While the technologies that make remote work possible has been available for nearly a decade, it was not until the COVID-19 pandemic forced employers to accommodate remote work as a predominate model. The gradual release of vaccines have caused many employers to push for a return to the office, but this has become a point of contention for many the employees who have proven that they are able to perform their duties while working from home for the past year.
For many offices, remote work is no longer a necessity, but employers who only offer a traditional office space with little support for remote work run the risk of failing to attract new talent.
Remote work can simply be understood as any work that does not require a commute to a physical office. With proper infrastructure, employees can work anywhere they have access to an internet connection. There are significant benefits to remote work in terms of employee productivity, employee engagement, and health.
According to Skillcrush, 77% of remote workers report greater productivity because they are less likely to have work interrupted by distractions. This presents more opportunities for employees to achieve deep focus, long stretches of uninterrupted attention, which produces more substantive and higher quality work. Employees are responsible for defining the average amount of time work takes and to create schedules that capitalize on their own rhythms.
Additionally, remote workers are typically healthier. A 2016 study from the University of Minnesota found that have a flexible workplace location lowered stress and the risk of burnout. Remote work enables employees to define their own schedules around their tasks rather than their traditional nine-to-five business hours. This allows for remote workers to define their work life balance around daily objectives while maintain healthier habits.
Instead of feeling stressed or pressured, when given the opportunity to create more personalized schedules that practically fits into their lives, workers are more likely to feel engaged and focused, and are less likely to stop working until their tasks are finished. This ultimately leads to happier, healthier employees who produce better work and feel a deeper commitment to their companies.
Many businesses had begun pairing down their office spaces during the pandemic, but now many are struggling to devise an effective strategy to bring employees back to the traditional office. The gradual release of vaccines in North America has prompted a debate over how to bring employees back to the office. While major corporations have enacted policies that incentivize a return to the workplace, it is evident that many workers would rather quit their positions if this transition is not managed appropriately.
A recent FlexJobs survey showed that almost 60% of employees have said that they would be willing to quit their current position if forced to return to the office and that more than a third would prefer to work from home indefinitely. It is hard for employees to see why returning to the office is necessary when they have been performing their duties remotely for the past year. This likely explains why many businesses are discussing if they can operate as remote companies, organizations that choose to forego the office space entirely.
What is clear is that a defined remote work policy is necessary for employees to understand what is expected of them. If projects are not being completed on time, or if there are tasks that benefit from having an in-person, it may be useful to explain how this informs remote work policies. However, offering no options for remote work may dissuade new talent from joining the team and may risk current employees weighing their options.
The potential benefits are clear. However, remote work isn’t necessarily the best option for every organization. The infrastructure needed to adopt remote practices can be costly and may require a substantial shift in company culture. Still, an effective strategy that addresses the concerns of remote work may help businesses determine if it is right for them.
How does the physical office fit into a remote work model?
For many employers, the hesitation to allow workers to remain remote often stems from investments that have already been in the traditional office space. Consequently, many organizations are offering a hybrid model that allows employees to continue working remotely for the majority of the work week while returning to the office for in-person meetings.
On any given day the employee may continue working from home, or local cafés, or even from the office. This model leaves an employee’s workplace as a matter of individual discretion, selecting the locations where they know they can be the most effective.
Another option is a reliance on co-working spaces that serve as a halfway point between a traditional office and a nontraditional workspace. In some cases, co-working spaces are shared with other companies providing the comfort of remote work combined with the professional amenities and networking opportunities of a traditional corporate environment.
Maintaining Security When Employees Work Remotely
One of the main draws of remote work is that you can work freely anywhere you can find an internet connection. However, this presents a very real concern for employers who fight to keep their data secure. When any endpoint can become as a vulnerability, proper security protocols must be standardized for all devices.
A company’s cloud infrastructure must provide secure processes for remote employees to access company data over the internet while having defined measures for incident control and device management. This can serve as a complicated task and often companies may benefit from having a managed workplace service provider who ensure 24/7 maintenance and monitoring.
Will a team be able to collaborate effectively from a distance?
In a remote business model, team communication are even more vital than they might be otherwise and it is apparent when an employee is not actively messaging team members. This often means that a remote team needs to excel at communicating effectively. This tends to improve employee engagement as collaboration tools serve as a defined space for team communications. These tools also create greater visibility for the progress of larger projects, as employees can quickly review their coworker’s schedules, assignment lists, and plan accordingly.
While it is challenging for employees to make strong connections outside of their department in a remote environment, this is not unique to remote environments. Planning effective team building exercise is perhaps more beneficial when a team regularly only meets in virtual settings, and this serves as an excellent opportunity for the physical office to serve as a networking location.
Implementing digital transformation remains a large scale challenge that requires the careful examination of a company’s existing employee workflows and processes to create a transformation strategy.
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