There has been a sharp rise in the number of people required to work remotely in the last two years. The pandemic meant that working closely together in offices was no longer safe.
Millions of workers were suddenly working in a new way. Being legally required to work from home rather than in the office they are accustomed to. It was a swift change and shook up the workforce in a big way,
For the first time, multi-billion dollar companies globally saw benefits to be had by offering a more flexible working option - and the employees had more control over their work. It can be a huge win for everyone.
The term remote work can feel a little vague though, what is remote work? Are there benefits to remote work? And how does it impact productivity?
Let's take a look at remote work in more detail.
Put very simply; remote jobs enable you to work from anywhere - while still being employed by a company.
As a remote employee, you can work for a company based in Sweden but complete your work from anywhere in the world - so long as you meet the work outlined in the employment contract.
So, as an example, if a consulting firm in New York hired you, and you typically live in Denmark - you will complete your work from there. But, if you decided to travel for a while, you could do so - so long as you do the job.
If you see the term 'fully remote' in terms of a company description, likely, every member of staff works in-home office. None of your co-workers will be office-based.
In another situation, the company might have an office base but hire staff who will work 'fully remote' and never need to head to the office.
The terms might be used interchangeably, but they refer to different types of flexible work.
When you see flexible hours, the employee can choose when they work—allowing them to have total autonomy so long as the work is done. Flexible work schedules are often combined with working from home office and remote working contracts - but not always.
Working from home is more often used to describe people who usually work in the office but instead are telecommuting (aka working from home) on select days. It is more often used to describe people who may be part-time.
Remote working covers a broader range of working outside the office environment, covering working from home, fully remote working, flexible hours and working abroad.
Although the distinctions are slight, they matter when reading terms of employment or browsing job opportunities.
Remote working opportunities have been steadily increasing since 2005 and are now the preference among many workers.
But working remotely doesn't feel the same as working in an office environment; it begs the question, how does remote working affect employees and customer success?
For those team members who enjoy commuting and the buzz of the office, going from that to working alone was a big shock. Equally for working parents, while schools and universities were closed, they were no longer in a different environment. Tackling home learning and busy children - with a full-time job.
Remote working also highlighted how unhappy people were in their current roles and that perhaps they could've been working remotely for a lot longer.
A sudden change in the working environment can have a substantial and lasting impact; coupled with the stress of a pandemic, the workforce was pressured to take it in their stride.
After the initial impact, though, it is far from all doom and gloom. Although some workers need the office to have structure and routine, other workers thrive.
Unsurprisingly the benefits of remote companies can be seen and felt by both employees and employers.
Since remote working became quickly ingrained in society, it broke all the boundaries of attracting the world's best talent.
Going back to an earlier example, imagine a fast-moving tech startup in Scotland that needs some of the highest-qualified developers to tackle a project. Let's say that those developers are based in India.
While they could have always hired outside talent, there was an unspoken expectation that the team would work under the same roof for the best results. So people who were able to relocate or make it to the office were given preference.
But now that remote is the norm, and those barriers are gone. The requirement for everyone to work from home gave companies the chance to implement tools and an infrastructure that allowed for fully remote staff.
That incredible developer from India will now be hired because they are the most qualified. Remote work allows for a global business and could potentially be the future of work.
There are other benefits too.
The hours and energy it takes to prepare for work, and then commute becomes non-existent. Instead, energy can be spent with family or relaxing. Working on more complex tasks in their personal high productivity hours makes for better work.
Simple things like taking the children to school became possible.
For many employers, so long as the work is done, there is more freedom for the employee. It has long been suggested that if employees were given the freedom to work from home, perhaps they wouldn't be productive.
However, studies show that employees are more effective with more days working off-site.
Although employers should still take steps to ensure that their employees are doing well, well-being has improved for the remote workforce. The stress of the commute is not a factor for remote workers, nor is being away from pets and family.
With fewer employees in the office, there are fewer costs for the employers. A traditional workspace can be a considerable overhead. The downsizing that many companies opted for saved money.
When you embrace remote working, the world becomes your talent pool. Attracting and retaining best-in-class talent becomes more accessible. Studies show that employees are more likely to change job roles if another company offers remote work.
Remote working presents a unique set of challenges, and while the benefits are often more significant, the challenges should be factored into decisions.
Should that email be a call? Is a Zoom meeting the best way to approach this conversation? And what if your team is in different time zones?
Communication is one of the most critical factors in your business. Coordination of conversations and projects relies on clear communication with the whole team.
When we work face to face, we can judge from body language, and tone of voice can be lost in text and on camera. This means people work extra hard to communicate while using video call technology.
The over-exaggeration of body language and conversation lead to what is referred to as Zoom burnout, or video call burnout.
This can be avoided with smart communication, and no putting video calls back to back.
When all the team is together under one roof, the company's work culture becomes part of how they work. Remote workers miss out on an already established work culture.
It is important to ensure remote workers feel like part of the team is an essential factor. They may feel like they have less visibility than those within the office. This can lead to feelings of isolation and a disconnect between the employee and the company.
Providing regular ways for team members to connect outside of projects is essential. It could be games, conversations, or sending out packages with company logos on them.
Include all of the team in your work culture for the best results.
Tracking the output of an employee becomes a little more difficult without becoming a micro-manager. Since remote workers are also aware of this situation, they are more likely to overperform and burn out to display their performance.
Setting realistic deliverables combined with clear communication will allow employees to meet their targets and avoid burnout.
Time tracking software is an option, too, although some remote workers might feel constricted by those.
The best course of action is to work with employees that you trust to get the job done.
Since all remote workers will need a laptop or computer to complete work and a mobile phone to take calls related to work, security will become a big issue. Breaches, hacks, and leaks do jeopardize the security of your company.
Some of the most sensitive information would usually be discussed in private when in person. Unless there are steps to ensure the security of the conversations, it remains vulnerable.
Secure connections by using a home network and a VPN is one of the best courses of action. The VPN means that all the communications between team members will be encrypted and not be intercepted.
Enforce a two-factor authentication policy for all team members, and ensure that everyone is adhering to password best practice policies.
You may have been forced to include remote working due to the pandemic but are now considering how you can have it as part of your company at all times.
Remote working offers a great deal to both employers and employees, and the benefits are vast.
To decide to make remote work part of your business, you need to consider your current team size, your future business goals, and the current culture within your office.
Here are some considerations.
Changing a companies employment and working structure of your business should take some consideration. If the last two years have shown that you can handle the challenges and enjoy the benefits of a remote working team, it should be something that you see in your business future.
To make the most out of remote work, it is crucial as a business that you understand how to navigate the global recruitment process. And accommodate those who may be applying from countries other than where your business is located.
This might require some flexibility in the main language used in your business too.
For employees to make the most out of remote working, they should look to find a work-life balance. Having a comfortable and productive workspace is a must.
As an employer, you must ensure that your employees have the training necessary to do the job remotely successfully.
This includes providing them with things like VPN access, a range of time-keeping tools, and all the required devices like phones, laptops, and maybe even office furniture.
If you have already had a baptism of fire and gone through the remote working process due to the pandemic, you already have a good understanding of whether your company is ready for remote work or not.
You can reach out to your current employees to find out more about their opinions and experiences while they have been required to work remotely.
The insight and feedback can help you build a stronger foundation for a future with a remote working team.
It is essential to view remote working as more than just a trend for the workforce; it is a fully working concept of working anywhere and any time. This can be beneficial in many Industries and keep you level up with your competitors.
Remote working is one of the ways to truly and make your company a global enterprise.
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