This is good news. After several decades of hesitation, it’s coming. Increasingly widespread today, about a third of office workers work one (or more) day(s) on remote. And enthusiasm is not limited to the millennials generation, the interest is inter-generational and involves many activities, not only tech companies.
Whatever the model chosen for remote work, the evolution is launched. But, behind the scenes, it seems long for a concept that brings its share of benefits. This appears to have been democratized in the discussions, but in practice, companies that set up remote work are still acting as precursors.
With these decades of “testing”, a lot of learning has been done allowing to draw a pretty nice picture of remote work. It brings many benefits, for both the organization and team members, that let us think it should spread at a quicker rate.
- Employee well-being: improves the balance between work and personal life by providing more flexibility in the organization of the day.
- Stress reduction: by eliminating commuting time between home and office, which is a major stress factor.
- Quality of the work environment: improves the quality of the work done by reducing external disturbances and offering longer time of concentration.
- Talent management: remote work helps to improve employee retention, reduce absenteeism and improve the company’s attractiveness.
- Ecological impact: this is not a direct benefit for the company but for all of us. Fewer commutes means less traffic, less congestion, less pollution.
By looking more closely, there is not a single form of remote work. Uses have become more democratic according to culture and a wide range of solutions is now available to companies to find the right development axis.
- Limited and fixed number of days per week: often one or two days, in the middle or at the end of the week.
- Limited and floating number of days per week: the employee chooses the day while taking care of the well-being of his team. This requires greater employee autonomy.
- Limited and floating number of days, and flex office: more flexible, team members do not have a dedicated office, they take the place they want when they come at the office. This saves space.
- Full remote work: complemented by occasional office attendance to strengthen team spirit.
- Mobility in auxiliary locations of the company: such as co-working spaces, innovation labs, subsidiaries.
This reflects an evolution of the modern working world, especially in the tech ecosystem, where nomadism is accelerating and where the wage labor no longer seems to be the first choice of talent. These gradually favour the status of freelance or independent entrepreneur. Freedom, trust and autonomy are values that become essential for new generations, and companies/managers open up to them… more or less quickly.
But why doesn’t this concept of remote work, with its many benefits, develop faster? Why are there so many questions when we talk about it?
Remote work as an opportunity
Trust is the first essential element in this type of relationship. Doubting about the implementation of remote work (for an activity that allows it) is a sign of an organization not really mature, in which questions about employee commitment and/or acceptance of the delegation of part of the control by managers arise.
On the employee side, their involvement in the company and their autonomy are key elements that will make remote work a success. Without this, it will be difficult in the long term to maintain a motivation that allows the right balance of remote work. Once again, this relates to the need for the organization to work on team engagement and autonomy.
The implementation of remote work, even if it brings a lot of benefits, needs to be prepared and supported. If the organization is already suffering from some problems, its implementation will not solve them. It will amplify them if they are not addressed. This can be classified as follows:
- Management style: The management will move from local management, or even micro-management, to objective-based management. This is a real paradigm shift for managers.
- Manager-employee Relationship: This can become more and more complicated if there is no mutual trust. Trust is a real facilitator of communication that cannot be dispensed with when setting up remote work.
- Teamwork: Building the team and avoiding social isolation of the remote worker requires the implementation of tools to facilitate communication and regular planning of regrouping time..
- Increased workload: The increase of working hours and the encroachment on private life are possible consequences of remote work. It’s important to establish a strong and recurring awareness among employees who may have difficulty in managing time.
Nowadays, as companies are more and more distributed, frequent exchanges through the various offices of the company democratize the use of tools and remote work habits. The step for setting up remote work is no longer so high. Especially by considering coworking areas as possible annexes of the company and a way to avoid the risk of isolation of employees.
The freedom of choice of workspace by the employee seems to be an ideal tool to develop important values such as trust, autonomy and accountability. It seems appropriate to use this lever to support the development of a culture centered on the employee and, at the same time, to engage in a work on the organizational issues that hinder its deployment.