Remote Work – Have We Been Propelled Into the Future?

We live in the age of accelerated innovations where the topic of remote work is consuming more and more space each day. Just a decade ago the option to work remotely was not often available, to say the least. Today, we look at it as a great way to achieve work-life balance through different phases in our lives.

In the end, this type of work also represents an opportunity for everybody to re-think what true collaboration means and how it can improve any organization.

In times where remote work was very (not to say: extremely) rare, working from home was reserved only for those who created some sort of special arrangement. The first to fully dive into remote teams and working from home were mainly IT teams and companies.

But, with the rise and advance of technology, especially teleconferencing and telework, the times for remote teams have come, and we’re making good use out of it.

As we saw with the recent crisis, remote work made it possible to preserve public health without taking a full stop.

It is clear that remote working positions are not only those which fall into the category of customer service jobs. We can find them in such sectors as Computer and IT, Medical and Health, but Sales and Education as well.

The company culture and remote work

What can be considered a healthy company culture?

In a nutshell – a healthy company culture nurtures values like empathy and inclusiveness. Every employee should feel empowered enough to reconnect with his/her team, coworkers, and the organization itself. This is the way you create an atmosphere where it’s only natural to help others, learn consistently from each other and collaborate cohesively as a team.

In this day and age, an innovative, empathetic, and inclusive companies are the ones that are thriving. In light of that, remote work looks like a huge opportunity.

According to the American Psychological Association, there’s also an increase in job satisfaction while working remotely. And the number of companies that are noticing this is also increasing. In the U.S. alone, there has been an incredible 159% increase in the number of people who work remotely – and that is just between 2005 and 2017.

The benefits of working from home

It is very clear (and proved by many types of research) that remote work can and will boost employee productivity, improve work/life balance and foster better mental health. Let’s not forget the environmental factor: remote work practice reduces pollution from commuters.

To better understand the effectiveness of remote work, Airtasker surveyed 1,004 full-time employees – 505 of whom were remote employees – throughout the U.S. about their work habits and productivity. The results indicate that remote workers are actually more productive than their office-based counterparts.

So, what else did this study find?

  • Remote employees work an additional 1.4 more days per month than in-office employees, which is nearly 17 additional workdays a year.
  • Remote employees take longer breaks on average than office employees (22 minutes versus 18 minutes, respectively), but they work an additional 10 minutes a day.
  • Office workers are unproductive for an average of 37 minutes a day, not including lunch or breaks, whereas remote employees are unproductive for only 27 minutes.
  • 15% of remote workers said their boss distracted them from work, which is less than the 22% of office-based employees who said the same thing.

The Future (is happening right now?)

COVID-19 has created what Time magazine called “the world’s largest work-from-home experiment.” Workers who could (and were) working from home, found themselves struggling to get used to the new normal.

However, this transition was far easier now than it would’ve been 20 years ago. As we already concluded, technology was the one that made it possible for remote work to be set in motion in the first place. It’s only logical that as new technological advances are made, remote work will start to evolve as well. Our recent situation, might just give it an extra kick.

Nowadays, you can find an infinite number of tools offered to make remote work easy as can be. They are making it an option for many businesses, even small and medium-sized ones. However, not all of them are created equal – the proof lies within the proliferation of software in employee’s desktops, as many of them are still reporting disconnection and burnout.

The right tools

To solve this employee disengagement, more and more companies are working on providing personalized productivity solutions, in order to get to the root of this problem. The final goal is to have tools that optimize employee’s workflow, which will ultimately lead to employee empowerment. A healthy and productive company culture with integrated remote work is not possible if employees don’t feel informed and connected to the workplace.

The future is in those efforts.

Companies now can hire geographically distributed talent and reduce overhead expenses. On the other hand, employees gain flexibility, save time, and reduce transportation and other costs.

So, for the moment, both psychologists and business experts are pretty confident about a continuing upward trend. In parallel, the communication technologies are getting more sophisticated by the day, aiming to make recruiting top-quality, attracting the best employees in a tight labor market.

Other issues that are still waiting for answers are those exploring the topics of isolation and overwork. We still can’t know how what the long term effects of remote work are. Especially if it’s involuntary.

And now, after COVID-19 has shown us that work-from-home is possible for millions of workers, chances are that when this crisis gets to its end, more employers will try to make this a permanent arrangement. A New York Times article on “tomorrow’s workplace” quoted RXR Realty Chief Executive and Chairman Scott Rechler as saying:

“There could be A teams and B teams working [remotely] different days.”

Sounds promising, coming straight from the horse’s mouth. We’ll just have to wait and see.

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