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After all, remote working can help improve work-life balance, allow those with chronic health conditions to work in comfort, reduce office politics, cut costs, and slash their carbon footprint...
It has been impossible to ignore the rise in remote work in the last few years, even as we left behind the lockdowns imposed due to the coronavirus pandemic. While no one could claim that sudden, enforced working from home was a good thing, it did show many employees a different style of working that they previously might not have tried.
As a result, when the world opened up again, many professionals wanted to bring a more considered, sustainable version of the remote working model into their job roles. After all, remote working can help improve work-life balance, allow those with chronic health conditions to work in comfort, reduce office politics, cut costs, and slash their carbon footprint. But this type of work can also bring challenges, especially for companies that are used to being in the office full-time. Let’s explore some of these challenges, as well as suggestions about what you can do to minimize their impact.
Along with their working location, some companies will choose to allow their employees to be flexible with their working hours. This can mean anything from having core working hours (for example, 10-4) and allowing employees to adapt their remaining hours outside of this time as it suits them to full flexibility. The latter means that employees can choose when they work—even working in the middle of the night or the early hours of the morning if they so wish.
Whatever pattern companies offer, in order to function effectively, there will likely always be an element of asynchronous working, especially if you have colleagues across varying time zones. Sometimes known as async, this process is where there’s no requirement for team members to be working on the same task at the same time; rather, you complete your part of the work, then pass it on to the next person to do theirs.
However, this can be a tricky concept for both employees and employers to understand and put into practice. Rather than relying on calls, team members will need to get used to leaving messages, recording videos, or typing notes to provide relevant information for their work before passing it on to the next person. They’ll also need to leave enough time for the other people involved to do their work before the deadline.
Setting some clear guidelines and a framework for asynchronous working can go a long way in helping this process run smoothly. There will also need to be some project management software in place to ensure that work is suitably tracked and allocated.
In the office, it’s somewhat easier to form connections between teams. Colleagues may share ideas across desks, spend lunch breaks together, or simply chat in the communal kitchen. In contrast, remote working requires purposeful communication—you need to actively reach out to others in order to talk, and this can be hard to get into the habit of. You’ll probably talk to the people you work with directly, but you are less likely to mimic that casual conversation that you get in and around the office with different teams.
As well as increasing loneliness, this can have a detrimental effect on idea sharing and collaboration across the business. To combat the issue, companies should consider having all-hands calls once a week, or, if they’re working asynchronously, then create online groups for people to join and share their interests. They could also ensure they put regular virtual team socials on the calendar.
In an office environment, there’s a certain level of forced focus. Employees may be aware that other people can see what they’re up to, plus they’ll want to get out of the door right on time to miss the traffic. It’s worth noting that this doesn’t always equal more productivity; one of the benefits of remote work is that people can find their own best working pattern. Plus, not having a commute means the last half an hour isn’t lost watching the clock.
When working at home, employees are more responsible for their own time management on tasks. They’ll need to put a plan in place to help them remain productive, allowing them to complete tasks on time and to the correct standard. However, this can be challenging, and it’s equally as easy for someone to overwork themselves as not work enough. Employers can do their bit by sharing information about different time management strategies and working with employees to support them. There should also be clear guidelines about when team members will be expected to reply to messages, for example, ensuring that workers can switch off when they’re done for the day.
Remote working can help companies grow and expand, improving team satisfaction levels and allowing them to attract top talent from other locations. However, it’s not without its challenges, and careful consideration should be given to tackling these as you move forward with a remote working model.
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