Jonathan Keyser is the founder of Keyser, the largest occupier services commercial real estate brokerage firm in Arizona.
A major question facing today’s business leaders is “How should my company operate on the other side of this pandemic?” Over the past year, companies have been working remotely out of necessity. While it may have been uncomfortable at first, many workers have become accustomed to it, accepting remote work as the new norm. If you analyze the efficiency of each of your employees on an individual basis, is remote employment really that efficient? For some, the answer is “absolutely!” — while others report struggle in a remote environment.
While there is no one-size-fits-all solution for businesses in real estate and elsewhere, today’s post-pandemic world has business leaders considering impactful questions. Leaders are looking at which of their employees can and should permanently work remotely, how they should restructure their office space for those they plan on reintroducing to the workplace, and if they even need an office at all.
The results of these questions will have a dramatic effect on your business and its expenses, so making the right decisions and implementing the right workforce and workplace strategy is critical to the success of your organization going forward.
You may be tempted to follow Twitter’s strategy of implementing a 100% remote work setup, but that may not be the best choice for each business. In Keyser’s Business Advisory research, only 20% of employee respondents are well suited for permanent remote work. On the other hand, if your business is considering sending all employees back into the office, pause. There are consequences for making both decisions — both of which can lead to poor employee retention and/or job satisfaction. If the goal is to reduce your commercial footprint and use your space more efficiently, the first step is to define not just who wants to work remotely, but who is suited to work remotely.
There are two sets of criteria that help business leaders define who is right for a remote working environment. The first is simple:
Can the job even be accomplished in a remote environment?
There’s no getting around the fact that some jobs just can’t be done remotely. Many roles were labeled as “essential” amid the pandemic. This label should be expanded to include roles that are significantly more challenging in a remote environment, such as jobs that require constant communication between members of a team or rely on minute-to-minute updates between individuals.
The next set of criteria depends on the personality of your employee. While variations occur, my company’s research has helped collate a list of four personality traits that tend to be associated with the most successful remote employees.
1. More Collaborative, Less Authoritative
Some people enjoy leading, bossing, telling or commanding. These traits don’t lend themselves to independent, solitary remote work. Workers who enjoy a collaborative, service-oriented or project-oriented work environment can thrive in a remote setting.
The employee’s responsibilities allow them to fully execute their work alone while receiving input from others electronically.
Steady work is defined as functions that are created by routine, process and schedule. If the work lends itself to a process or routine, that work can usually be performed remotely because the expectations are clear.
An example of a role that would be labeled as “steady” is setting appointments. The employee is given a list and a consistent set of instructions that they work through within a set amount of time.
4. High Attention To Detail
The employee needs to be able to compare for likenesses, similarities and differences between objects.
Each of these personality traits is important to help determine which of your employees would be most successful in a remote environment. To legitimately see success in a remote employee’s performance though, that employee also needs to want to work remotely. Some employees who fit these criteria may still not feel that working remotely long-term is suited for them.
Challenges that business leaders can’t account for or control are:
• Home responsibilities are constantly battling for the employee’s focus
• The physical environment can’t provide the collaboration the employee craves
• The employee has a hard time creating a work/life balance
Our studies show that when employees are suited to work remotely and have been allowed to do so, they maintain higher levels of job satisfaction and efficiency. Another study from Lenovo shares a similar story. Of those surveyed, 70% report increased levels of job satisfaction since a switch to working remotely.
However, it’s important to remember that not every employee is the same. When forcing an employee into an environment where they will not perform at their highest levels, you stand a chance of disengaging them. If your company doesn’t provide an option to get out of that remote environment, go see clients or be with their team physically, you risk increasing your employee turnover.
After analyzing which roles should work from home, the next step business leaders should take is to conduct attitude opinion surveys and perform employee assessment analytics. This in combination with the four pieces of criteria above will give you a clear picture of what your organization should look like in a work-from-home world. The next step would be to define the culture and what the cultural goals are moving forward. From there you are able to map out a workplace strategy, which gives specific detail into what technology, staff integration, operation models and support services are needed — and also provides a facilities master plan and a clear picture of the commercial real estate needs.
Defining your remote strategy may seem challenging, but with the right steps in place to help you implement a strong workforce and workplace strategy, you can find the proper balance between remote and on-site employment.