” said Kropp. “If companies are not thinking through the employee experience they are creating, they could face significant attrition when the labour market opens back up.”