many people, the COVID-19 pandemic was their first exposure to remote work.
While people were working remotely long before the pandemic began, this was
typically limited to certain fields or positions and out of reach for many.
Over the last few years, remote work has gone from being a fairly niche
practice to an everyday reality for millions. Many businesses transitioned to
remote work simply to comply with social distancing measures, but over time it
has become so popular that there has been resistance to going back to a
physical workplace. In fact, research shows that more
than 4 of 5 employees who have worked in hybrid models over the past 2 years
want to retain them
the world continues to recover and move on from COVID-19, remote work remains a
hot topic as organizations contemplate how to continue to address this
transformative trend. Though some business leaders remain hesitant to make
remote or hybrid work options a permanent part of their operations, others
see an opportunity for innovation and productivity
, eager to
take the steps necessary to ensure remote work success. While the pandemic
might be over, it is clear that remote work is here to stay, and for those
willing to step up and provide the proper leadership and support, it offers
ample opportunities to bolster productivity and employee engagement.
The Benefits of Remote Work
are many varied benefits to embracing remote work. Some are obvious and
well-documented such as cost savings on
office space. However, there are other more intangible benefits that are more
interesting to discuss. If managed correctly, remote work offers increased
productivity, improved work-life balance, new opportunities for connection and
collaboration, and a positive impact on DEI efforts. It is here where going
remote is most valuable to businesses going forward.
is the biggest subject of debate in the argument for remote work, as many
traditional business leaders feel that working from home cannot match in-person
work. Yet, several studies show that remote work can drive productivity: Owl Lab’s 2021
on the state of remote work states that 90% of workers say they’re at
the same productivity level or higher working from home compared to the office.
Forum’s 2022 report
shows that workers who can work from home
reported 4% higher productivity scores than fully in-office workers, while
those who have full schedule flexibility report 29% higher productivity than
workers without the ability to shift their schedule.
are several reasons why remote supports productivity: working remotely allows for
greater flexibility, which encourages more creativity and autonomy. It also
gives employees who aren’t adept at in-person communications a chance to shine,
meaning more people have the opportunity to demonstrate their strengths. Remote
workers also have greater control over their work-life balance. While some
might argue that employers aren’t responsible for employees’ work-life balance,
employers who neglect their worker’s needs are likely to encounter absenteeism
and higher rates of turnover, along with diminished productivity over time.
When workers are happy and lead well-balanced lives, they are more productive
and more likely to stay with their job.
Understanding the Challenges
all of its many benefits, there are a number of challenges that organizations
must address if they want to fully commit to remote work arrangements. Though
remote work can be great for productivity, if workers are placed under too much
pressure to “prove” they are working, it can lead employees to engage in
“productivity theater”, where people aim to look busy doing tasks that offer
little actual value. This has been a persistent problem since the wider
adoption of remote work began: in
a recent Slack survey, workers said they spent a third of their time
“performing” work to appeal to their bosses rather than actually working
includes responding to work threads regularly and answering emails more quickly
than necessary, even after hours.
are also obvious
downsides to working remotely
: isolation and disconnection, reduced
face-to-face communication, a lack of access to important materials, and the
difficulties of separating personal and work responsibilities. These issues
aren’t insurmountable: people can communicate and connect remotely and set
boundaries between their work and personal life. However, it’s true that some
people just fare better in an office environment.
Pivoting For Remote Work Success
important step for an organization looking to pivot toward remote work is
recognizing that the old ways of operating will not take them into the future.
Being proficient at managing remote employees can be difficult, especially for managers
who are used to evaluating everyone based on “desk time.” To successfully pivot
to remote work, managers must be willing to recalibrate their approach and move
away from micromanagement. Managers need to focus on outcomes rather than face
time and be more intentional about communication.
also need to be ready to address the gaps that exist in the remote work
environment. The lack of face-to-face communication means that managers must be
more proactive in their mentorship, modeling effective communication practices,
and implementing new communication tools to facilitate connection between
remote team members. The key is setting clear expectations and goals, as this
ensures that even if your team isn’t in the same place, they’re still on the
you want to ensure your organization is communicating and collaborating, give
them opportunities to do so: set up virtual team-building activities and
digital spaces to chat, conduct regular check-ins, and take the time to
recognize members’ accomplishments. Critics often argue that remote work leads
to isolation and hinders a company’s culture, but that’s only if you don’t take
steps to adjust that culture to facilitate remote communication. When you
recognize how remote work differs from the in-person experience and adapt
accordingly, you position your company for greater productivity and financial
success while granting contemporary workers the autonomy,
meaning, and purpose
they are seeking.