What Does Working Remotely Mean?
Part 5 of a 5-part series of blogs on how to create a secure remote workplace.
Remote working is a flexible, and fast-growing way of getting work done from anywhere outside a traditional office. People and companies started working remotely earlier than 10 years, but recent years have seen rapid growth in remote work — where larger organizations have opted to shift some or almost their entire workforce to a remote work model.
Also known as telecommuting in the early days, remote work has brought on a lasting cultural shift in the traditional work-from-office model — allowing businesses to leverage the benefits of running a remote show.
Call it a blessing in disguise or an inevitability, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, remote work has soared — with no choice but to switch to a work-from-home model, most businesses (large and small) have adapted to remote work.
Remote Work (From Home)
Thanks to the flexibility it provides, remote work can be practically done from anywhere — especially when present technology is advanced enough to allow full mobility for anyone. People prefer working from all sorts of places, including cafes, restaurants, beaches, while traveling or while at home.
A popular choice of venue for remote workers is their home. Remote work from home is more than a choice, it’s a cultural shift in how we perceive or get work done. Working from home cuts down on the time wasted on commute — for many people, the time spent on work commute is utilized to foster new, healthier habits. A quick morning yoga session, followed by some gym time, and a comfortable meal at home replaces your otherwise cumbersome commute.
Remote work (from home) is a sensible, feasible alternative to the traditional office — and it’s here to stay.
Reshaping the Workplace
With a workforce that’s location-independent, companies have had to re-think their policies. Measuring productivity in terms of hours is not as viable as it was before.
Top remote companies focus more on the quality of work done, instead of measuring an employee’s input based on how much time they spend plugged into their devices.
Zapier is a great example of a fully remote company. A 100% distributed company with over 300 remote employees working out of 28 countries and 17 time zones.
Switching to a remote work model may not always be easy for businesses, especially enterprises with large-scale operations. In cases like these, companies gradually move part of their workforce to full time remote roles, while a more significant part of their workforce continues to work from a traditional office.
Due to this new method of getting work done, business leaders are looking at a new, more evolved order of work on a global scale.
Managing Remote Employees (Remote Leadership)
Business leaders with a traditional mindset have firmly advocated against running a remote workforce, citing reasons for difficulty in supervision and efficient employee support.
While their argument might have had some sway, the past two decades have given us numerous examples of businesses that thrive on a remote work model. With smart management and sensible work policies, businesses have seen an increase in productivity and decrease in attrition.
Ctrip, a 16,000-employee, NASDAQ-listed Chinese travel agency experimented with a WFH model. Their experiment concluded that home working led to a 13% performance increase, halved attrition rate and higher satisfaction among workers. After seeing the results of this experiment, Ctrip allowed their entire workforce to switch to WFH as an option.
Leaders aren’t only concerned about work output anymore; they’re also concerned about the physical and mental well-being of employees. Physical isolation can lead to a disconnected work environment — a challenge that all leaders need to overcome.
Work From Home Benefits
It needs no explaining. You get to decide where and how you want to work. Choose a work environment that is befitting for remote work, and you’re good to go.
Employees and employers, both share the benefits that come with a remote work model.
Benefits for Employees
A remote worker can have a flexible lifestyle, and get more time for better health and wellness. Employees have the freedom to experiment with so many variables involved in working remotely, which can also lead to renewed passion and excitement for their work.
According to a report by Buffer, 97% of employees would recommend remote work to others.
Other than benefiting from an office-independent environment, employees are also offered standard healthcare, home and infrastructure perks by companies — motivating employees to give their best at work.
Findings from the same report by Buffer also show that 32% of employees find the ability to have a flexible schedule as one of the biggest benefits of working remotely. Followed by the benefit of working from anywhere supported by 26% of employees.
So what are the best remote companies to work for? Here are some examples:
– Shopify (recently went fully remote)
Benefits for Employers
If you give your employees the flexibility to work from anywhere, they’re more likely to put in extra effort. Employers have seen an increase in productivity once people switched to working remotely. The same talent at a company is able to deliver better results, all because of a relaxation in choosing their own work environment.
The benefits for employers aren’t limited to productivity. There’s a significantly decreased overhead — employers don’t have to spend too much on infrastructure because of a distributed workforce. Remote work is great for cost savings, it allows companies to decrease their spendings on operations and channelize their money for more constructive things.
Pitfalls of Working Remotely
Working in Isolation
Working remotely isn’t perfect. Isolation can result in loneliness, anxiety and less socializing. Decreased human interaction can even impact some people negatively, hampering their productivity at work.
HR professionals across companies acknowledge that anxiety, isolation, and feeling depressed are real problems faced by remote workers. Acknowledging these problems is the first step towards finding a solution that works for each company.
Limited collaboration is another pitfall of working remotely. Even though we are equipped with tools that enable real-time, life-like collaboration between peers – there can never be a substitute for collaboration in real life.
Unplugging from Work
Remote workers often struggle with unplugging themselves from work. The distinction in environments created by an office can’t be achieved at home. 22% of remote workers say that unplugging from work is their biggest struggle (according to Buffer).
A lot of remote workers battle this by creating separate workspaces within their homes. The best way to decrease this struggle is to follow a schedule and set time away from your work devices.
Work From Home Infrastructure
Providing an office-like infrastructure for employees is very important. Reliable and fast internet connectivity, secure networks and company-issued devices to access private data — these are some of the infrastructure problems companies can solve for remote workers.
Few companies even have a remote budget for employees that pays for their internet connection and other misc expenses.
With remote work looking more and more like the new normal — companies are hopeful of a future with superior technology like 5G, to make remote work far more efficient.
Work Remotely Like a Pro
Here are some remote working tips that will help you go remote like a pro:
- Over communicate: With the elements of a physical interaction missing, it becomes more important to properly communicate for clarity and context.
- Clarity: Ambiguity is counterproductive. Make a clear plan of how you’re going to get work done. Plan your time and resources accordingly, and make sure your plans are in sync with the rest of your team and business strategy.
- Avoid context switching: Working from home or a place that isn’t an office can be distracting. You might be tempted to pause a task and start working on another because of distractions around you. Try to focus on one task at a time for efficiency.
- Create a work space: Studies have shown that people who work from a home office or have a separate space/room for their work, often stay more focused and productive.
- Practice security: If you’re working outdoors, the data in your work devices is confidential and sometimes can be seen while people “shoulder surf” around you. Make sure you work in a space that keeps your data secure.
Misconceptions About Working Remotely
Remote work isn’t easy. While working from home, or out of an office might be exciting and more comfortable — the responsibility to stay productive increases.
Without the physical reminder of your peers around you, it can become hard to stay on track consistently. That’s why remote work requires a lot of self-discipline and hard work.
The New Normal is Remote
The pandemic has changed our world forever. We have seen it break down some of the oldest rituals of our society — working from home (or remotely) is one of them. Remote working is the new normal, and it’s here to stay.
Net Solutions had all it’s workforce in-office before the pandemic, but in the past few weeks, our CEO Sameer and the senior leadership have smoothly transitioned the entire 300+ workforce to a WFH model — without compromising on the quality of work.
Companies that can pivot fast, stay agile and figure out how to adapt will be the first ones to find success in the post-pandemic world.