Dojo Bali, Canggu
Remote working, or telecommuting, has become all the rage in recent years - with an increasing number of companies and employees embracing remote working culture. A 2017 Survey indicates that 52 percent of employees in US work remotely at least once per week. In another survey conducted by Upwork, it's predicted that 38 percent of permanent, full-time employees will adopt remote working in the next 10 years.
Why is there a divided opinion in telecommuting you ask? We are going to dive deeper into what is remote working, why is it working and why is it not. Let’s get started!
The Ups and Downs of Remote Working
There are many benefits of remote working expressed by the people who encourage and advocate the program. By far the most apparent advantage echoed by anyone who’s ever worked remote are flexibility and work-life balance. Having the freedom of working when and where you want means you spend less time in traffic and more time with family. Plus, being able to choose the environment that is most conducive for you and having the option to travel more has been shown to improve mental well-being, boost personal creativity, and efficiency.
All in all, this contributes to higher employee satisfaction and higher employee retention - companies that support telecommuting have 25 percent lower employee turnover than those that don’t. Moreover, through remote working, companies are able to save $1100 per person per year. So not only does it help companies cut costs, providing remote working options can also be used as a way to attract and retain top talents. In fact, a recent study shows that 68% Job-seeking millennials have expressed more interest in companies with telecommuting perks.
While there are many proclaimed benefits, it also comes with a fair share of struggle. Few will argue with the fact that some of the hardest battles that remote workers have to combat are dehumanisation and loneliness.
Telecommuters rarely get the chance for physical interaction over coffee or lunch with colleagues, instead, all levels of communication tends to happen in front of the computer screen, either in a messaging platform or video conference. While it works on a fundamental level, it definitely lacks the human touch and the sense of belonging to the organisation or as part of a community. A great way to combat loneliness is to work from coworking spaces where it’s possible to meet other people and have more face-to-face interactions. In addition, it also provides access to reliable internet connection.
The state of remote work 2023 report by Buffer also identifies distractions at home and differences in timezone as challenges commonly faced by remote workers; however these are issues that can be tackled through various team management options.
How to Manage Your Remote Team
It’s worthy to note that even though more companies are incorporating remote work as part of their offering, many are still trying to figure out the best practices, guidelines, and policies for telecommuting. If not managed right, rolling out remote working perks can be detrimental to the company. In other words, it's not simply a matter of snapping your fingers and automatically having an efficient remote working structure in place. There are several elements that needs to be considered when developing a strong telecommuting policy.
The decision to allow someone to work remotely should be decided on a case-to-case basis depending the person's work ethics, attitude, and personality because at the end of the day it might not be for everyone. Kim Davis, Chief HR officer at NFP stresses that eligibility guidelines should be established - taking into consideration things like, nature of the position, past job performance, and staff member’s frequency to telecommute.
Accountability, Collaboration, and Communication
It’s also important to clearly define expectations for work hours especially for a geographically dispersed team with various time zones. Or, rather than expected work hours it should be clearly communicated what hours remote workers are expected to be available online. Brian Sharpland, General Manager of Turnstone points out - while trusting telecommuters with the freedom to arrange their schedule in a way that works for them, employees need to be held accountable for results that are expected of them. It helps to have a project manager monitoring the progress of the team - scheduling tasks and utilizing available work management software such as Asana (which we personally use) so everyone has visibility of what each team member is in charge of. Alongside this, it's important to make sure there are systems in place to measure productivity - setting realistic and achievable KPIs to make sure everyone is fulfilling their responsibilities.
Another point to keep in mind is to encourage frequent communication in all forms (asynchronous, synchronous and in-person) across all team members by establishing a communication system that can be done through various platforms- most recently Workplace by Facebook. Video conferencing through google hangout or Skype and semi-yearly meetups for the whole organisation. This ensures that you maintain and build on the company culture that will strengthen and reinforce a sense of belonging for remote employees.
Remote Work Arrangement
One of the common advantages that remote workers often mention is productivity - “Office workers are interrupted - or self interrupted roughly every three minutes”. Having a conducive work environment is essential in maintaining employees productivity so that performance will not suffer. Selecting places to work remotely can be tricky, cafes can sometimes be too noisy and internet connection is usually not reliable. Working from home provides its own distractions like kids and cleaning duties. A possible alternative for companies to ensure that their remote worker have a quiet and distraction-free working space is by purchasing a coworking membership to grant their employees access to a variety of coworking spaces in different areas, as well as high-speed and reliable internet, an issues more commonly faced in the less developed regions such as Southeast Asia. One such example would be FlySpaces Passport - a membership program that gives users unprecedented access to some of the best coworking spaces (including the one below) around Southeast Asia so telecommuters have workplace flexibility, and if you're in working in Jakarta, you're in luck!
Is Remote Work For You?
The short answer: it depends. “I think the problem here was really this kind of one-size-fits-all thinking” says Peter Cappelli about telecommuting. Big companies like Yahoo! and IBM have reversed their telecommuting perks to reunite people and drive innovation. However, rather than this being the failings of remote working, it could be down to the fact that they were unable to find a style of remote working that worked for their business.
It’s nice to have the freedom to work from a different environment and spend more time with family; however, it’s also important that members of a team are working in the same room where ideas can bounce off each other. Larger corporations have to find the balance between telecommuting and working from a designated location for their employees. The idea of remote working among full-time employees is still relatively fresh, and while it’s enchanting, adjustments need to made to the methodology for the respective companies.
Like it or not remote working is shaping the future of work trends. If done right remote working offers a win-win situation for both employers and employees, thus it’s absolutely critical to nail the guidelines and policies to maximize productivity of remote workers and alleviate the common struggles faced in telecommuting.
Remote Work Conference For Enterprises and SMEs
If you’re running your own remote team or you’re on the fence about the whole agile telecommuting approach, The Running Remote Conference 2024 happening on the 22nd to 24th of April 2024 in Lisbon, Portugal, would be ideal for you. This conference will talk in more detail about the future of work and building and scaling a remote team, featuring speakers from companies such as Atlassian, Github, and Doist, just to name a few - that have successfully established a remote team.