3 tips for managing long-term remote work in 2021

Remote work was one of the biggest HR stories of 2020–and it’s not looking like the headlines will be much different this year. As the pandemic rages on, many employers are keeping their workers at home for the time being, and potentially permanently, creating new priorities for HR leaders as we head into 2021.

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When organizations had to quickly pivot to remote work early last year, HR leaders scrambled to ensure workers had the proper technology, revamp processes to support business operations and create new ways for employees to collaborate. Now, HR is tasked with making such strategies sustainable for the long term. As part of our look ahead to HR’s role in 2021, we recently spoke with several HR leaders about what the initial shift to remote work showed and how HR can take these lessons into this year. Here’s what they had to say:

Rely on your data. Organizations that were most successful in transitioning to remote work in 2020 were those that embarked on comprehensive data collection and analysis about their workforces, says George Penn, vice president, advisory in the Gartner HR practice. That approach enabled employers to “understand employee situations, preferences and engagement drivers to rapidly adapt their strategies in the areas of wellness, inclusion, performance and rewards.” Those organizations were then better prepared to enact “responsive and dynamic programs,” Penn says, a model that will prove vital in 2021. Read more here.

Invest in the tech to support remote processes. Modern Hire CEO Karin Borchert predicts that remote and hybrid work will likely “stick around long after the pandemic is over.” As such, now is the time, if employers haven’t, to ensure technologies are in place to support management, engagement and performance evaluation. Hiring should also be a particular focus for technology selection, she says. “Because of the success large enterprises saw with recruiting, hiring and onboarding new employees, they will likely keep their hiring processes 100% virtual post-pandemic, as technology allowed them to make smarter hiring decisions in a way that in-person interviews could not compete with.” Read more here.

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Are you remote-first, or remote-friendly? Long-term remote work can only be successful if all employees are remote, as allowing some, but not all, employees to work from home could impact business efficiency, productivity and culture, says Job van der Voort, CEO and co-founder of HR tech provider Remote. So, employers need to approach 2021 with a remote-first mindset, focused on providing employees the tools, resources and support for successful remote work. Read more here.

See also: 5 steps to check if your remote hiring system is ready for 2021

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Jen Colletta
Jen Colletta is managing editor at HRE. She earned bachelor's and master's degrees in writing from La Salle University in Philadelphia and spent 10 years as a newspaper reporter and editor before joining HRE. She can be reached at [email protected].