Remote Employee Training Vital to Maintaining Productivity in a Post-Covid World

Distributed workforce onboarding and remote employee training used to be minor concerns. Though a clear trend towards flexible work schedules and remote work had become apparent, many businesses erroneously believed they had years before they needed to rethink their work strategies.

COVID-19 hit and proved them wrong. In mere weeks, organizations had to alter the way they approached work radically.

According to a Gallup poll, within one month of the March 4th, 2020 lockdown, 62% of employed Americans had worked or were working from home. Furthermore, 59% of these workers wanted to continue working from home after the crisis, while 41% wanted to return to the workplace.

Employee Productivity in Crisis

Many enterprises previously eschewed remote work and flexible schedules because they believed productivity would suffer. The pandemic has forced us to conduct one of the most extensive experiments in history on remote work and its effects on business and employee productivity.

So, were the proponents of remote work right, or did all its opponents’ concerns become a reality?

In terms of employee productivity, the data indicate that it either stayed the same or increased.

For example, a FlexJobs’ survey published mid-December 2020 showed that 95% of employees are just as or more productive when working from home, while 51% claim their productivity increased. These are the employees at the companies who early on went through digital transformation adopting state-of-the-art communication and operational technologies.

In the UK, a study conducted by Deloitte in May 2020 discovered that 55% of workers felt their colleagues were just as, maybe even more, productive than before the country went into lockdown.

Furthermore, both employees and businesses found the change to be beneficial. PwC’s US Remote Work Survey of January 2021 revealed that 83% of companies state shifting to telecommuting has been incredibly successful for their businesses and their employees.

Therefore, overall, productivity has increased, though it also depends on the company. Businesses that effectively managed talent shortages and their employees’ limited time and energy before the pandemic were just as productive during the crisis.

Companies that didn’t perform as well before the crisis continued to show lackluster performance. Some experienced a decline in productive time between 2% and 3%, according to a Harvard Business School and New York University study.

Valuable Lessons to Learn from the Pandemic About the Importance of Remote Employee Training

It hasn’t all been sunshine and roses, of course. As Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley said, “Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change.”

In weeks, our lives changed dramatically as COVID swept across the world, and we weren’t ready for it. Therefore, drawbacks are to be expected.

For example, a Limeade Institute study revealed that 72% of workers were burned out, up from 42% before the pandemic.

This level of burnout could be an indicator that productivity might drop. Opponents of remote work will likely use it as ammunition to strengthen their points.

However, we should consider this great and sudden change people have been subjected to. Many people have become prisoners in their own homes, which is bound to increase stress and lead to discontent.

Once people begin to grasp the benefits of working from home in a post-COVID world, though, it’s likely most employees will prefer remote work at least part of the time.

It’s also important to note that employees who hadn’t worked remotely before found their productivity decreased. The same occurred for employees who hadn’t been with the company long and those who didn’t collaborate frequently with colleagues before the pandemic.

Such issues can be resolved with a better approach to remote employee training. Companies should remember that switching to an entirely new mode of work won’t necessarily come naturally. It’s not just a matter of doing the same things in a different location.

Many other factors need to be considered, including how to achieve an effective work-life balance when working from home.

Therefore, remote employee training and engagement should be made an even greater priority when adopting a work model that is unfamiliar to most of one’s workforce.

TINYpulse, a Seattle startup, conducted an analysis that revealed that employees onboarded during the pandemic didn’t adjust as well to the values and culture of some workplaces. This is believed to be the result of isolation, which has led to less of a connection with teammates.

This issue can be resolved using the right technology to improve social connection, along with a more effective approach to distributed workforce onboarding.

The key to maximizing employee productivity, both remote and on-site, begins with understanding that every person is different. It can be challenging, however, for organizations to customize their approaches for every employee.

A better option is to employ onboarding and training software that allows for this level of flexibility, that can provide the social connection remote workers need, and that can also provide the data your organization needs for more effective decision-making.

The Future of Work – Adopting a Hybrid Model

Remote working is here to stay. It’s beneficial for employees as it allows for a better work-life balance. It also offers organizations a wide range of advantages, including the potential to minimize talent shortages.

Based on the data, however, we’ll likely see businesses adopt hybrid models, where some employees work remotely full-time, while others also come into the office sporadically.

One thing is obvious. The traditional 9 to 5, Monday to Friday in the office workweek is a thing of the past.

While it’s true that, currently, some employees are looking forward to returning to the office as they feel disconnected, this is not the result of remote work but the pandemic.

Flexible work schedules were already becoming a major deciding factor in people’s decisions on whether to accept a job before the pandemic. In a post-COVID world, after experiencing the benefits of remote work, this trend is likely to accelerate.

Therefore, companies will have no choice but to implement hybrid work models that cater to their employees’ needs and desires and eliminate time spent in the office as a “silent” KPI. If they don’t, they’ll lose their workers to more agile companies.

However, as the data show, simply sending everyone home and expecting them to “get on with it” is not the best strategy as it could lead to disconnect and an eventual decline in productivity. 

Enterprises should, instead, consider implementing remote working just like any other major change, namely through efficient planning and by providing the necessary support through a comprehensive infrastructure.

  • The problems highlighted by the TINYpulse analysis with new employees can be overcome through personalized onboarding for remote workers via smart technology. Personalized onboarding has been shown to help people new to the company adjust better in terms of values and culture. 
  • Problems regarding productivity can also be addressed for remote workers using smart technology capable of performance enablement. Such technology detects the employees whose performance is suffering and delivers relevant remote employee training to boost skills at the point of need and, implicitly, productivity.
  • Remote employee engagement is sometimes overlooked, despite its importance to productivity. Engagement can be increased through data-driven incentives and recognition tools, though it might seem like a challenge due to the workforce’s distributed nature. Once again, technology plays an essential role by not only helping to identify who should be incentivized but also by providing an excellent platform to ensure broad-scale recognition.

These forms of innovative technologies can take remote employee training and engagement to new heights. It can predict upcoming business needs and help to reskill or upskill employees at large. It helps the enterprise by ensuring employees evolve along with it. However, it also reduces attrition and boosts employee engagement. 

The 2018 Skills Gap Report by Udemy shows that 51% of employees would quit a job that didn’t provide training.  Furthermore, Udemy’s 2018 Millennials at Work Report revealed that 42% of millennials consider learning and development to be the most crucial benefit when deciding where they want to work.

Just as companies address the challenges employees face in the workplace and implement strategies to boost engagement, they should take the same approach with their distributed workforce. The key to success is ensuring that one has the right tools to facilitate the creation of the ideal remote work environment.

For a single solution to help your organization and employees overcome the challenges of remote working and improve productivity, request a demo of the Rallyware Learning and Enablement Platform!