What is remote working?
Remote working or telecommuting allows employees to operate outside of a traditional office environment. Remote work is based on the concept that work doesn’t need to be done in a specific place in order to be completed successfully.
Essentially, it allows employees to work in a variety of places, unrestricted by the need to be in a designated office space.
There has been a cultural shift in what society deems to be an appropriate workplace, and remote working (also known as telecommuting) has recently capitalised on that newfound freedom.
Twenty years ago, we, as a society, would never have dreamt that as many people would be working from home as they do now, and in recent months, even more so. According to the 2018 Future Workforce report, 63% of US companies now have remote workers.
With the constant evolution of technology buoying this shift, remote workers are increasingly supported in managing their workload and in staying connected with their remote teammates. This support ranges from project management programmes, calendar assistants and communication tools, all designed to help remote workers to feel connected and supported.
The bottom line is that remote working is the way of the future; it is removing the need for costly commutes, vacant office spaces and a stationary culture. All the key aspects of working in an office can still be achieved when working remotely.
Why do we need remote working?
The traditional office is starting to feel the competition as remote working continues to rise in popularity, supported by the increased use of remote video calls, outsourcing and employees choosing to work in coffee shops or abroad.
Why? Well, there’s a myriad of reasons that support the benefits of telecommuting instead of having a 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 suits the business. It was reported in the Remote Work Survey that "50% of employees that were asked, of whom are allowed to work from home, said working from home reduces sick days."
It also helps increase productivity, for both employer and employee, lessens commuting and therefore carbon production, and reduces overhead costs for the company.
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 their travel spend and allowing more personal time for the employee to spend on their own development.
Without the requirement of a physical commute, telecommuters can spend more time on themselves, to exercise or spend more time with their family which can positively impact on their health and wellbeing, making them happier, healthier and more productive at work.
What are the benefits of remote working?
The benefits of remote working are numerous to both employer and employee. We have highlighted some of the benefits of working from home for the employee above.
So what about the employer?
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.
If more employees are working remotely, this brings a definite decrease in the need for office space, car parking, utilities and potentially catering too.
Additionally, by adopting a remote working policy, employers find themselves ranking as the most desired of this generation. Making the choice to allow the option of working from home, gives employers access to a whole new, modern workforce.
It also increases the possibilities of hiring. When you aren’t trying to find employees who live within a 30 mile radius of your head office, companies gain access to the top talent, no matter where they are based.
The benefit of this to the employee is that they are no longer limited to a handful of companies who operate where they live. By adopting remote working, they could have the opportunity to work anywhere. This allows top talent to find the best fit for them, regardless of location.
And finally, retention. Giving employees the flexibility and autonomy to work from anywhere means they are less likely to quit their jobs when life becomes turbulent; moving house, going abroad, becoming a parent etc. None of these scenarios need to have a significant impact on their working lives if working remotely.
For the company, this means that retention levels go up and the need for hiring new replacements goes down, thus saving them time and money.
What are the physical practicalities of working remotely?
The considerations for the physical side of working remotely is vast. There are a lot of things to consider, from whether you are working in a dedicated home office, setting up shop at your dining room table every day, or choosing a new coffee shop to frequent regularly.
Starting from the top, the key things that you need to have as a remote worker are:-
- A laptop or computer
- Access to your work server or work files on said device
- Stable and reliable internet connection
- Somewhere to work that is safe
- Headset or headphones and microphone
Where you choose to work 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 empowers you to be at your 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 home working is that comfort and ergonomics are still very important. Wherever you choose to do your remote work, it is hugely important that you cater to your physical and emotional needs.
If you find working from home isolating, consider working elsewhere for a few hours. Some remote workers feel the need for 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; find what works best for you. If you prefer silence, embrace it. If you prefer bustle around you, experiment with listening to music, or the radio, to break up those long periods of quiet, and of course, remember that your teammates and colleagues are only an instant message/phone call away.
What about technical challenges of remote working?
There is always the potential for technical challenges to arise when working remotely. It’s easy to get lost in the technological jungle and sometimes the tech simply won’t work. This can be frustrating and debilitating for remote workers, but it can always be overcome.
Many remote workers love technology and make good use of it. They love to get their teeth into a new app, or platform that makes working remotely even better. If you want to be successful as a telecommuter, you must learn to embrace technology for all its highs and lows.
This applies not only to the equipment, for example your laptop, tablet or smartphone, but also learning to embrace the myriad of different tools available for these devices, through apps and software.
Before using an app or tool, be sure to investigate whether you actually need it; do your research and determine whether this additional piece of technology will enrich your remote working experience or not.
In terms of the physical tech challenges or internet going down, or having IT issues, use other means of communication to reach out to your teammates for advice on what to do next. You should never feel like you are suffering alone.
While you may not know the answer, there is a high likelihood that someone in your team does and will be able to help you.
Is remote working isolating and lonely?
Especially at present, with the world heading into mass social isolation and self-quarantine, loneliness and a general disconnection with other human beings is inevitable. Humans are, by nature, social beings and the feel of being cut off from one another can be very challenging.
It is also one of the main concerns about working remotely.
21% of remote workers named “loneliness” as their biggest struggle when working remotely, and 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 the constant development of increased internet communication, instant messenger and video calls, there is no reason for remote workers to feel isolated.
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.
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 telecommuters who 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 in which to prevent those feelings of loneliness and isolation from creeping in. We wrote a more in-depth blog about this here.
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. So, reach out, and bridge that gap, whenever you need company.
What about the impact remote working has on mental health?
Like the above, there are also concerns that working remotely can cause an impact on an employees’ mental health, particularly if they feel like they are cut off from the rest of their teams.
Many people suggest that telecommuting helps them 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 real meals rather than takeaway or fast food, and even finding that their daily snacking habits are much improved thanks to working remotely.
Our colleague Abi wrote a blog on working remotely and mental health; in it, she offers some tips and ideas on how to manage it, while working from home, in order to be at your best. You can find it here.
It is also important to bear in mind that although you are working remotely, you are not working alone. As covered above, there are so many ways in which team members can stay connected to one another, providing both professional and emotional support to their colleagues as required.
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. Why should working remotely be any different?
Take those moments of non-work related conversation online, 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, which helps 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 you are in the same office, 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.
Say hello every morning
Dropping a simple hello or good morning into your company’s chat platform of choice is a great way to get started. Not only does it let everyone know you are signed on and are now working, but it is the online equivalent of walking into your office. It takes 2 seconds to do and once it becomes a habit, you will wonder how you did without it.
Check in with each other
Throughout the day, when co-located, it is relatively simple to glance up and get a quick update on how your colleague’s day is going. When working remotely, the likelihood of making accidental eye contact is highly unlikely, so you have to make this happen.
Make a point of asking your teammates throughout the day how they are getting on. This gives them the chance to update you, ask for help or even share a success with you.
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, let them know when something has gone right. This way, they feel included in your celebration and you feel good for having shared it. This works as a great boost to team morale!
Say when you are going on lunch
A little thing that can make all the difference. Letting people know when you are going on lunch not only gives them the heads up that you aren’t going to be available for a little while, but also makes them feel included in your day. Perhaps you’d like to schedule a virtual lunch together, by eating your meals while on a video chat, just to catch up and reconnect visually with your remote team.
Keep your diary 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. Keep your calendar up to date with your movements, then everyone will know when you are due to be online and when not to bother you. Team transparency in communication is key.
Remote working is an asset to the modern worker and should be embraced as great working practice.
It has its challenges, but with the constant improvement of technology and rise of increased connectivity, there are many ways to telecommute while being more connected to one another than ever before.
Done correctly, remote working can enrich and improve many employees’ lives, their physical health and mental health and wellbeing.
It offers huge positives for companies through cost saving, reduced real estate requirements and has a huge positive mpact on the environment.
The secret to successful remote working is always communication, transparency and support. If you need help with any of those things, get in touch with us today.
We’d love to help you.