By Timothy Golden, professor in the Lally School of Management
The COVID-19 pandemic greatly changed the ways we live and work. In particular, companies across the globe adapted to a new era of work, as many organizations found ways of working remotely amid office closures last year. Now, despite the availability of vaccinations and safety protocols, it has become clear that remote work has value and will remain long after the pandemic ends.
With a well-thought-out remote work strategy, companies can instill, from the beginning, a set of effective norms for how work will get done remotely. In remote work, creating the right norms and expectations from the start provides an important foundation for achieving success. If such norms — informal and often unspoken expectations for how people should act and behave — are not implemented correctly, then remote work is less likely to be successful.
In a company’s remote work strategy, one potentially important factor is the establishment of a senior-level position that oversees remote work, such as a chief remote work officer. This position is similar to a chief financial officer or chief operating officer, and is the person responsible for helping to make remote work effective for both employees and the company. The establishment of this position in companies worldwide would help ensure adequate resources and attention are devoted toward the success of such programs.
Having a robust remote work strategy will also allow lessons from prior experience and research to be incorporated into the ways companies manage remote workers. Rather than repeating the mistakes of other organizations, a thorough remote work strategy allows companies to harness the lessons of the past to achieve more optimal performance.
Remote work strategies need to include protocols such as how employees will communicate, how job performance will be assessed, where and how will collaborative activities take place, what expectations managers have for remote workers, and how the mixture of work modes (in-person, remote, hybrid) will be incorporated into the overall operations of the organization. Such strategies are something all companies should be thinking about now as we navigate the workplace during the pandemic and for the future as we approach work in a post-pandemic world.