What Is The Status Of Remote Work In The US Right Now?

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The future of the American workplace is unclear. It has been estimated that on March 27 2020, 16 million “knowledge workers” began working from home as COVID-19 began to spread more rapidly in the United States. The CDC recommended any and all businesses who can work remotely should do so for the foreseeable future. Businesses who could enact this policy did so, but navigating the remote-work world has been complicated and creates new obstacles for employers, businesses, and their employees to navigate.

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Remote Work: The New Normal

In this article, we’ll outline a handful of the obstacles that employers and workers alike face now that the “new normal” includes working remotely for the foreseeable future.

For example, Slack recently reported that nearly half of new remote workers have said that remote work has put a strain on their workplace relationships. Employees who have had prior experience with remote work report having an easier time transitioning to full time remote work, however, depending on the sector an employee works in, their job has become increasingly difficult. These sectors include healthcare, education, research, and customer service or care.

Employees who have had experience with remote work either in their current job or in a previous job report clearly have an easier time transitioning to the new normal of remote work. Most employees who have prior remote-work experience come from older generations than millennials and gen z such as the baby boomers. With that in mind, it’s reasonable to believe the insights from a variety of remote work surveys that show gen z is struggling with the remote work transition more than other generations and age groups.

Remote Work

Credit: Slack Report

How Do People Feel About Working From Home?

In pursuit of imagining the future of the American workplace, GetResponse surveyed 100+ Americans from each state to discover insights about how people felt about working from home. Their survey revealed that gen z, does in fact, have the most trouble working from home in terms of productivity as well as in other ways, too. 13.33% of gen z respondents said they did not enjoy working from home.  Gen z also reports the lowest levels of productivity from home with respondents answering that they were less productive at home and also struggled with motivation to get things done.

Remote Work

Image Credit: GetResponse

Attitudes about working from home differ based on industry, age, and location. For instance, residents of Wyoming report liking remote work options the least out of all of the states in the nation. Regionally, states in the midwest, northern midwest, and northwest have the highest number of respondents who say they don’t like working remotely. These states include Wyoming, South Dakota, Pennsylvania, North Dakota, and Washington. Perhaps in less populated states such as the aforementioned five, the workplace offers a social outlet that rural states and states with smaller populations rely on for connection.

Regional Trends

In direct contrast, a handful of states report really enjoying the ability to work from home. Three of the top five states who enjoy remote work are located in the southeast, suggesting another regional trend in remote work. The question of enjoying working from home is not weighed as heavily as the question of WFH productivity, though.

Remote Work

Credit: GetResponse

Strong Boundaries Between Work And Home Life

Productivity is a result of strong boundaries between work and home life as well as personal discipline. The office environment offers a distinct location for employees to get their work done, whereas at home, there are a variety of distractions that can impact an employee’s productivity. States with a higher number of residents who are from a younger generation showcase where productivity issues may be arising, according to the GetResponse remote work survey.

It’s true you cannot monitor what someone is doing when they’re working from home. That’s why remote work is nerve wracking for some employers, especially if their workforce is on the younger side. DirectEmployers.org offers insight into how organizations can adjust their remote work policies to fit their individual workforce needs. For example, direct managers are likely the closest relationship to their employees. If a junior team member’s productivity drops after multiple days at home, that’s a red flag for their direct manager to address. Team connectivity and manager awareness are two new obstacles that teams need to consider when moving forward with their remote-work policies.

For some, the future of the workplace remains office-centric. There are a variety of reasons why organizations may not think the remote-work option sounds beneficial, including employee productivity, team morale, dispersing industry knowledge, and work-life balance. Some companies have already made the switch to remote-only such as Twitter. Geekwire delves into 11 reasons why the office may sound better than WFH.

If your organization is looking to update their policy, the best way to move forward is to focus on results. Companies that can adjust their policies and become more nimble will have the best results, overall.

How to Unleash the Full Potential of Remote Work

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Not all companies out there have been managing a distributed team model since their inception. That’s why, with the declaration of a global pandemic, for many the transition to fully remote work has often been a bumpy one.

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Since COVID-19 began, 88% of organizations have either encouraged or required their employees to work from home. But developing internal communications, maintaining team cohesion, establishing clear guidelines, and leveraging powerful analytics – all of this requires an arsenal of cloud-based tools to help you be as efficient and effective as possible.

Transitioning To Remote Work

Email communication and simple dashboards don’t cut it anymore. How can your business transition to remote work effectively, and which next-generation tools should you implement along the way?

Set up a communication hub

When switching to remote work, setting up effective communication should be your first step. Know that this requires proper change management, allowing you to specify the purpose and intended use for each tool you incorporate into your operations. 74% of companies plan to permanently shift to more remote work post-COVID, so whether or not that’s your case, implementing it right from the start brings a key advantage.

When adopting a new tool, be sure to explore all its capabilities and lead your team towards using it in the most effective ways. Remote work can be chaotic, so centralize all communications and information in one place to enable transparent information exchange across the team.

Forget going back and forth with emails: Without some form of instant messaging, you’ll see your inbox unnecessarily flooded and your effectiveness plunge. Tools like Slack allow you to share messages both privately and team-wide. What’s more: By leveraging its features – including synchronization with Google Drive, Google Calendar, and Zoom – and through the usage of status icons, you can have a great overview of your and your team’s communication and organization at just a quick glance.

When it comes to scheduling audio, video, and text-based chats, Google Hangouts is your best bet. This tool is web-based – so there’s no need for any software – and its reliability makes it perfect for both client calls and team meetings, allowing you to connect face-to-face, easily screen-share, or present different aspects of your work while easily dropping links as you reference them. Meetings can also be recorded, and the options to generate captions and save them for later comes in handy.

For project management, turn towards tools like Asana. They let you map out projects and calendars to distribute assignments and forecast tasks related to each step along the way, ensuring your team stays as agile and effective as possible.

Ideas don’t have boundaries

Remote work doesn’t exactly give your team a chance to tap each other’s shoulder to follow-up on an idea – and you can’t really hit the meeting room for a productive brainstorming session either. So, how can you ensure that ideas are generated, communicated, and executed seamlessly even from afar? Different cloud-based tools allow you to fully substitute for those times in the office and engage in real-time exchange, design collaboration, and easy note-taking.

Figma is a cloud-based product used for digital design and prototyping. Use it to capture your design system and create graphics for everything you need; from social media to website mockups. Also, by being fully collaborative, you can easily pick the brains of your team members. Depending on your plan, you can even leverage sophisticated capabilities, especially in terms of APIs and backups – something very relevant in an era where data is becoming more important than ever.

When looking to multi-person collaboration and exchange, try out tools like Mural. Through its virtual whiteboard, you can organize brainstorming sessions, discussion boards, and visual representations of plans, shared projects, and ideas. As 80% of people remember what they see (and visualization also makes it easier to uncover patterns!), compared to only 10% of what they hear and 20% of what they read, visualizing ideas with elements like color, images, links, arrows, lines, and icons goes a long way.

Empower your team with data analytics tools

Successful remote team dynamics go way beyond effective communication and task distribution. Especially in data analytics, cross-team collaboration can be tough when not being in the same space as colleagues. Sharing trains of thought and observations, bookmarking a noteworthy point, or providing follow-up explanations can be tied to unexpected frustrations.

Tools like Knarr allow your analysts to type notes and capture exactly what they were looking at for someone else to later see and develop further or branch off to something different. Not only does this make the day-to-day work easier, but it also presents an important step towards a more transparent and capable analytics culture.

Analytics is an inherently collaborative process, so facilitating the generation, perfection, and sharing of insights is key – and companies are starting to fully understand that. After all, the global cloud-based business analytics software market size is predicted to grow at a CAGR of 10.2% from 2017 to 2023, but there are reasons to think that this will be accelerated due to the mass switch to remote work.

Cloud-based analytics also builds a powerful springboard for a more data-driven future. With easy collaboration and more eyes looking at the same datasets to provide different perspectives, you can decrease the likelihood of human error and improve the quality of insights. Moreover, it allows for the saving of resources and time: Instead of difficult logistics, today’s software tools offer easy sharing and real-time collaboration, eliminating the struggles teams generally face when sharing data.

With cloud investment constantly growing, deciding how you approach the shifting work dynamics can be determinant to your company’s success. As COVID continues to transform the work environment as we know it, there has never been a better time to assess what tools could enhance your performance. However, when adopting new tools, make sure that team cohesion and collaboration are cultivated as much as possible. Technology, when used right, builds bridges – not walls.

About the Author

Jerry DiMaso is the CEO and co-founder of Knarr Analytics, whose collaborative cloud-based data analytics tool helps companies visualize, annotate, and share data in real-time.

Jerry is a passionate leader and author in the analytics space who has spent the past decade developing applications, advising on data and analytics strategies, and building analytics products. His work in more than 100 organizations across various industries has inspired him to take on the mission of enabling analysts to solve business problems faster and more collaboratively.