Working from home

Nearly 50 percent of organizations report 81 percent or more of their employees are working remotely during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a press release Gartner, Inc. issued on its survey of 229 HR leaders on April 2. Another 15 percent of those surveyed say 61 to 81 percent 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 percent of employees surveyed worked remotely at least part of the time before the pandemic, Gartner analysis reveals that post-pandemic, 41 percent of employees are likely to work remotely at least some of the time,” says 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 Gartner survey of more than 5,000 employees earlier this year found that 48 percent of fully remote employees exhibit high discretionary effort, versus 35 percent 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.

Managing 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:

1. 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.

2. Enable New Relationships

The Gartner ReimagineHR Employee Survey, fielded in 2019, revealed that 41 percent of respondents don’t feel connected to colleagues when working remotely and 26 percent 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.

3. Accentuate The Positive

Employees working fully remotely are nearly twice as likely to receive corrective feedback – which focuses on behavior 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

4. 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.