Work from home – it’s on everyone’s lips, front of mind, causing the global economy to stir and governments to scramble. For the first time, we are seeing how truly connected every country is and how possible it is for many to work remotely.
So, an obvious question is whether such a dramatic scenario can be used for good? The impact of a pandemic on markets worldwide illustrates that it really is a global economy and that work can be performed from almost anywhere.
What if the “new normal” becomes an opportunity for remote work without geographical borders? Companies could hire across the globe and trim unemployment, boost skills development and disrupt, in a positive sense, the traditional employment model.
Enforced work from home sparks model rethink
Many workplaces became remote overnight as employers and governments focused on employee health and safety in the traditional workplace. It essentially forced employees to provide services remotely using existing infrastructure to meet the needs of the business.
To be sure, the global economy has contracted but in recent months, there’s still hundreds of billions of dollars of revenue being generated while office buildings rest vacant.
Now, as economies revive and businesses resume near-normal operations, will employment practices revert to the past? Much has been said about the “new normal” or the “great reset” and whether employees can now reasonably expect or even demand from their employees to work from home. This is a voice in the marketplace that’s increasingly asking whether the emergency remote work approach can be the new business normal.
Remote working requires strategic shift
Let’s assume we transition from the traditional business model to a well-maintained remote employment relationship, then HR and employee relations requires a strategic shift.
Employers must urgently create operating procedures to manage change. Structures and terms need to prioritize change, risk and emergency management. This will inform how we navigate people, planning and profit.
Employers must devise a plan to cope through and beyond the pandemic. Change must be embraced with real-time intelligence. Employers need to focus on what they will look like tomorrow.
Real-time intelligence means embracing learning by creating a culture of shorter feedback loops to employees and, generally, learning from this to introduce a culture of change. These are critical components in the employment relationship. Employees now understand the employer’s capacity, and many will expect this to continue during the “new normal.” So, leaders must be trained to manage remote workers, adopt and adapt to platforms for remote work and explore new tools to support remote work.
Reduced consumer spend would adversely impact the employer’s business and lost opportunities are hard to reconcile. This impacts how the employer invests in its people and its strategy, so employers need to adopt the best fit for their business rather than the best market practice. This requires an “outside in” HR approach, where organizations examine factors like market conditions and introduce what could evolve into an employee value proposition.
Remote employees provide opportunities without borders
For a virtual workplace, it is crucial to prioritize employee wellness. Employees will move from working fixed hours to, in a sense, all the time and this needs to be managed properly. Even in the future of work, a burnt-out digital workplace is of no value. Employees need to be taught how to manage stress remotely as well as the financial and emotional anxiety after months of enforced home working. If left unaddressed, this will impact performance and team synergies. We need to invest in building resilience among employees.
Now that virtual workplaces can enable employees to collaborate easily at a distance, it also affords a company to international opportunities. Suddenly, small dynamic teams are agile enough to work across all time zones, growing their audiences across regions at the same time.
Yet, while the technology is borderless, foreign employment law is not and companies must align with local labor laws, taxes and other compliance requirements.
Fortunately, alongside tech innovations, there have also been advancements by specialist HR companies, called Employers of Record. These specialists enable a company to employ without incorporating overseas by removing the risk, time and cost associated with incorporation.
Remote work has erupted and may be the foundation for the creation of future working models. Think augmented reality as well as, intrapreneurship, reskilling and upskilling the workplace. This global experiment could be the spark that creates global work opportunities without borders.
Sherisa is Director of Employment Law and Compliance at Elements Global Services. She is an employment lawyer with more than 15 years of experience in employment law. She was a member of the South African Presidential Commission on 4IR and is a member of international HR organizations driving change.
About Elements Global Services:
Elements Global Services is an award-winning HR technology & services company. Elements provides employment solutions in over 135 countries – covering everything from payroll, benefits, HR, local compliance to visa & mobility. Headquartered in Barcelona, Spain, Elements has a global network of offices and employees delivering innovative solutions to its growing customer base. Elements’ Direct Employer of Record model helps companies expand, onboard, manage & pay employees worldwide. Visit www.elementsgs.com, LinkedIn or Twitter for more information.