Remote working is here to stay says Gartner

Gartner has published survey findings of 127 company leaders representing HR, legal and compliance, and finance and real estate, revealing that 82 percent of respondents intend to allow employees to work remotely for some of the time. As companies will need to manage a more complex, hybrid workforce.

Nearly half (47 percent) said they intend to allow employees to work remotely full time going forward. For some organizations, flex time will be the new norm as 43 percent of survey respondents reported they will grant employees flex days, while 42 percent will provide flex hours.

Vice president of advisory in the Gartner HR practice Elisabeth Joyce said the COVID-19 pandemic brought about a huge experiment in widespread remote working.

“As business leaders plan and execute reopening of their workplaces, they are evaluating more permanent remote working arrangements as a way to meet employee expectations and to build more resilient business operations.”

Organisations that are welcoming employees back to the workplace are instituting a variety of safety measures. Respondents were nearly unanimous in planning to limit face-to-face meetings (94 percent) and providing protective equipment such as masks and hand sanitiser (91 percent). Eighty-three percent of respondents said they intend to limit or sequence employee attendance at the workplace.

“The question now facing many organisations is not how to manage a remote workforce, but how to manage a more complex, hybrid workforce”, said Joyce.

“While remote work isn’t new, the degree of remote work moving forward will change how people work together to get their job done.”

As employers move toward a hybrid workforce, the productivity of remote employees is a frequent topic of conversation. However, just 13 percent of business leaders voiced concerns over sustaining productivity. While 61% of business leaders surveyed by Gartner have implemented more frequent manager-employee check-ins, 29 per cent report not taking any measures to track productivity remotely.

Among the challenges of managing a hybrid workforce, 30 percent of business leaders are most concerned with maintaining corporate culture. Thirteen percent of respondents reported concern over creating parity between the remote and in-office experience; 13 percent also are concerned about providing a seamless employee experience.

“It is critical that employers get their corporate culture and employee experience right during this period of uncertainty,” said Brian Kropp, chief of research for the Gartner HR practice. “Both facets help ensure organisations achieve the financial, reputation and talent outcomes that will drive business outcomes and competitive advantage.”

Simon Pamplin, technical director at Silver Peak said: “Gartner’s new survey exhibits the need for organisations to remain adaptable to the changing working conditions the global pandemic has facilitated. However, accommodating attitudes in upper management alone will not determine whether a company thrives or struggles in this new normal. Organisations must also look to the infrastructures that support company operations, which will be under pressure to support a distributed workforce.

When it comes to the network, the primary challenge is in connecting this workforce to business-enabling applications and services residing in the data centre and the cloud, he said.

Some users require access to voice of internet protocol (VoIP) systems, virtual desktops and video conferencing that require fast and highly reliable network connections. For example, a company that had 50 branch offices before lockdown, must now grapple with the idea that every user, and their home network, is a new branch they have to support, representing an exponential increase in the number of sites, Pamplin said.

“Critical to meeting this challenge will be in employing advanced network solutions that can effectively prioritise application use that is integral to efficient operations. In assessing whether or not their organisations can cope, business leaders should ensure their networks meet an essential set of criteria. Namely, can they segment users into categories so that all remote users have reliable access to on-network applications; do ‘power’ users have direct and secure access to cloud services and real-time applications that have unique requirements, such as voice and video; and, do ‘power’ users have access to high-throughput applications that require additional performance, such as software development, large data applications and medical imaging. If the current network cannot meet one or all of these advanced criteria, then the organisation will struggle throughout this upcoming period, where much of the workforce may well remain distributed for the foreseeable future”, Pamplin said,