Insight Remote work

Remote work is here to stay, but is it right for your team?

Written by Kelsie McArthur on 09 Sep 2020

Remote work, heard of it? Of course you have, you don’t need us to tell you that the future of work is happening right now and that teams across the globe have been forced to work remotely. However work done from home during a pandemic is quite different to long term remote work.

Nearly 3 in 4 CFO’s intend to shift at least 5% of their previously on-site workforce to remote work after COVID-19.The initial transition to remote work was done overnight and without much forethought. Many teams were left with inadequate working conditions as they tried to make do with a DIY home office at the kitchen table and overly chatty children for colleagues. Working from home during a pandemic also meant extended hours for many due to the new mode of work which isn’t sustainable in the long run.

Remote work is here to stay, so it’s important that business leaders take advantage of its benefits while actively minimising any negative impacts that remain from the fact that it began during a pandemic. If you have a team that is still working from home, or even if they are doing a bit of both (home and office), there are some important factors you’ll need to consider before making a long term commitment.

The benefits of working from home

Happy team members are productive team members, and working from home presents employees an opportunity to balance their home life with their work life. Some of the benefits seen from remote work include:

  • eliminating the daily commute
  • creating your own WFH environment
  • less distractions
  • more time with loved ones
  • getting some life admin out of the way

Provide your team with the ability to work on their own terms, and watch how this improves their outlook on work and morale.

The benefits of working from home

How do I know it’s right for my team?

Remote work is the perfect fit for some teams, but before you make a long term decision, it’s best to evaluate whether your team is suited to a distributed environment. This could depend on the work that your team is doing, or the personalities within your team. Fortunately there are many ways your team can work from home.

Complete remote work

Full time remote work has the financial benefit of decreased overhead costs as office space is no longer necessary.

Full time remote work could be suitable if your team:

  • has work that involves a lot of individual work on projects
  • a team that works well independently.

Flexible working conditions

Flexible work is the perfect medium between full-time working from home and pre-defined working from home days. This allows employees to set their start times and which days they’ll be working from the office.

This options is best for:

  • teams that have some members who want to work remotely and others who prefer to work in the office
  • teams who are wanting to trial working from home.

Specified WFH options

Set work from office or work from home days with your team so that everyone gets to enjoy/experience the benefits of working from home, but also the workplace culture that comes from the collaboration in the office. This is a great option that allows you to decide as a team what works for everyone.

This could work for your team:

  • if your team has a mix of full time and part time members where being in the office for one day together is beneficial
  • your team gets a lot from in-person communication.

Remote work culture

Businesses that work remotely have a different culture, and flexible work looks different for every team. Foster a culture within your team that aligns to your values, and if your values don’t currently involve remote work, it may be time to reassess them. Develop norms in your team about start and end times so that you avoid burnout. Make sure this is communicated clearly and set an example by only contacting your employees during their business hours.

Set expectations clearly with your team, as communication can be muddled when only done through technology. When providing instruction on a task, try to do so with a video chat or call so there is an opportunity for discussion to take place, questions asked and any confusion eliminated.

Check-in regularly with your team members to see how they’re progressing. A feedback cycle that touches on goals, wellbeing and job highlights allows you to holistically understand how you can support your team. Gather information on these points and make time to speak to your team members to see if there’s anything they’d prefer to speak about in person.

Create a culture with unique rituals that provides some social interaction and lighthearted fun. When you’re working from home, you may realise that you’ve spent hours on end staring at your computer screen and it may be time to do some physical activity. If you’re in the office, chances are your next door neighbour might strike up a chat or invite you to grab a coffee. These interactions give you an opportunity to stretch the legs and give your mind a break so that you can return to your work with a fresh perspective. Brainstorm with your team some fun ways to reintroduce and adapt these office-type interactions into your working from home day.

The loss of office culture

An important consideration that leaders must evaluate when considering long-term remote work is the loss of office culture. Along with social isolation and loneliness that can come with extended periods of remote work, there are other pitfalls that should be considered.

Water-cooler innovation

The collaboration that comes from two colleagues having a chat in the kitchen, playing a game of ping pong or grabbing a coffee is harder to achieve remotely. Innovation is the way your business stays relevant, and often great ideas come from those who have a different perspective within their organization. These organic ideas are much harder to come by when your team isn’t interacting with others in the organization and spitballing different ways of doing things.

Team bonding

One of the great things about an office environment is team bonding. This comes in handy when your team members are looking for feedback on a project or help with a task and they have rapport with their colleagues so asking for advice is no worry.

When working remotely, these relationships are harder to form, particularly with new starters who aren’t aware of the team norms and don’t know their peers yet. Going for a coffee is easy when you’re in the office, but if your team is working remotely, these conversations may need to be moved to a scheduled event.

Team bonding is beneficial for your business at large, the more rapport your team members have with each other, the more likely your team projects are to be successful due to the collaboration that’s created them.

Financial considerations

Although the reduced overhead costs can be enticing, it’s also important to consider that as an employer, you are responsible for the work conditions of your employees and this covers the ergonomics of their set-up. Even if working from home is only a temporary thing for your business, be sure to check in with your team to see if they need anything else for their at-home set up.

What next

The transition to permanent remote work could benefit your team massively, but it’s important to consider which mode is best for everyone. Engage your team in the conversations around remote work and integrate their suggestions into your final product to ensure a successful adoption.

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