Today the dilemma facing many service companies is not whether to offer hybrid or remote work, but rather how best to support, manage and develop remote employees. The evidence from multiple authoritative sources indicates that productivity increases and that high performing employees thrive in a flexible working environment, especially those of younger generations. Yet for many businesses, it still presents a number of challenges.

There’s the concern that teams won’t be as cohesive or that managers will have a harder time motivating and managing them. There’s debate on how flexible to make a hybrid working policy. Should it include some on-site days, or be fully remote allowing employees to become digital nomads and travel while working? Plus, there’s how to make it work from a technical IT infrastructure and security perspective?

In this article, we’ll dive into why professional service firms are evaluating their culture in this new era of hybrid and remote work. We’ll also include actionable tips to help you keep your employees connected, no matter the location.

Key Considerations for Professional Service Firms When Developing Remote Employees

According to the Gartner report, “The Future of Work Re-invented,” there’s a 40% increase in high performers when employees are afforded flexibility. Plus, more than 42% of employees would rethink their career options if flexibility isn’t offered. Not only does flexible working influence performance, but also employee retention – which is a major cost consideration for companies.

While these statistics show a majority support for remote working, businesses need to understand who that majority are and why remote work is their preference.

A McKinsey study illustrates the importance of this. Key factors include: level of education and earning, as well as age, gender and ethnicity. For many that embrace remote working, it’s about autonomy, or being able to organize their work around their life rather than the other way around. This is typical for young professionals that like to travel or working parents who have family responsibilities.

The extra hours they gain by not having to commute, not to mention the cost savings can have a big impact on their lifestyle and wellbeing. But it’s not the same for everyone. It's imperative to consider different backgrounds, as not every person may have a reliable internet connection and proper hardware to facilitate working from home.

The study also reflects that older employees also more frequently decline remote working opportunities. This could be from a lifetime habit of going into the office to work, or simply that they find it too lonely working from home where there’s limited interpersonal interaction.

The takeaway for professional service firms is that the reasons behind employees wanting flexible working are personal. Therefore, creating a culture that is built on genuine relationships where managers get to know their team is essential to developing remote employees and making their work environments successful.

Want to read more about the challenges of creating a digital employee experience? Check out this article.

How to Build Team Cohesion Remotely

Building on the knowledge that employees want autonomy in their work functions as well as flexibility means that companies need to get the basics right. This includes focusing on building a culture where strong communication is at its core and teams have multiple ways to collaborate.

From a management perspective, communicating expectations on deliverables sets the boundaries and ensures that project timelines stay on track. This enables team members to prioritize their tasks and coordinate more effectively.

Scheduling regular video calls for one-on-one check-ins is an opportunity to discuss where team members are experiencing challenges, and where they may need additional resources. It also creates an opportunity to discuss new ideas for upcoming projects or events. This makes employees feel they’re being supported.

When it comes to developing remote employees and retaining great team members, this aspect of culture can be what makes them want to stay.

Tip: By providing your staff with the right tools and technology, you create an environment that encourages productivity. That’s why many of our professional services clients rely on Microsoft Viva.

Knowing there are opportunities for professional development and that this can be done without travel or in person training gives remote employees another reason to stay. And with a wealth of online courses available, employees can focus on specific areas of interest. Keep in mind that online courses also represent networking opportunities that can provide the company exposure to potential markets. Encouraging further learning can be beneficial to businesses in more than one way.

Tip: Casual conversations are an equally important part of building a strong culture! Use a ‘fun-only’ dedicated Microsoft Team channel to connect your team with pet pictures, music taste, and more.

Getting employees to engage requires a willingness from team leaders to share and encourage casual conversations where team members share experiences from their daily lives as a way to get to know one another.

This comes with the caveat that interactions should be natural. If they become forced, the benefit of building a cohesive team could be lost.

Practical Aspects to Support Remote Working

It’s largely thanks to digital transformation that so many industries, including professional services, have been able to transform to remote or hybrid places of work. Team collaboration tools, online video conferencing and cloud services mean that businesses aren’t constrained to specific premises.

Still, there are a number of important considerations to work through:
The first is IT infrastructure. Are you equipping remote employees with up-to-date hardware and software to support their job function? This includes ensuring that they have a reliable and secure internet connection, additional screens, PCs with video cameras and all the components needed for a remote office.

Login access for various software tools needs to be set up, along with support on how the different systems are used by various teams. This process can be made easier when partnering with a IT managed service provider (MSP) that can help with the set-up and ensure that it is done securely. For example, an IT partner can give the right levels of access to the right people.

Cybersecurity is another important consideration. No company, no matter their size, is immune to attacks.

Threat actors often target employees in their initial attempts to gain access to company systems. An important part of supporting remote employees is training them on cybersecurity policies and ensuring they participate in basic protocols, such as multi-factor authentication.

When they understand how easily access can be gained through an employee account and the risk it poses, they’re more likely to be diligent in safeguarding their remote or hybrid work stations.

Getting Set Up for Remote Working Success

Remote and hybrid working is likely to remain the way of working in future, especially as employees and businesses alike reap the benefits. However, making it work requires effort from the leaders to provide the technical and practical support that remote employees need.

At Ceeva, we’re experienced in providing an impactful employee and client experience, whether remote, hybrid, or fully in the office. We can support your Pittsburgh business to create a modern work environment; one that employees find engaging and easy to use and that supports their productivity.

We’ve been serving Pittsburgh professional service firms for more than 30 years. Find out how we can support you becoming a flexible workplace employer! 

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