- Many organizations have been making headlines for issuing return-to-office (RTO) mandates for employees
- Most people prefer to work remotely, with the Pew Research Center showing that 76 percent of employees with jobs that can done remotely or in a hybrid situation choose to do so
- To keep top talent, organizations should rethink remote work policies and take into consideration the seven top skills of high-performing remote workers
When the pandemic brought on a large-scale shift to remote work, it was quickly evident that this would not be a temporary fix for a difficult situation, but a sea change in the way we work. While some organizations are committed to bringing workers back into the office, many others are adapting to a future of remote-friendly policies and significant flexibility.
There’s no going back to pre-pandemic office life
According to the Pew Research Center, 76 percent of employees with jobs that can be done remotely or in a hybrid situation have chosen to do so — 35 percent work fully from home, and 41 percent do some or most of the time. Most of those in hybrid arrangements would choose to spend even more time at home if they could. There’s also mounting evidence that remote and hybrid work has an equalizing effect on marginalized groups in the workplace, meaning that millions of talented workers will be better served by, and therefore opt for, organizations that support it.
Employers committed to bringing workers back to offices full-time may be able to make these demands for some period of time, but ignoring changing employee expectations and shifting business requirements could be detrimental to the organization in the long term.
This is why it’s imperative for organizations to continuously redesign jobs and employment models to adapt for the future. Don’t wait to be forced into a sweeping change and the disruption it will cause — make incremental changes to respond to labor market changes and stay ahead of them. Setting a workforce up for success means deeply understanding their skills and needs, and how those align with business goals.
Related content: Learn more about building a future-ready workforce. Watch our webinar with guest Mercer: “Skills at the core: Unleashing the power of modern work design.”
What skills are conducive to working from home?
Despite the skepticism of some business leaders, numerous studies conducted since the pandemic show increased productivity and engagement for remote employees. Aside from personal preferences, working from home requires a specific set of skills and characteristics to be successful.
Analysis of Eightfold AI data has identified seven stable or rising skills workers should have in a remote work environment — notice that many of these are considered “power skills,” or skills that require strong emotional intelligence. “Stable” designates a skill that is considered essential and is already widely adopted, while “rising” designates a skill that is still considered emerging or is not yet adopted for all roles.
- Self-discipline (stable): Working from home requires managing your time, staying focused, and avoiding distractions. You should be able to set clear goals, create a schedule, and stick to it.
- Organization/time management (stable): Efficiently managing your time is crucial in a remote work environment. Prioritize tasks, set deadlines, and establish a routine to ensure productivity and meet deadlines.
- Communication skills (stable): Strong written and verbal communication skills are essential for remote work. You need to effectively communicate with colleagues, managers, and clients through various channels including email, instant messaging, video conferences, and project management tools.
- Technology proficiency (rising): Proficiency in using digital tools and technology is vital for remote work. This includes familiarity with video conferencing platforms, project management software, collaboration tools, and other relevant applications specific to your job.
- Adaptability (stable): Remote work often requires flexibility and the ability to adapt to changing circumstances. You should be comfortable with new technologies, different work environments, and adjusting to varying schedules.
- Independence and initiative (rising and stable): Working remotely often means working autonomously. You should be self-motivated, proactive, and able to take the initiative to complete tasks without constant supervision.
- Problem-solving skills (stable): Remote work can present unique challenges, such as technical issues or communication barriers. Strong problem-solving skills will help you troubleshoot and overcome these challenges effectively.
Related content: Here’s why it’s time for AI-powered talent intelligence in your HR tech stack, so you can design a modern workforce built for purpose, no matter where they work.
Ensuring equitable career mobility for remote workers
In addition to assessing roles and skills across the workforce, organizations that want to create a successful remote work program need to build in measures and evaluations that give fully remote and hybrid workers equal access to resources, promotions, and mentorship.
Even the best leaders aren’t immune to proximity bias, and if they’re in an office with some team members more than others, they may have a skewed perception of performance. It’s important for organizations to have consistent, built-in interactions, rigorous outcome assessments, and other standardized elements to make sure remote workers don’t get passed up for promotions and other opportunities that they’ve earned.
Mentorship can also be really important for employees’ performance and careers, but these relationships often develop organically and in person. Instead of checking a box by assigning mentors to remote workers, organizations need to get creative so that remote workers truly benefit from authentic mentorship. A good example of this is a program at PWC that set up mentees with external mentors who could provide a safe space and coach them on developing internal mentor relationships.
As organizations balance business needs and employee expectations to craft the best policies and programs, the most successful will focus on building the strongest teams with the right balance of skills in the environments that will most help them and the business succeed.
Sania Khan is the chief economist at Eightfold AI, the AI-powered platform for all talent, and the author of the book Think Like an Economist. She previously worked for the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
This article originally appeared on Inc. in September.