While not quite the status quo, remote work is increasingly part of the foundation of a modern organization. The benefits for both workers and businesses are potentially significant, even when just a limited amount of time is spent working outside the office.
However, a survey recently released by Cisco suggests that many organizations are stepping into remote and flexible work arrangements with more improvisation than purpose and strategy.
“A lot of the organisations couldn’t actually tell us…how many of their workers actually teleworked to any degree,” noted Dr. Laurie McLeod, a researcher at the NZ Work Research Institute and one of the report’s authors. “That reflected a lot of it is actually ad hoc.”
Whether you’re incorporating remote work because of demand from your team or because you see how it can amplify your business, could your remote work arrangements be headed for failure?
One in five Americans works from home at least once a week, a number that’s trending upward not just in the U.S. but around the world—with good reason. When it comes to flexible work arrangements, there’s a lot to like.
A majority of workers define success by work-life balance more than other rewards like money and recognition. Flexible work arrangements have been shown to boost productivity and balance while reducing our expenses, stress and commute time.
Plus, organizations are drawn by benefits like lower office costs, access to a global talent pool, improved retention, and the many benefits that come from having a happy team.
Despite the steady growth, remote work has its detractors—some high-profile Fortune 500 companies among them. Noting that organizations need to collaborate and innovate to stay competitive, the response by some has been to bring everyone back under one roof.
But what if location isn’t the real issue?
Many U.S. workers aren’t happy at work—regardless of where their office is. A survey by strategy consulting company Roots Inc. found that a majority of workers feel frustrated, unhappy, unengaged and disconnected.
However, through training, thoughtful policies and taking a hard look at your organization’s culture, you can bridge existing gaps and empower your team to succeed, whether they’re in the office or across the country.
“It’s people, not technology, that are limiting teleworking effectiveness,” said Professor Tim Bentley, who also contributed to the Cisco report.
“Managers tell us [that] a lot of them don’t have the necessary attitudes or skills to promote and manage teleworking,” he noted. “They also have some concern about some employees not having the necessary skills and training.”
With these cautionary tales in mind, what can your organization do to bring a distributed team together and ensure your team gets the support it needs?
– (Re)consider how your organization measures contributions. Results-focused management empowers team members to decide when and where they do their best work, tracking deliverables more than time spent in the office.
– Ensure your managers have training to give them the skills they need to effectively manage a distributed team. “If in-office management is level 101, remote management is level 501. You have to be better at everything,” observed Kathleen Fujawa, who manages a remote team with Teach for America.
– Investigate processes and tech solutions that support collaboration, innovation and fun. Philip Rosedale—founder of Second Life, Linden Lab, Coffee & Power and co-founder of High Fidelity—says radical transparency has helped his distributed team achieve a sense of team, culture and camaraderie.
– Create policies and infrastructure that mitigate real risks to your business: The most critical areas include IT security, human resources issues, health and safety concerns, and technical support.
– Get the most out of face time. Telework doesn’t eliminate the need for face time—in fact, many believe it’s still critical when it comes to building relationships. “[Face time’s] primary role these days is to occasionally make humans feel good about who they work with remotely on a daily basis,” said David Heinemeier Hansson, co-author of “Remote: Office Not Required.”
Finally, create a remote work policy for your organization to address important issues that are often otherwise overlooked, like workers compensation and insurance. It’s hard to track results or build on best practices when you don’t have a structure in place.
About the Author
Amy Sept is the Assistant Editor at oDesk, the world’s largest online workplace. She has more than a decade of communications experience and a passion for helping nonprofits and small businesses succeed. Based in Canada, she’s an experienced freelancer who has logged many hours working with clients both in person and remotely.
What lessons have you learned from your own remote work experience? Share your advice in the comment section below, or send us a tweet!
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