Setting up boundaries in the remote workplace

With the rise of the remote workforce, it’s quite natural that people would assume employees are already working in a flexible work environment. But this is not true. As work creeps into the personal space, the work-life balance is greatly impacted. 

Good employees are difficult to find and even harder to retain. They expect to be part of a great company culture where they feel valued, engaged, and trusted. As companies adjust to the new reality of a virtual workforce, they’re looking for ways to keep their remote employees motivated.

Realizing that this unprecedented situation may result in lost productivity and less financial turnover, more companies are realizing the value of fostering a company culture that helps individuals achieve a balance between their professional and personal lives by offering flexibility and defining boundaries. 

In a recent Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) survey, 91% of HR professionals agreed that flexible work arrangements positively influence employee engagement, job satisfaction, and productivity. However, for flexible workplaces to succeed, proper boundaries need to be set to ensure a proper work-life balance for employees.

The need for boundaries in a remote workplace

In the current situation, parents and children are staying home without any outside assistance to take care of household chores. And official meetings and virtual check-ins have become the new norm. This has started to affect their work as well as family dynamics because there are no longer physical boundaries between work and home. 

Especially for women employees, finding the work-life balance becomes even harder as traditionally they handle more domestic chores than men. The need for organizations to implement special policies and practices that govern the time, scheduling, and daily work hours of the employees then becomes all the more important.Working from home

How to incorporate flexibility into the remote workplace

The remote workplace model doesn’t always fit into the traditional 9-to-5 structure. To make the remote workplace a success, employees need to understand the time needed to complete a task. Managers can take this time into consideration while allocating tasks or planning group projects so virtual overtimes can be avoided at all costs.

Rather than focusing on employees staying online for a said amount of hours, the focus should shift to finishing work in a stipulated period of time. 

Employees and managers need to work together to ensure no one feels bound to respond to each and every email or IM round the clock. This can be an issue when it comes to highly interdependent teams, but with effective prior communication, this barrier can be crushed too. 

Managers play a key role in such a situation by dividing tasks and ensuring everyone knows what their responsibilities are and when they’re expected to complete them. It’s also helpful to have scheduled check-ins to make sure everyone is available to share updates and attend online meetings.

Video meetings

An HRMS can play a pivotal role to make sure every employee is doing their best. AI-enabled HRMS can help managers keep an eye on individual productivity by tracking hours spent doing work or work-related tasks. The challenge for the companies lies in defining the initial set of actions, rules, and compliance policies necessary to track each productive hour. 

Setting up boundaries also includes allowing employees greater control over their work schedules by letting them decide when to take a break or a holiday or whether or not to work overtime. With a dedicated employee portal accessible through an HRMS, individuals can view the leave calendar of others and plan holidays so it doesn’t affect the entire team’s output. 

Nowadays, many employees negotiate personalized work flexibility requirements during the interview stage itself. So, a few MNCs such as AXA, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and TiVo have relaxed rules about workers starting and finishing their workdays at a set time. 

Unless these employees can check the ‘infrastructure is remote ready’ box, there’s no point in offering flexible working. This includes access to desktops, laptops, or other hardware and network requirements such as VPN and LAN. Managers need to make sure each team member can work seamlessly without a glitch. 

In March 2020, when Shopify employees were forced to work-from-home due to the novel coronavirus, the company offered its workers a $1000 stipend to purchase any necessary office hardware supplies while making sure that all network and security issues were addressed properly. 

Human resource personnel should act as consultants to fine-tune flexible working policies whenever required while getting top management to support these new ways of working. 

Making flexibility in remote work, work

Incorporating flexibility and defining boundaries into the remote workplace is not about discarding every old rule; it’s about letting your employees co-create them. This can only be achieved through entrepreneurship and innovation initiated by managers. 

Everyone who is part of the workplace needs to understand the importance of flexibility as a benefit, and that it’s meant to make their life easier. Additionally, companies need to make sure there is proper communication among the employees, managers, and senior executives with set boundaries, for the flexibility option to work without impacting the company culture.