How to successfully implement remote working in your company
By Anetta Pizag and Alenka Kragelj Eržen
The Coronavirus pandemic is forcing organizations of all sizes to send many of their people home and collaborate remotely. On one hand, if telework is well organized, remote working presents a vast array of opportunities to businesses and offers great benefits to individuals. On the other, this practice has many inherent challenges. Without thoughtful implementation, many aspects of work performance, workplace culture and employee experience could suffer.
In a series of articles, we are going to share a selection of practical ideas and strategies to make remote collaboration highly rewarding for your organization.
Moving forward is inevitable
Remote working has been on a steady rise ever since the internet and digital technologies made virtual collaboration possible. Until recently, this trend has accelerated at an unprecedented rate, supported by a growing suite of constantly evolving tools and inspired by a long line of success stories demonstrating the many potential benefits of the practice.
More and more employers have allowed at least some of their members to work remotely either part time or full time, and fully remote teams have become commonplace.
However, due to the current pandemic, adopting remote working has now become inevitable for organizations of all sizes worldwide. Many teams need to go largely or fully remote or face difficulties.
This practice is vastly different from letting people work from home once in a while. Some companies are more prepared than others, but almost everyone is affected. It’s no longer possible to take things slowly.
A world of opportunities
Beyond being a necessity, implementing effective remote working practices opens up a world of opportunities for your organization.
You can now tap into the global talent pool, engaging employees, contractors and freelancers without geographical limits. Your business not only has access to the best talent but can also respond to changes in a more agile manner, building skilled teams swiftly as opportunities and challenges arise.
Once fully embracing this transformation, your organization will likely require a smaller workspace, which can lead to significant cost savings.
As the social and environmental impacts of effective remote working practices are now widely recognized, this transition could also elevate your company’s brand and image.
Remote members are often happier and more fulfilled than the average office-based employee, appreciating the flexibility and lifestyle that this work arrangement offers. This naturally affects their job satisfaction and their loyalty towards the company.
Studies show that a lot of people perform better when working remotely compared to when working in a traditional office. This can be largely attributed to their improved overall wellbeing and engagement, as well as their ability to block out external distractions and to work when and where they are most productive.
Remote collaboration can be a challenge
This practice also has many potential downsides.
Remote workers typically work from home, often by themselves. It can be difficult to set the right priorities, and to stay motivated, focused and disciplined while being alone. People are also more likely to give into counterproductive habits such as procrastination, self-distraction or skipping breaks when there’s no-one around. Sitting with bad posture all day long – perhaps due to a non-ergonomic home office set-up – is another common issue impacting wellbeing and performance.
It’s not easy to maintain social ties through digital channels. In fact, social skills and emotional intelligence are declining worldwide, largely due to the lack of engaged personal interactions.
In these unprecedented times, when the media is spouting alarming news, many people live in fear and uncertainty. Without solid social connections, managing emotions is especially difficult, which could have a significant impact on and communication.
In the absence of the right routines and protocols, remote workers often lack the opportunity to bounce ideas off and learn from each other. Without regular quality contact with their mates, they can also feel isolated, lonely and disconnected. Subsequently, they may start to doubt themselves and their performance, and worry that they are hopelessly behind.
Home-based workers often put in extra hours to prove to themselves and their teams that they are actually being productive. As a result, many of them struggle to maintain healthy boundaries between work and life and to unplug from work. All this could take a toll on their both physical and mental health over time.
Remote workers, regardless how well they perform, often miss out on recognition and promotion. This is because many leaders and managers lack the skills and tools to objectively evaluate remote workers’ performance.
Before embarking on a project
Numerous surveys have looked into how productive people and teams are when working remotely, and the results vary greatly. Some organizations are thriving while others are experiencing major issues.
Requesting or allowing people to work from home, without a clear strategy and adequate support, is a recipe for failure. On the other hand, by adopting the right work practices and technologies, you can effectively address or mitigate most of the above challenges.
To set up your teams for success, you need to be highly organized and make well-informed decisions. You probably need to provide training, build new skills, set up new systems and processes, customize workspaces, and adapt your workplace culture to new ways of working.
Wherever you are in the process of implementing remote working, it’s worth doing a reality check.
Flexible work setting in Impakta’s office, used as a meeting area for both scheduled and im-promptu sessions, and as a short-term ‘touchdown’ space for visiting associates who mainly work outside the office.
Your investment for the future
In a series of upcoming articles, we will share a set of practical ideas for alleviating common issues and setting up your partially or fully remote teams for success. [We’ll look into areas including work and management practices, workplace culture, education and training, communication technologies and workspace design.]
We trust that our insights will help you improve a range of performance measures for remote work, including productivity, creativity, communication and information sharing, wellbeing, engagement, positive work relationships and effective teamwork.
In these difficult times, having to figure out new ways of working can feel like a burden. The good news is that these investments will keep paying off well after the crisis is over.
The skills and capabilities your people will gain during this transition should be highly valuable in the coming years. Furthermore, your organization will become more adaptable, thus better prepared to stay strong and competitive in any future scenario.
is CEO and Chief Architect at Kragelj. She is the author of numerous articles on workplace strategies and green architecture and is a regular presenter at Workplace Design Conference and other business events.