Remote working allows employees to operate outside of a traditional office environment. It is based on the concept that work can be done successfully regardless of location. It allows employees to work in a variety of places, unrestricted by the need to be in a designated office space.
Since the global Covid pandemic, there has been a cultural shift in what society accepts as an appropriate workplace – whether that be a café, home, library or co -working space, and the idea of a traditional 9 -5 day at the office is now seen by many as outdated.
Twenty years ago, we, as a society, would never have dreamt that as many people would be working from home as they do now. According to a 2021 remote work survey 84% of employees shared that working remotely would make them happier, with 46% willing to take a pay cut in order to do so.
With the constant evolution of technology enabling this shift, remote workers can now be supported in managing their workload and staying connected with their remote teammates, with the aid of project management programmes, calendar assistants and communication tools. Employees can feel in touch and part of their team – regardless of their location.
Remote working is the way of the future; it is removing the need for costly commutes, giving employees flexibility over their schedules and their locations, removing the need for businesses to rent vast office spaces and improving a stationary culture. In a forward-thinking world – going back to the office would only be a step backwards.
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Why do we need remote working?
Traditional office working is feeling the competition as remote and hybrid working continues to rise in popularity.
Why? Well, there’s a myriad of reasons that support the benefits of remote working instead of having to commute to one specific place of work.
For starters, reports show that remote workers are less stressed, that they feel empowered to work in a way that suits them and that in turn has a positive impact on the business. It was reported in the Remote Work Survey that “82% of employees surveyed said after the pandemic, working from home is better for their mental health.”
It also helps increase employee productivity, reduces the amount of time spent commuting and in turn has an impact on carbon production. For businesses, one of the other major benefits is the reduction in overhead costs for companies no longer having to rent large office spaces and pay substantial utility and maintenance costs.
To top it all off, there are multiple reports of how remote working can greatly improve employee health and wellbeing; by removing their commute, decreasing travel spend and allowing greater flexibility within the day to fit in other commitments. According to the Owl Lab 2021 state of remote work, 84% of employees who worked from home were happier, 82% said that it was better for their mental health, and 79% said they felt less stressed. And as a business, having a happy workforce is key to productivity and engagement – it is a win for both sides.
Without the requirement of a physical commute, remote workers have more time available for their own personal wellbeing: to exercise or spend more time with their family, which can positively impact their health and wellbeing, making them happier, healthier and more productive at work.
What are the benefits of remote working?
There are a number of benefits of remote working for both employers and employees. We have highlighted some of the benefits of working from home for the employee above.
But what about the employer?
The financial benefit
There is a great financial benefit to employers encouraging more telecommuting in their organisations. Hubspot reported that they estimated savings of over $100k per year because of a decreased need for leasing fees, in-house IT, utilities and other expenses. And in a report by the global workplace analytics, it was found that US-based employers can save up to $10billion dollars by allowing employees to work from home.
If more employees are working remotely, this brings a definite decrease in the need for office space, car parking, utilities and potentially catering too.
Recruit new talent
Additionally, by adopting a remote working policy, employers find themselves ranking as the most desirable employers of this generation. Allowing employees the option of working from home, makes employers more competitive as they try to attract top talent to their organisations.
It also increases the possibilities of hiring. When the recruitment is not based on trying to find employees who live within a 30 mile radius of the head office, companies gain access to talent on a global scale – which really allows them to employ the best of the best.
And finally, retention. Giving employees the flexibility and autonomy to work from anywhere means they are less likely need to quit their jobs as their lives change. Previously, employees may have resigned due to an imminent house move or relocation due to their partners work, or lifestyle changes such as becoming a parent or carer. Supported by technology, none of these scenarios need to have a detrimental impact on employees working lives if working remotely. According to the Microsoft global work trend survey 2021, 73% of employees want flexible working options to remain after the pandemic. By having flexible remote strategies within the company, employee wellbeing and satisfaction at work is instantly boosted.
For the company, this means that retention levels go up and the need for hiring new replacements goes down, saving them time and money.
What are the physical practicalities of working remotely?
When considering remote working, there are a few practical things to consider to ensure the employees physical environment supports remote work. Whether employees are working in a dedicated home office, setting up for the day at a dining room table, or choosing a new coffee shop to frequent regularly, there are some common things you’ll need to consider. The key things remote workers need are:
- A laptop or computer
- Access to a work server or work files on their laptop
- Stable and reliable internet connection
- Somewhere to work that is safe
- Headset or headphones and microphone
The work environment is very important too. Many remote workers soon learn what works best for them, but it is important to try several scenarios to work out which one works best.
For some it is a standing desk in a quiet room in their house. For others, it is a dedicated home office, with a desk chair and desk. For others, it will be their kitchen counter or dining room table.
The key points to remember about any remote working is that comfort and ergonomics are still very important – it is vital that the worker’s physical and emotional needs are catered for to make a successful working environment.
Some remote workers benefit from having people around them and find working in a coffee shop or café can help boost their productivity.
The Buffer State of Remote Work 2018 report stated that when asked where they primarily work from, 78% of remote workers said they use their home as their primary place of work. 9% said they use the office as their primary place of work, coworking spaces came in at 7%, and cafes at 5%.
Remote and homeworkers are all different. Some prefer to embrace silence. Some may prefer bustle around them, needing music, or the radio, to break up those long periods of quiet and stimulate their thinking. One of the major benefits of remote working is the ability for remote workers to tailor their working environment to suit their preferences.
What about technical challenges of remote working?
Anyone who has used technology will know that there is always the potential for technical challenges to arise – and this is no different when working remotely. Remote working is made possible because of the tech we now have available, but sometimes the tech simply won’t work. This can be frustrating and debilitating for remote workers, but it can always be overcome.
This applies not only to the equipment, for example laptops, tablets or smartphones, but also learning to embrace the myriad of different tools available for these devices, including apps and software. Afterall, learning to use the technology is one thing, but being able to really gain the most benefit from it is much better!
Before using an app or tool, the best thing is to establish if it is really needed – researching and determining whether this additional piece of technology will enrich the remote working experience or not.
In terms of the physical tech challenges such as loss of internet, or having IT problems with software, it is important to have other means of communication to reach out to teammates for advice on what to do next. Many remote working companies have team WhatsApp groups for this contingency support. Workers should never feel as if they are struggling alone, and having someone they can turn to for advice can really make the difference to the day being a productive one or not.
Is remote working isolating and lonely?
Loneliness and a general disconnection with other human beings is often one of the main concerns for remote workers. Humans are, by nature, social beings and the feel of being cut off from one another can be very challenging.
21% of remote workers named “loneliness” as their biggest struggle when working remotely, while another 21% said collaborating/communicating was their biggest struggle.
However, many would argue that if done correctly, remote working doesn’t need to be an isolating experience.
With internet communication, instant messenger and video calls constantly developing, there is no reason for remote workers to feel isolated. Many remote working companies tend towards “camera-on” policies to encourage more human connection between teammates.
Platforms such as Microsoft Teams, Slack, Yammer and WhatsApp to name a few, act as fantastic methods of effective communication between team members throughout the working day. Establishing a culture where there is constant dialogue between colleagues throughout the day, is really essential to feelings of inclusivity.
If remote workers still crave that face-to-face contact however, there are other options open to them. A co-working space is a popular choice for remote workers who feel they need more face-to-face interaction, or even those who just want the chance to get together in a physical collaborative space.
There are plenty of other ways to prevent those feelings of loneliness and isolation from creeping in.
Our world is hyper-connected; we are fortunate to be more connected to one another on a global scale than we have ever been. There is no excuse to be lonely in today’s world when platforms like Zoom and FaceTime exist. Reaching out to colleagues to build virtual connections really is key.
What about the impact remote working has on mental health?
Employee mental health is one of the biggest concerns when it comes to working remotely. However, many people suggest that remote working helps to form much healthier habits than working in an office. Going out for a run or walk first thing rather than making their usual commute, eating healthier as they can prepare nourishing meals rather than order takeaways or fast food, and even finding that their daily snacking habits are much improved thanks to working remotely. Furthermore, the flexibility that remote working brings means the associated stress and pressure of the workplace is reduced.
An important part of work is forming relationships with colleagues and to this end, it is also important to remember that not all talk needs to be work-related. When working while co-located, employees do not hesitate to have a chat in the kitchen about what they did last night, a recent movie they have seen or what their weekend plans are. And remote working really shouldn’t be any different. Unfortunately, when remote working those moments don’t just crop up. Colleagues won’t bump into each other at the lift or in the office kitchen – instead they’ll need to be more intentional about calling someone up or messaging them for a chat.
Building up a support network between team members is a really valuable tool to ensuring workers feel emotionally supported. Whether through instant messaging, video calls or just sending each other a fun GIF or emoji; it’s great to stay in touch and communicate with one another, helping to make everyone who is working remotely feel valued and included.
What are some tips for remote working as a team?
For any team, remote or co-located, a feeling of being ‘in it together’ is vital. When employees are in the same office, being able to see one another across desks, that feeling of togetherness comes quite naturally.
It can become as natural when working remotely too, it just requires a little more effort in the beginning.
So, here are some tips for how to pull together as a team when working remotely.
5 tips to enhance remote team connection
1. Say hello every morning
Dropping a simple hello or good morning into the company’s chat platform is a great way to get started. Not only does it let everyone know when people are available, but it is the online equivalent of walking into the office. It takes 2 seconds to do and once it becomes a habit, it will seem as natural as saying it in person!
2. Check in
Throughout the day, when co-located, employees may easily glance up from their desk and instantly be able to see how their colleagues day is going. When working remotely, the likelihood of making accidental eye contact is highly unlikely. It is essential that colleagues make the effort to reach out to each other, so everyone feels supported throughout the team.
By team mates checking in with each other at the start of scheduled virtual meetings, as well as regularly asking each other throughout the day how they are getting on, it fosters a culture of openness, where people are not afraid to reach out if they are struggling.
3. Share the wins!
This is very important and furthers our point above. Share the wins. Whether it’s through a celebratory GIF in the team chat or via a more formal email around to the team, ensuring that everyone knows when something has gone right is a great way to boost team morale. Everyone feels included in the celebration!
4. Drop a “lunch” message
A little thing that can make all the difference. By workers posting on a chat when they are going for lunch, it not only lets the team know that they may be unavailable for a while, but everyone feels included in their day. A virtual lunch is always a good idea – arranging a meeting with a colleague just to catch up and reconnect visually.
5. Ensure diaries are up to date with your start and finishing times
It is very easy when in an office to see when people are starting and finishing, but when working remotely, this can be more difficult. When team members keep their calendar up to date, then everyone will know when they are due to be online and when not to bother them. Team transparency in communication is key.
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