With distant memories of Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer putting an end to remote working at the company back in 2013 I was unsure what the latest thinking on remote working was when I took the plunge and moved the business to remote working for all.
Doing some quick Google research seemed to validate my decision. The thinking seemed to be that if you want to increase your team’s productivity then remote working does the trick. I found some views to the effect that if you need to increase your team’s creativity, then it’s better to bring them together to collaborate in a physical environment.
As I’m keen to understand how companies are managing remote workforce, I’ll be examining this topic in future blogs.
What is remote working?
Essentially remote working transfers the experience of working from the physical realm of an office, to a digital environment.
For me remote working is attractive not just because I avoid the commute, or can get an extra in hour in bed if I want to, but because it saves so much time from office distractions. I am a lot more productive now. That’s mainly thanks to no longer having to move between my home office and work every day, and also because all the time consuming tasks of managing the office have been removed.
Having the flexibility to be able to fit work around your life and other commitments is the holy grail of working for many entrepreneurs, and for those with young families or elderly relatives to care for. But what do you need to do to make it work? And how do you balance employee satisfaction with managing a well-oiled, cohesive team who are scattered to the four winds?
Advantages of remote working
While the advantages of remote working are self-evident, not all employees are happy to work from home. Younger ones often want the social life that goes hand in hand with working, especially if they don’t have a partner at home.
And what about employers? What is the advantage for them, apart from reduced overhead costs of dispensing with expensive office space?
- Encourages self-motivation. When you give your team the go ahead to manage their own time, under the proviso that the work gets done, you encourage them to take more responsibility.
- Increases productivity. By giving your employees more time as they are released from the daily commute, you also increase their sense of freedom, even if they’re working office hours.
Productivity also increases simply because people can work in ways that suit them. Many will actively remove themselves from distractions, and work harder, to ensure the status quo keeps working for them.
Better employees. The ability to work remotely and work flexibly is in demand and you can attract good quality candidates when you have an opening. Opportunities are few and far between so you attract team members from far and wide once constraints based purely on geographical location are removed. As you can cast your recruiting net wider, it means you can hire the best person for the job, not just the person who is closest.
Chances are that team members value the flexibility you offer, and will be more loyal and stay in the job longer. Autonomy is rare in the employment arena which is why so many people turn to self-employment. So, giving employees flexibility and autonomy is likely to appeal to many of your team members who don’t necessarily want to set up their own businesses, with all the challenges that can entail.
What are the cons of remote working?
- Lack of oversight. If you don’t feel you can trust your employees sufficiently to get on with the job in hand, you will struggle. Working remotely isn’t for everyone, not every individual is a self-starter with the ability to get on with their job without having someone check what they’re doing.
- Security and IT. You are relying on your employees to work in locations with a secure internet connection. You need to train them to fully understand technology and the systems you use, and to be mindful of the risks that remote access security presents.
- Brainstorming. Impromptu brainstorming is no longer an option. Up to 10,000 non-verbal cues can be exchanged in one minute of face to face interaction. To maximise your sessions you either need to arrange video calls (something we haven’t used yet), or physically get together regularly, which won’t work if you’ve got employees living on the other side of the country, or the world.
Closer Scrutiny of What Works
In future posts I will be exploring the opportunities and hurdles that remote working has entailed for other companies that have done it successfully. The aim is to understand best practices to implement.