By: Jim Roddy, President & CEO at the RSPA
In 2015, when Postec’s Mike Seymour was handed the gavel as the new Chair of the RSPA Board of Directors, he said during his RetailNOW acceptance speech, “I don’t know what the future will look like five or 10 years from now, but I know it won’t be the same as today.”
Back then, “Zoom” meant “very fast” and remote workers were a rarity – less than 3% of the U.S. workforce. Fast forward to 2022 where 58% of Americans have the opportunity to work at least one day a week from home and everyone is familiar with the phrase “Zoom fatigue.” I couldn’t have predicted that seven years ago.
Because workers continue to move away from the office and onto our laptop screens, I’ve been closely studying remote communication to understand its challenges and best practices. Over the past several months, I’ve moderated a VAR remote workforce panel at BlueStar’s VARTECH conference, published on this blog my analysis of the book Leading from Anywhere, attended (and wrote about) the “ISV Challenges in a Virtual/Hybrid Workplace” breakout session at RetailNOW 2022, and participated in the RSPA NextGEN Community’s online video meeting about remote vs. in-office work.
The NextGEN conversation was especially interesting because it featured a wide variety of perspectives from a wide variety of retail IT solution providers. I wanted to share with you some of the comments and insights that jumped out to me:
- A big challenge is bonding the team. How do you make that magic happen remotely?
- We make sure we are meeting as a team at least twice a week. If we can keep the team cohesive and allow employees to work from home … if we do that right, it’s a win-win.
- We have an opportunity to recruit better hires when we offer a remote opportunity. We have them spend the first two months in our office for onboarding and training before they can go remote.
- We have to raise our standards for who we hire. You need to hire dedicated self-starters – people who won’t mow their lawn or take a nap during the work day even though they have that opportunity.
- Remote work is the new signing bonus.
- The pandemic forced our merchants to adapt to touchless and remote technologies. It forced us to get good at remote demos. It forces us to get good at remote communication.
- We’re seeing a “silver tsunami” of older employees leaving the workforce. Those are the people who were most resistant to remote work because they have worked in-office for decades.
- No matter what we prefer as a company, we’re finding it necessary to offer remote work now.
- To stay connected, we’re arranging regular meetups during the year.
- Not everyone on our team can work remotely. Leaders need to explain to all employees why some need to be in the office and why some can work remotely. “Reasonable people equally informed seldom disagree.”
- Leaders have to communicate what might work remotely for the employee might not work for the employer in all circumstances.
- You have to keep close to your best practices that keep everyone informed, and that includes managing your files. People can’t be storing documents on their personal Google Drive. Everyone needs to know where files should go on the network so they can be viewed and shared.
- Use technology to tie projects and the communication around them together.
My last word on remote work today – but I’m sure we’ll be talking about it again really soon, probably on a video call – is something I remember from the ScanSource Virtual Partner Conference held during the pandemic in 2020. Keynote Joe Theismann, a former NFL star player and broadcaster, said, “Don’t fear a situation. Respect the situation and figure out a solution.”
As a leader in your organization, avoid taking a premature all-or-nothing approach to remote work. Don’t fear that employees working from home will wreck your culture, or that those workers are going to unfairly take advantage of the situation. And don’t fear asking employees to work in the office and meet face-to-face when the situation warrants it.
Communicate with your team, both one-on-one and in group settings, about your company’s remote work dilemma and how you’re planning to navigate it. Ask the team for input on what they think would work best for the company and for them. Talk through those ideas in detail. Then test, measure, and adapt, adapt, adapt based on what you learn.
We don’t know what the future of remote work will look like for VARs and ISVs, but we know it won’t be the same as today.