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Talent management in the new era of remote work

Marta Moreno, Talent Manager at Víntegris

2020 was a turning point for the world with the arrival of a global pandemic. In this context, organizations endorsed the saying “adapt or die” and had to change many processes and technologies to manage confinement, distances, border closures, etc. We went from face-to-face meetings and human contact (very Mediterranean, by the way) to hearing the word “teleworking” which, until before 2020, was like a unicorn. That is to say, little was seen in the companies and with the regularity of one day a week maximum. People whose jobs allowed it had to adapt their homes as makeshift offices and learn to reconcile family space with work.

According to the data provided by the INE, teleworking in Spain stood out for small increases. It was still below the European average, at around 12% of workers. At that time, only 4.8% enjoyed work regularly, and 3.5% were allowed to work at home. Three years after COVID-19, the primary results are being analyzed due to work during confinement and post-pandemic.

Can we then say teleworking has come to stay in Spain under the hybrid or complete model? Unfortunately, the numbers tell us no.

Although in 2021, everything seemed very promising, according to the World Bank through the Gartner consultancy, the global teleworking situation at that time was 30%, and it was expected to increase to 48% when the pandemic ended. However, according to the INE and its latest surveys in the ICT field, 27% of Spanish companies do not currently offer to telework regularly.

But why aren’t national companies betting on this model, as if the rest of Europe is doing it? It seems to be, according to a Caixabank report, that the main reason would be due to the distribution of the type of economy we have, which is very focused mainly on the third sector (that is, the services sector, in which the remote format is very complicated). In this case, and according to the National Observatory of Technology and Society (ONTSI), the main sectors in Spain that are committed to teleworking, either hybrid or completely remote permanently, are ICT with 87.8% teleworking, finance and insurance, with 80.7%, followed by real estate activities with an 87.2%. It is for this reason that the companies which have seen this trend of teleworking grow so exponentially that we must continue to implement formulas so that it is carried out in the most successful way possible both for the organization and for its collaborators.

Let's talk about us, what is the current situation in Víntegris?

Víntegris, like the rest of the companies, also had to adapt to the health crisis and move from a face-to-face model to a completely remote one in 2020. With this, we had to reformulate new policies and ways of working. Once the pandemic was over, we wanted to know the opinion of our collaborators about whether to continue the utterly remote work model. The response was unanimous, and everyone wanted to continue preserving that flexibility of being able to work from their homes permanently. During 2020, teleworking has given them numerous benefits, such as being able to reconcile their work and family life better, living outside the big cities, saving them unnecessary costs and, above all, gaining more time to invest in what is critical to them. In other words, to increase your quality of life, which is currently known in the HR world as the famous “emotional salary”. This “salary” is growing increasingly due to the change in the mentality of the new generations, and from the HR departments we must take it very much into account, either to attract this talent or to retain it in our organizations.

But who are these new generations?

Let’s talk first about the Millennials, or what is the same, those born between 1981 and 1996. These are currently about being future parents or first-time parents. Therefore, they mainly value this work and family reconciliation that they probably could not enjoy with their parents (the Baby Boomer Generation, which is currently in retirement and generating a generational transfer within organizations). On the other hand, we began to find Generation Z (1997-2011) in the world of work, most of whom did not know the analog era and were already born enjoying technological devices at home. It will be difficult for this generation to understand the reason for this mandatory presence in companies when it is optional. Finally, the Alpha Generation (those born after 2012) will burst into organizations in the next decade. That has grown with 4G, instant messaging, social networks, and much more in a fully digital world. According to the data, they are going to go one step further, and not only are they not going to contemplate face-to-face work, but in the cases where possible, they will become permanent digital nomads.

Returning to the case of Víntegris, it should be said that the implementation of remote work was beneficial not only for the workers, as we have already mentioned, but also for the company since the collaborators’ performance during the pandemic was the same or even better in many cases, by eliminating those unnecessary times that we mentioned earlier and being able to focus on what is important. For these reasons and for many more, our “Víntegris Work Remote” (VWR) policy was born in 2021, this allows our present and future workers to choose the work modality they prefer, in my opinion, Something completely innovative in the world of organizations. Those who prefer a hybrid model can do it at any of our offices in Poblenou (Barcelona) and Las Tablas (Madrid). In this case, we all have a web application to book our job or room whenever we want to go in person. Implementing this policy was beneficial for all the people who are part of the company. Still, at the HR level, it allowed us to open the talent search radar more and stop focusing on large cities such as Barcelona and Madrid. For this reason, we have incorporated large profiles throughout the national geography for almost two years.

But at Víntegris we wanted to go one step further...

After that test period that was 2021 on the definitive implementation of the policies related to remote work, in mid-2022, we decided to go further. For this reason, we activate the option “Víntegris Work Remote II Residence”. In this case, all those colleagues who have a second home in the national territory and meet the same safety and risk prevention conditions as in their first home can request it. What is the OBJECTIVE? We think of collaborators who have a second summer residence and want to spend more extended periods there while reconciling it with their work or those who live in different autonomous communities from their relatives and want to spend more time with them.

As we said before, at Víntegris, our main objective is to continue increasing the emotional salary of our workers. But how far are we going to go? Well, as the song “the sky’s the limit” said, so we hope to continue reporting on this blog about the new policies that we implement and of course they will continue to bring improvements to everyone’s quality of life.

What are the challenges of working remotely?

As we have mentioned, the implementation of teleworking is a great benefit, but it also entails some challenges that the entire organization must work on.

According to different studies carried out through consultancies such as Randstad or Adecco, the main challenges and those on which HR departments most agree, which their collaborators have suffered or are suffering, would be what I call “the dreaded trident of talent management in remote”: the shipwrecked effect, Agile management and burn-out.

Castaway effect

Let’s talk about the shipwrecked effect (or Robinson Crusoe as some call it) is the feeling that appears in the worker when he lacks human contact. In the Tom Hanks movie “Cast Away”, the actor goes through different states once his plane crashes on a deserted island. First fear, then wanting to ask for help, and later he becomes increasingly closed in his world, even altering reality (we all remember his partner, Wilson, the bogeyman with whom he related so much).

In organizations with completely remote work implemented, we must detect when a worker feels “Cast Away” (obviously saving the distance with the film). That is when you think you are culturally isolated from the organization and do not interact enough with your colleagues or manager. 

Why does this occur? This can happen because you are working alone or with a small and non-cohesive team and are part of a chain, let’s call it “assembly”, within an ICT project in which you do not you are involved in all phases. You do not know the scope of what you are doing or, finally, by a distant or absent manager. When this effect occurs in a collaborator, it causes demotivation in the long term, which can affect the quality of their work, or, in the worst case, they may want to leave the company.

It is critical to detect this happening in time, is critical to provide solutions and reverse it. For this reason, a series of initiatives promoted by the manager must arise, such as: promoting follow-up meetings with the team regularly, having one-to-one meetings to learn individually about the concerns of each one and to the extent possible, meeting in person promptly so as not to lose human contact.

For HR, measures can also be adopted, such as conducting more climate surveys to detect the organization’s pulse, one-to-one meetings, and promoting face-to-face meetings and team building on an annual basis.

Agile management

The next point of this trident would be agile management or agile management, which was born in software development companies more than two decades ago. As a curious fact, all this began with the “crisis in the development of applications” in 1990. At that time, development companies had very high delivery times for these applications to the client. Hence, many of them in 2001 were aligned to create a faster work methodology that could meet deadlines.

According to studies, this is still the most efficient project management method. The concept of this methodology or work philosophy, as some would say, is to break the project into small parts, which must be reviewed, completed, and delivered in a few weeks (so-called “sprints”). This increases the project’s quality, feedback, priorities, and speed. As the Project Management Institute (PMI) report on “Pulse of the Profession” in 2020 indicates, the fact of not implementing a successful methodology in an organization can lower its investment by up to 11.4% and up to 67% for all those failed projects. Within this Agile methodology are different frameworks such as Scrum, Kanban, or Extreme.

This work methodology benefits project management and generates advantages at the individual and team levels. According to the data, more cooperation and communication are developed between the teams that apply Agile. The contact is more significant, and the collaborators are more motivated to be involved from start to finish in this project. All this contact is also made through the so-called “Sprint” where periodically in a meeting or the so-called “sprint review” the tasks carried out are evaluated, and each project collaborator must give their feedback on where their work is. The agile methodology also mitigates the shipwrecked effect we discussed in the previous point. This methodology avoids many of the inconveniences already mentioned, such as the feeling of “loneliness” or not knowing where “in the chain” your work is.

Regarding Víntegris, we can say that our IT teams are working with agile methodologies, and over time the success of applying them has been verified.

Burnout syndrome

The last aspect is burn-out, which is the most trying to manage and detect since it impacts the collaborator like a Malaysian drop, which gradually wears him down. This goes a step further than the “castaway effect” since it occurs when a person is on edge. Burn-out is a severe state of exhaustion, be it: emotional, physical, or mental, that is generated at the individual level but can quickly spread throughout the organization. Some possible reasons would be stress, professional burnout, or the emotional overload caused by that person’s work and the responsibilities he or she has.

This concept was declared by the World Health Organization in 2000 as an occupational risk factor and since the pandemic in 2022, the WHO has included it for the first time in its list of diseases. This is because Covid-19 has caused emotional exhaustion in people, affecting their work in numerous instances due to remote work management. According to a CIGNA study called “COVID-19 Global Impact”, in these years the employees’ feeling of “burn-out” has grown to reach 79%.

What would be the symptoms that a collaborator suffering from burn-out can develop?

Mainly, it develops symptoms related to anxiety, stress, and lack of motivation symptoms. That is nervousness, irritability, sadness, apathy, or lack of motivation.

At the organizational level, a series of problems occur when burnout appears. Some of them would be: lousy weather and an increase in labor conflicts due to a state of irritability or nervousness, an increase in punctual absences by collaborators or sick leave, decreased productivity due to a form of motivation, and with it, the delay in the delivery of projects, there is also a decrease in the development of employee skills and the refusal to train or test new skills and finally the increase in turnover in the company.

From HR, we must work together with the management of the company and the different managers who manage teams to try to detect cases early, as well as point out “bad practices” and modify them. We must apply an organizational culture based on well-being. As we said at the beginning of the article, we return to the concept of “adapt or die,” and companies that do not apply it will have to face an increase in turnover and a decrease in productivity, among many other consequences.

Some of the initiatives that are gaining more and more weight in organizations and that sound louder in HR would be based on 3 points: measurement actions, time management, and the so-called “soft” or “wellness” actions.

  • Measurement actions: It is significant that workers know their scope and expectations in their professional development. A culture based on performance evaluations must be implemented. These objectives must comply with the SMART methodology.

This measure will reduce unnecessary or non-value work and help better target organizational priorities and planned deliverables. It also makes it easier for the worker to manage their work better, promotes flexibility and work-family reconciliation, and finally avoids falling into stress so easily.

This measurement action must also be encouraged by the so-called “feedback culture”. That is, establishing good objectives is just as important or even more important than evaluating them and providing feedback to the collaborator once they have been completed. With this, the employee can know his points of improvement, work on them, and promote those in which he stands out. HR needs to establish different training courses, both management and cascade to the rest of the organization of the culture of feedback, performance evaluations, and objectives.

  • Time management is based on establishing a series of time-related policies and ensuring their correct development. The first of these would be the implementation of labor flexibility and that which facilitates work-personal reconciliation. Another approach is based on avoiding “always-on” or always being connected. This phenomenon has appeared as a result of the pandemic and remote work. It consists of the fact that workers, having a computer at home feel the need or are pressured by their managers to answer emails immediately, despite not being within their working hours. This point has been one of those that, according to studies, has most rapidly caused this increase in the percentage of burn-out in organizations. From HR, we must encourage through the tools that people extend recurrently beyond their working hours or contact each other via call or email outside working hours.

Another policy to be implemented by HR is that of efficient communication. This should explain to the collaborators the importance of applying tips to make a remote meeting efficient.

What are the tips that we recommend from this blog?
  • The main and most apparent is punctuality. It seems obvious, but on many occasions, there can be meetings where it takes more than 10 minutes for all the attendees to be in the same meeting and start it. If we have three of these styles throughout the day, we will easily have generated 30 minutes of unproductiveness for the worker.
  • It is essential that the person calling the meeting send a guide to the points to be discussed, as well as the objective of the meeting. It also seems an obvious point, but in many cases due to haste it is not given. This point is crucial so that the people who attend can prepare the content.
  • Invite people who have something to contribute. In numerous instances, several people are invited “for informational purposes” and who do not actively collaborate in such meetings. At the end of the session, it would be convenient to send a summary email of everything discussed and include the collaborators that, we believe, should be informed, regardless of whether they have attended. This will prevent our agendas from filling up with meetings in which we do not provide real value, and we will be able to allocate that time to other, perhaps more, priority tasks.
  • It would be preferable to convene small groups to develop the meeting. There is no correct number, but I should only join up to 5 people. This will make it easier for everyone to collaborate and provide feedback.
  • Another point is the maximum time of the meeting. According to the studies and based on the Agile methodologies we mentioned, it should be done in about 30 or 45 minutes to be efficient. Let’s split this meeting into smaller ones and segment its topic if it lasts longer. When in a meeting we see that we have spent more than 10 minutes talking about topics unrelated to the session to which we have been summoned, we are not managing the time of it correctly (I already know why we have extended it too long and the meeting has been lost). The concentration of the attendees or because it has been too short, perhaps an email would have been enough, avoiding bringing people together).
  • In line with the previous point, it is essential to learn when it is best to call a meeting, send an email, call, or write via chat. A simple call or write-through chat would have avoided endless emails that generated this waste of time. Moreover, in the reverse case, an efficient meeting can save a lot of written communication.
  • Finally, avoid conflicting schedules. To respect this time flexibility, we must try, as far as possible, to avoid having meetings early or late to comply with these comprehensive entries and exit times.

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Finally, if we go back to the three actions that we talked about at the beginning, the last one would be:

  • Soft or wellness actions: these would be linked mainly to promoting more humane interaction (whether through one-on-ones, after-works, face-to-face meetings or team building) so that employees have that team and corporate unity.

Another important point is from the organization to promote healthy habits based on: diet and exercise. In this aspect, awareness sessions can be held in which they talk about it, informative emails, or encourage the creation of sports groups within the organization.

In line with what we were talking about before not working outside working hours, it is also essential to maintain a clear vacation policy in which the worker does not accumulate excess days at the end of the year or during the period that he is absent on vacation will try as much as possible not to send you emails if it is not strictly necessary, to promote complete disconnection.

Finally, it would also be essential for HR to promote awareness talks or training in which tools are given to workers so that they can deal with stress or anxiety and that in the case of feeling “burn-out” they could detect it, communicate it now either to your manager or to HR and set your limits so as not to fall into a point of excessive stress.

In conclusion

In short, and as we have been able to verify in this article, the world of remote work management, despite being so new, offers an infinite number of debates and points to be discussed.

At Víntegris, we believe that remote work is and will be a great ally to increase the satisfaction of our collaborators, and we want to continue betting on a flexible and remote culture. All that remains for us is to stay attentive to the advances to continue innovating in the sector and, as we said at the beginning of the article, “adapt and not die trying”.

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