Technology and Communication Challenge Remote Workforces

TAMPA BAY, FLA. JANUARY 27, 2020

More than 26 million Americans—about 16 percent of the total workforce—now work remotely at least part of the time, an increase of 115 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (1) Despite labor expert predictions that by 2025 the number will climb to 70 percent; the popular work model is experiencing challenges of its own. Karla Jo Helms, CEO of Tampa, FL PR agency JOTO PR Disruptors, took the leap six years ago to convert her staff to a completely remote model. Replacing face-time with virtual meetings and a sophisticated reporting system were adjustments in the first year—initially dropping in productivity and efficiency from 25 percent to 20 percent. “This was due to several lost hires, which equates to lost training, lost institutional knowledge and new implementation and familiarization with new managing structure/processes,” notes Helms. “However, our production increased to 40 percent afterwards and continues to be stable.” (2)

Working remotely doesn’t suit everyone. The isolation can be challenging for workers who blossom in social settings or who lack self-motivation. It requires being a self-starter and decision maker. Also concerning to younger employees is a fear that they could be passed up for promotions, as adjudication for this includes their leadership skills, positive attitude and ability to collaborate with the team in addition to hard skills. (3) On the plus side, a decrease in office politics, drama, and disruptions paired with the lack of a daily commute have had a positive effect on the popularity of remote work. “The challenges are real. And so are the positive changes,” notes Helms. “I had to adapt new technology and communication channels to achieve an overall 49 percent growth rate since 2014.”

A recent survey of 285 mobile employees identified five areas of frustration: poor network connectivity, under-performing tools and software, and slow and dated devices among them. (4) How do companies with remote employees ensure that they receive the same quality of employee experience as in-office colleagues? Giving them autonomy is the key according to some HR professionals. Instilling a sense of ownership of the company through their contributions and making them responsible opens the door to a stronger company culture. (5) Helms and her Director of HR and Business Operations, Nancy Castro, realize that there’s no cookie-cutter solution which is why their tools are unique to their PR business:

  1. A daily and weekly reporting system that demonstrates accountability across the team, time management, and future planning;
    2.    Use of programs such as ZOOM for virtual meetings, TEAMS for instant messaging, SharePoint for virtual file sharing—and being open to new technology;
    3.    Taking advantage of the rise in co-working spaces around the country for face-to-face meetings when needed;
    4.    Infusing fun exercises into virtual meetings that increase speed and productivity;
    5.    Meetings strategically scheduled throughout the week that bring different teams together effectively;
    6.    Clear wording in job descriptions outlining the remote work and expectations.

 

Undoubtedly, technology can offer a solution to this challenge. With on-demand apps for workplaces, organizations can tackle communication gaps while providing a collaborative platform to their employee that fosters trust and cohesiveness among coworkers. Panacea Infotech is a leading company that builds on-demand mobile apps for different business verticals. Collaborate with experts.