If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that yesterday’s perceived impossibilities can quickly become today’s opportunities.
This rings especially true when it comes to the ever-evolving “future of work”, and more specifically, the future of the workplace.
With the majority of the workforce forced to work remotely since March 2020 due to the pandemic, companies around the world have come to realise that remote working and flexible working arrangement are not detrimental to productivity.
On the contrary, increased flexibility has phenomenal advantages for both the business and its people (which we’ll delve on below). This explains why we’re witnessing an increasing number of work from home jobs appearing over the last couple of months, as well as tech giants such as Twitter, Facebook or Shopify deciding to allow their employees to work from home, forever.
As a result, we’ve also seen many companies embrace an accelerated digital transformation. No longer limited to a certain place in time and space, information is now communicated at the speed of the light, events have given way to webinars and parties can now be held digitally!
“A remote workforce can only be as good as the tools and systems allow.”
With remote working allowing an organisation to look beyond its geographical location and reach for new heights, now is the time to start considering new opportunities for global teams, long-distance commuters, and businesses seeking cross-cultural talent.
For many businesses, this opportunity comes as a huge advantage, particularly if they are looking to scale. In saying this, a remote workforce can only be as good as the tools and systems allow. This is why careful preparation is absolutely crucial to ensure a positive outcome. When this is done properly, remote working arrangements can have a fantastic impact on the company, its culture, and its people. Of course, there are both pros and cons to working remotely.
Curious to see how your business could benefit? Here are just some of the benefits of remote working – for both employees and businesses.
Benefits of Remote Working
If you think your employees will take advantage of their new work arrangements, think again. In fact, research shows that your thinking is seriously at odds with what actually happens. A massive 77% of employees report that they’re more productive when working outside the office. Interestingly, a study from Stanford University also showed that employees actually log more hours when working from home.
Reduced Stress & Increased Engagement
There are some seriously convincing statistics here. A survey from PGi showed that 82% of remote employees experienced a reduction in stress levels. In addition, 80% said that their level of morale improved. Which brings us to our next point…
Improved Staff Retention
The study from Stanford University also showed that job attrition rates fell by over 50% when remote working options were introduced, and it’s pretty clear why. After all, a great number of employees will benefit from remote working conditions to enjoy a good work-life balance and sustain their career long-term. Examples include new mothers and fathers, and team members who live far away from the workplace. In fact, 36% would prefer remote working options over a pay rise.
Great Employer Branding
When it comes to attracting talent, flexible working conditions are a popular drawcard. After all, nothing says, “we trust our employees” more than the option to work from home. Introducing more flexible working arrangements will give your business a competitive edge against other employers.
What’s the Catch?
Plenty of aspects which are straightforward in the office become complicated for employees working remotely. This is especially true for cultivating effective communication. Let’s have a closer look at how collaboration can become more complicated when working from outside the office.
The Trouble with Distance
Working remotely means working outside a shared context. For this reason, effective communication requires deliberate and thoughtful effort. The complication to the “usual” flow of communication can take a heavy toll on things like collaboration, project management and task prioritisation. Nobody wants to interfere with these cornerstones. Another aspect which becomes complicated is understanding each other’s workloads.
Transparency in this regard requires a lot of work in conventional working arrangements, let alone in remote arrangements. When teams are separated geographically, it can be especially hard for colleagues to appreciate one another’s workload, and delegate tasks accordingly.
At the end of the day, missing out on important information can be frustrating for all involved. So, how can we bridge the barriers to effective communication?
How to Establish a Flow of Communication
Believe In It!
One of the key methods to encourage effective communication is helping your team to understand its importance. After all, you may implement first-rate communication systems, but their effectiveness will always be in the hands of the user. As such, it is vital that employees always take the time to communicate with remote workers and never assume that something is known. A great rule of thumb is, if in doubt, over communicate! It’s better to inform an employee of something they were aware of than have them miss some important information altogether.
Choose the Right Channels for the Right Conversations
Can you imagine trying to explain a long and complicated problem over email? Or, can you envision receiving constant phone calls about minor updates? While it may seem commonsensical, too many employees waste time communicating over the wrong channels. The fear of interrupting other’s work can see employees steer away from picking up the phone.
Likewise, the value of face-to-face communication via video chat is often dismissed when it comes to remote meetings.
Overall, communicating is a multifaceted concept, so the channels must cater for diversity.
Don’t Go AWOL
When working in the office, employees consistently encounter interruptions to their regular workday. This is absolutely the same when working remotely. The problem is, the rest of the team may have no way of knowing what is going on and ultimately leads to misunderstanding and disillusionment.
The remote worker simply needs an easy and quick way of notifying others when they’ll be unreachable or tied up with some other engagements. Having knowledge of other’s movements promotes transparency and understanding.
Get the Right Communication Tools
You may have noticed that the above methods for effective communication rely very heavily on technology. For this reason, implementing the right software for remote working arrangements will be one of the most important tasks. So, let’s take a look at what tools are on offer for you and your team.
Project Management & Collaboration
Asana is a fantastic tool for encouraging accountability when collaborating on a project, as entire projects can be broken down into smaller tasks and shared with others. It also showcases each team members’ progress, allowing the team to better track, prioritise and coordinate timely tasks.
iDoneThis is great for remote teams, and provides windows into one another’s progress, thereby enabling easy collaboration and understanding. It works through a number of appraisals, including daily check-ins and progress reports.
Slack is a great tool for remote teams if sending and receiving copious amounts of emails to communicate is not your thing, and allows entire teams to be messaged in one place. What’s more, it integrates with other services such as Google Drive, Trello, Dropbox, Heroku, Crashlytics, GitHub, Runscope and Zendesk.
The idea of having employees work remotely can strike up a lot of fear. The thought of managing their productivity, communication and collaboration across the world can seem intimidating.
With access to global teams, international markets and remote talent, there’s little wonder why the future seems to lie in the hands of flexible work. So, fill your suitcase with collaborative tools and ways of thinking, and discover what it means to take on the world!