November 9, 2018

The End to Working Remotely? Why Yahoo and IBM are Wrong

working remotely

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Several pioneers of remote working are calling their workers back to the office, claiming that physical presence drives collaboration and creativity. Others say that this back-tracking is influenced by the need to reduce headcount, knowing that many will be forced to leave. For the workers themselves, this change in policy will uproot families and cause undue stress. Is it all worth it? Why disregard the numerous studies that show working remotely is more productive, empowering employees to have a better work-life balance.

Looking back where did this all start? In the not too distant past, office-based work was the norm and the daily commute was an unavoidable consequence of this.

The water cooler has been replaced by various technologies – Slack, Yammer, Skype for Business, etc. 

Working remotely took off due to several factors coinciding: the rollout of good broadband connection, the changing nature of work, competition for talent and demand from employees for a better work-life balance.

Despite companies such as Yahoo or IBM reducing or curtailing remote working there continues to be an overwhelming majority of companies who continue to support it. A recent Gallup survey of 15,000 North Americans showed 43% spent some time each week working remotely. Let’s look at some compelling statistics:

  • 52% of remote workers are female*
  • $4,000: The average telecommuters earns more than an office-based worker*
  • $11,000: Average saving per employee when working 50% of their time at home*
  • 82% lower stress levels exhibited by remote workers**
  • 87% of remote workers feel more engaged with their companies**
  • 68% of millennials would choose an employer who offered remote working**

1. Access to better talent

Why limit yourself geographically? Working remotely means location and time zones are no longer a barrier to choosing the best talent for your team. By spreading the net, you can find the right person faster.

68% of millennials would choose an employer who offered remote working

2. Company loyalty

It’s hard to find great people who click with their team, fit in with the company culture and do their jobs well, so you should be doing whatever you can to keep them.

Maintaining a strong successful team is crucial to ensuring peak performance in an organization, and if you have the opportunity to offer employees the opportunity of working remotely, even for just a couple of days a week, embrace it, because this policy will be vindicated by improved loyalty, higher production, and many other benefits.

3. Happier and more productive workforce

Think of flexitime as a key driver. Capitalize on a worker’s peak productive time. Workers who are passionate about making the most of their time are forward-thinking drivers who look for solutions.

87% of remote workers feel more engaged with their companies

These people are smart, they want to get the work done as efficiently as possible, so they can spend their downtime with their family, go out for a run in the sunshine, or plan their next trip. Work doesn’t happen in the office just because you are at work!

4. Better response time to disasters

Remote workers are more agile in their response. You don’t have to wait for everyone to get into the office, you can start working on solving the issue there and then.

5. Lower overheads

You save on office space, electricity and furniture. Collaboration tools are cheap, trackable and an absolute must in today’s collaborative workspace. Think Skype, Google Drive, Trello and Todoist, to name just a few, and how they can improve time management and productivity.

$11,000: Average saving per employee when working 50% of their time at home*

So, if it makes perfect sense to implement a remote working policy, what is worrying HR? Why are they contemplating making physical presence a non-negotiable point in the contract?

Here, we help debunk the unhelpful myths that are creating a negative buzz on working remotely. 

Myth 1: One-size-fits-all policy is the only way forward

Your goal is to find the best combination for making people happy, productive and successful. Everyone is doing different jobs, some jobs can be done remotely, other can’t. Don’t make everyone suffer so that the minority don’t feel bad.

Myth 2: Working in different time zones cause a breakdown in information flow

It’s true that communication gets harder, but this is easily mitigated by being well-organized as a team. Track what you need from each other, and share key documentation in a central location, so if you need an answer fast, and the key person is ten hours behind, you can easily find the information you need.

82% lower stress levels exhibited by remote workers

What’s more, colleagues in different time zones can take over as one worker clocks off, ensuring issues can be worked on continuously and even be resolved by the time you get in the next day.

It’s key to need to promote a culture of sharing, this means documenting meetings, posting news and announcements. Information should never be locked in someone’s private computer.

Myth 3: Most people don’t have the organization, the focus, or the motivation to be productive remotely

Daniel Pink did some extremely interesting research on Motivation 2.0 and postulated that autonomy is one of the three main drivers for people. Self-sufficiency, autonomy, and a strong sense initiative are all highly desired skills/requirements for all workers but are even more highly valued in remote workers.

$4,000: The average telecommuters earns more than an office-based worker

As a rule, companies need to focus on empowering their workers as if don’t feel they have sufficient autonomy, they will look elsewhere. Both managers and workers need to be excellent communicators, they need to have clear targets and deliverables on which they can be judged.

Start with small changes, allow people to work from home one day a week, and then two, and watch them thrive.

Myth 4: Office teams perform better than remote teams

Clear, measurable and achievable goals are key for fluid communication and team harmony. As long as everyone knows what is expected of them, it doesn’t matter where they are located.

Monday morning stand-up meetings can be very effective – everyone shares accomplishments from the previous week, goals and deliverables and challenges for the coming week.

There has been a paradigm shift from counting hours to measuring production, and a remote team will find it easier to focus on productivity over accumulating physical hours in the office.

Myth 5: You need to micromanage your team members, otherwise they lose focus

Remote teams have a happier work environment, they understand what they are expected to deliver, and don’t need a manager looking over their shoulders to make it happen.

It’s true that you will need to dig deep and really understand what they are doing, that you’ll need to see the finer details rather than just the big picture if you want to be able to appraise constructively and effectively, but overall, you get to judge workers for the work they are doing.

You don’t need to care about when they start or how many breaks they take; it’s all about what they achieve. Good workers, regardless of whether they’re remote or office-based, will let you know when they have time, and proactively let you know if they have available time.

Myth 6: Remote workers are easily distracted by non-work situations.

No more so that workers in the office! You can help remote workers by giving them guidelines to follow.

Teaching them how to focus by making sure they have a routine, chunking out their time to start with, ensuring that the perk comes with the obligation of having a dedicated workspace with a closed door. If you can make the job interesting and stimulating, people won’t get distracted full stop.

Myth 7: Remote workers have a higher burnout rate due to isolation

Remote workers burn out due to overwork, not due to isolation. Remote workers feel a greater sense of responsibility when it comes to ticking off tasks from their to-do list, and often the biggest problem is to try and stop them from working 12 hour days.

Monday morning stand-up meetings can be very effective – everyone shares accomplishments from the previous week, goals and deliverables and challenges for the coming week

It’s a marathon, not a sprint! Help them by training them to pace themselves, prioritize, reflect and learn from mistakes and setbacks.

Myth 8: Offices are a hub of creativity with everyone sparking ideas off each other

Most office now resemble Headphone City! Traditional offices with private cubicles have been replaced by open-plan offices which means major distractions and multiple interruptions.

Walk into any office and what you’ll see is a sea of headphones as people attempt to focus and drown out the noise of their colleagues.

Headphones on = Don’t interrupt me, I’m focused, I’m concentrated and I’m being productive.

So, work from home!

Meetings can be more productive virtually as everyone is more likely to follow the agenda without digressing and turn-taking is easily facilitated

Myth 9: Face-to-face meetings are more effective

Meetings can be more productive virtually as everyone is more likely to follow the agenda without digressing and turn-taking is easily facilitated.

Workers tend to be more punctual when connecting and respect the time that has been allocated to the meeting. If you are combining remote workers with physical workers, ask everyone to connect virtually – there is nothing more frustrating than connecting to a room full of people who are talking over each other and you can only understand one word in ten.

Myth 10: Company culture is virtually non-existent with remote teams

Company culture is about shared values and goals. Ensure that employees are a good fit before hiring them and then roll out a highly effective onboarding training for new hires.

The water cooler has been replaced by various technologies – Slack, Yammer, Skype for Business and similar. Suggest virtual “tea times” or “coffee sessions” that can help promote inclusiveness and consider yearly events that bring the whole team together.

Ensure each team member has a mentor who is in regular contact with them and turn on your video whenever possible! Jay Friedman, COO of Goodway Group, believes that developing a great work culture has been key to growing his company to a 400-strong remote workforce.

A happy workforce is a productive workforce, and that’s how every company should measure success.

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