Office workers across the country are still working remotely or in a hybrid setup as the pandemic enters its third year. Meanwhile, companies from Twitter to PwC to Robinhood have said they will let people continue to work from home even after Covid-19 risks are gone.
But allowing people to work from home isn’t the same as making the remote work experience a good one, says Brie Reynolds, career services manager at FlexJobs, a membership service that connects people at remote jobs. Also, while workers really want the flexibility of working remotely, a poor setup where people don’t feel supported could cause them to default back to offices in a post-pandemic world.
“Applying traditional desktop operations to a remote environment doesn’t work,” Reynolds told CNBC Make It.
With that in mind, if you’re hoping to work from home or in a hybrid situation in the future, Here are four signs that show a company is truly committed to the future of remote work.
1. Money to set up a home office
Reynolds says companies seriously invested in supporting its remote workforce will pay — as in, they’ll give workers money to set up a home office.
That includes one-time purchases of equipment like office furniture, a computer monitor, full-size keyboards, and “things that make us feel comfortable in an office,” Reynolds says. “It’s not temporary. People can’t work on their laptops for 8 hours a day for the long term.”
Some employers may also give remote workers a monthly or quarterly stipend for recurring costs, like internet or phone bills.
2. Clear remote work tools and policies
A company that is serious about making remote work successful will have a robust suite of technology and communication tools so that workers can interact seamlessly with others.
The company should be clear about what it uses for email, instant messaging, video calls, and voice calls. They should also include communication guidelines for each platform, Reynolds adds, such as acceptable business hours for sending emails and messages (as well as how to delay sending so you don’t cross those limits), or which meetings are better to have on video rather than camera optional.
Hybrid situations present their own challenges. As technology platforms like Google and Microsoft strive to improve them, employers should strive to host video calls that are more engaging, clear, and inclusive. If some workers are in the office while others are remote, offices should be well-equipped with cameras, screens, and conference rooms to ensure employees are not left out of gatherings.
3. Social groups for remote workers
Another good sign, Reynolds says, is that the company has dedicated employee resource groups for remote workers where they can discuss best practices, what’s working and what needs improvement.
“When companies encourage conversation about how to work remotely, do it well, and invite people to contribute ideas, that’s a good sign,” she says.
These groups can also provide a social connection for remote workers to interact with those outside of their immediate team.
4. A clear statement on the future of work
Finally, look for a company’s official statement on remote work or news stories about an announcement. Reynolds, a strong statement from the company, will be “honest about how the office is changing and how they are integrating remote work plans.”
For example, do they have plans for how they will continue to engage in career development, DEI efforts, and community development? Perhaps they’re investing in office redesigns to support hybrid teams or hiring senior executives to lead remote work improvements.
At some traditional employers, particularly those in banking and finance, executives said flexible working limits creativity, productivity, networking and a sense of company culture. But the friction comes from how management views flexible working, Reynolds says. “Some employers saw the pandemic as a temporary remote situation and did not work to change their mindset.”
But the resources and technology to support remote workers are there and improving. A handful of companies have historically operated remotely, and a growing list of employers continue to announce long-term remote efforts beyond the pandemic. What really makes a difference, Reynolds says, is that leaders see them as long-term investments and are ready to start making them now.
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