How to manage an increasingly remote organisation

In the wake of Covid-19, most businesses are not considering a large-scale return to the office until 2021. Many organisations are also thinking about changing the way they work permanently. They want to offer staff more flexibility to boost morale, increase productivity, and reduce office overheads and property costs at the same time.

Employees are receptive to the idea. According to recent research[1], nine out of ten employees who have worked at home during the Covid-19 crisis say they want to carry on doing so in some capacity.

The mass movement towards remote working is here to stay. As a result, boards now need to consider how this will affect the way they review performance and assess risk.

According to recent research, nine out of ten employees who have worked at home during the Covid-19 crisis say they want to carry on doing so in some capacity.

Here’s our rundown of the key points you need to consider ensuring the move towards remote and dispersed working is a success.

Make sure there is a clear long-term strategy

The first thing that boards will need to do is initiate an internal review of any quick reactive changes that have been made to working practices and policies. Organisations have achieved a lot with remote and virtual working in a short space of time. That doesn’t mean that what’s in place now – which is likely to have been built ad hoc – should be the foundations of the future. Boards need to ensure that both policies and systems are proactively focused on future objectives to make remote working viable in the long run. 

Assess the impact on people and culture

Boards will need to consider the long-term impact that remote working will have on company culture and people. While remote working offers convenience and efficiency, it could lead to an erosion in the mental health and wellbeing of staff. The long-term effects of remote working on workforces on a mass scale are simply not yet known.

To help address this, as a minimum, boards should ask for regular workforce pulse surveys to help them assess mental health risks as part of regular performance reviews.

Make secure productive working a priority

As part of their ongoing risk assessment process, boards also need to take a look at security and compliance issues associated with remote working. This is not just about IT – policies need to be in place to ensure that remote working is viable and compliant with the sector the organisation is operating in. Boards should consider regularly reviewing those policies to ensure they combine robustness with the freedom for employees to operate remotely without barriers.

Provide oversight on cost control and reinvestment

One of the big promises of remote working is that it will enable organisations to cut overheads and save significant further sums by reducing their property estate. We are about to see how this plays out on a global scale – so it will be incumbent on boards to provide oversight on how money is being saved, where it needs to be reinvested to support people, and other balancing measures. The next year is likely to be the most important in the history of most organisations, where critical decisions have to be made to secure long-term futures. It will be no time for cost-cutting for cost-cuttings’ sake.

Lead from the boardroom by example

Finally, it’s of little use if one part of an organisation adopts remote and digital ways of working if another doesn’t. Boards – which have traditionally tended to rely on paper-based processes and face to face meetings – need to take heed of this and adopt collaboration technologies that will help them to conduct all their meetings, processes, and interactions with secretaries and senior management teams virtually. This is necessary for the environment we are all operating in right now. It will help to speed up decision-making in an age where time is of the essence. Most importantly, it will allow the board to fully understand the style of remote working that it is now the reality for everyone else.

If you would like to read more about how boards are reacting to and leading their organisations through changing times, we recommend The boardroom in 2021: Five trends that boards need to respond to now.

[1] WISERD, Homeworking in the UK: Before and during the 2020 lockdown, 2020