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In the wake of the COVID-19 crisis working remotely has been hailed as one of the solutions to stop the spread of the infections and has proven itself to be a sustainable alternative for many employers. So what will this new reality imply?
The invention of the digital computer and the internet have always hyped the idea that work will be revolutionized in a different way. For many this path seems to clearly lead to ‘working remotely’ as a sustainable and viable alternative to working from an office. Although it seems the ultimate solution for every job which only requires a laptop, it has not been widespread adopted. This blog will take a critical look at working remotely, looking at both its challenges and opportunities.
So why haven’t we been working remotely since the invention of the digital computer? Simple; we were not forced to do it. That all changed when the COVID-19 crisis took its grip on the world, forcing entire industries were forced to rethink their working structures. More and more companies are now rethinking the way they structure work and companies like Twitter, Facebook and Shopify (not to be confused with Spotify) have already announced that they will continue with working remotely or from home even if the COVID-19 crisis ends. It is therefore important to understand what challenges and opportunities this new way of working entails.
There are obvious and less obvious challenges which occur in the short-term and the long term. Most areas faced with obvious challenges are already widely discussed and you might have read or heard about them. These are challenges involved around:
- Facility and IT-infrastructure
- Security risks
- Balancing private and work life
- Measuring performance
We will focus a bit more on the less obvious and long term challenges, requiring more sophisticated solutions. Our ideas of long term structural challenges are revolve around talent management and culture.
Even though recruitment starts to involve more data and technical assessments, social behaviour still plays a large role and will continue to do so. The assessment of a candidate’s social behaviour is made prior, during and after the first interview and plays a huge role in later stages of the process. These little hints of wanted or unwanted behaviour are harder to spot and easier overlooked when taking interviews digitally. In the long term, recruitment processes all together will have to be adjusted if ‘working remotely’ will be widespread implemented.
Loyalty and belonging
Ask anybody why they work for a particular company and almost always their colleagues play a huge role in their motivation. The challenge with remote working is that the normal physical routines which enhance this bond fade away. This physical intimacy and bonding process disappears when working remotely. As small chit-chat, coffee breaks and lunch strolls disappear, so too will the sense belonging fade away and therefore the loyalty towards the company as well. This will make your employees more susceptible to new opportunities at other places, as they do not feel the same kind of belonging and loyalty as they used to.
Do you want to know more how working remotely will impact your recruitment and employees’ loyalty, and how we can help? Click here.
Culture is hard to build and to maintain under normal circumstances, it requires careful planning and consideration and it requires constant reminding. Working remotely even makes it harder to build and maintain your culture as your normal tools in the form of physical traditions and routines largely disappear. If left unchecked, your culture may fade over time and grow into something you cannot steer in your desired direction.
Creativity is often the outcome of imagination, inspiration and interaction. New ideas are often formed by interacting individuals, especially if they come from different backgrounds or departments, who combine their imagination and inspiration to come to new discoveries. Think about it, it is easy to use your colleagues or your manager as a sparring partner to try out your new ideas. Often they will get back to you with direct feedback to develop your ideas. This process is now being made more difficult as digital communication poses an extra barrier to ‘just run this idea by your colleague or manager’. As interaction is being made more difficult, one of the elements of creativity comes under pressure, which will slow down the creative process of your employees.
Do you want to know more how to maintain the sense of belonging, cultural values and creativity within your organisation? Click here.
Opportunities and possible added value
Obvious opportunities are also already widely discussed in various media. Most prominently these discussions revolve around:
- Reduced employee turnover
- Cutting costs
- Improved productivity
When focussing on the less obvious and more long-term opportunities which arise, we think that working remotely can provide mainly opportunities related to hiring new talent and a happier and well-balanced work life.
The first and foremost interesting opportunity for companies is recruitment. If companies get used to the idea of having their staff working remotely, then also the geographical restrictions in recruiting new people also disappear. This allows you to broaden your scope to other cities, countries or even continents. Even though these opportunities sound exciting, you should be aware that cultural differences still apply, also in working relationships, and that different countries have different labour laws which you need to adhere to.
Health and wellbeing
One way of how remote working contributes to health and wellbeing is that it promotes freedom. Freedom from office related social norms (it is finally acceptable to work in sweatpants), freedom from a daily commute and the freedom to work wherever and whenever you want to work. The last aspect of freedom provides a lot of flexibility. Perhaps you are not an early bird and work better in the evening, perhaps you want to spend more time with your kids in the afternoon and catch up with work in the evening, or maybe you prefer to do work out during the day. All this and more becomes possible with this new found flexibility. This provides new opportunities for employees to structure their work life to their preferences, which ultimately leads to increased productivity and a better balance between their work and private life, provided that this is supported and promoted in the right way by their employer.
Do you want to know more how working remotely can improve your recruitment and the health and well-being of your employees, and how we can help? Click here.
We are forced to work remotely and we believe that this have long lasting impacts on the way we work, which poses a lot of challenges, but also opportunities. Do you want to know what you can do to prepare yourself for these developments? Get in touch with us and see how we can use working remotely to empower your employees.