According to The Office of National Statistics (ONS) the number of UK workers who have moved into remote working has increased by nearly a quarter of a million over a decade. Remote working brings many benefits to a business. But it also brings challenges in equal measure.
With 50% of UK employees expected to be working remotely by 2020, forward-thinking L&D, HR and D&I professionals are embracing this sea-change by educating and upskilling their people – managers, office-based staff and remote workers – to ensure their organisation is #remoteready.
LiveTime Learning, an eLN Industry Partner, highlights the benefits of remote working and delves head-first into the key obstacles organisations must overcome.
Remote working – the benefits
Productivity and efficiency
A remote setup typically involves a dedicated working space, high-speed Internet connectivity and a distraction-free environment. Remote workers create a productive, quiet surrounding with a place to focus so concentration levels soar.
53% of workers feel they would be more productive if they could work outside the office and 58% of people believe it would help them become more motivated . Research indicates remote workers regard themselves as more productive than those working in open-plan offices. They feel trusted and empowered by their employer to contribute from afar, thus raising productivity levels and business performance as a result.
67% of employees wish they were offered flexible working ; this may take the shape of one day working from home or a fully remote set-up. Smart organisations are listening to their employees and making changes to their operations.
Offering flexible working options provides staff with a more positive outlook, heightening staff morale by trusting and empowering them to work remotely. This contributes to positive company culture and a unified community of people.
Positive retention rates
There are many reasons why someone wants to work remotely. A current office-based member staff may want to remove their daily commute or opt for more flexibility in their day to support their family.
Consider an employee who wants to relocate and enjoys their current role, working with their team and the brand they work for. Organisations embracing remote working for existing employees drive staff retention, lower their attrition rates and reduce the problems created by staff churn.
Organisations advertising the option of remote working when recruiting ensure they are a leading, forward-thinking employer – 70% of workers feel that offering flexible working makes a job more attractive to them.
The idea of an office with no walls can conjure thoughts of abstract art. Allowing your staff to work remotely creates a virtual office – to either manage solely or to unite with one with walls! Whilst some organisations contribute financially to a home office setup to support health and safety, (desk, chair etc) there are typically lower overheads associated with a remote worker. Less electricity used, lower water consumption and savings to be had on tea bags and coffee. For organisations starting to outgrow their physical space the option of recruiting remote staff is very attractive to CFOs and HR teams.
Challenges to overcome
Recruitment, induction and onboarding
HR and recruitment teams need to consider the remote factor – if you’re giving people the option of working remotely then you must accommodate interviewing someone online. Recruitment managers need to ensure the virtual interview process is fair, especially if they’re interviewing face-to-face as well. Consider using technology such as Adobe Connect or Zoom to host the interview; this ensures you retain the human touch.
Thereafter there is the challenge of induction. HR teams needs to ensure their face-to-face processes are digitised so those working remotely are introduced to people, processes and policies the same as those office-based – but online. e-Learning is ideal for compliance and H&S training, but organisations should also investigate other modes of digital learning such as virtual classroom training to ensure all staff can be inducted together.
Onboarding is the act of familiarising someone with your organisation’s brand, culture and values. The difficulty lies when the individual isn’t in the office to absorb your organisation’s identity. Your culture needs to transform to one that is “remote”; consider platforms such as Skype, Slack and Zoom.
Collaboration and communication
A team of five working on a project, two of the team working remotely. One is on a different time zone to the rest.
How do you empower the team to engage with one another and manage the workflow, so the project is completed to deadline? Collaboration drives teamwork and acts as a genuine motivator. How does your organisation unite your office-based team with those who work remotely? What processes do you have in play to ensure everyone is engaged with the tasks in hand?
Communication is key – from formal e-meetings and scheduled one-to-ones to small talk and quick catch-ups. Ensure those working remotely are aware of what is taking place around them, especially if they’re on a different time zone. Those who are remote want to contribute to key decisions not be updated on developments via email. Use schedules and share calendars, clarify agreements and set deadlines.
Remote workers also need more communication given the lack of co-location. Without it stress levels rise for both parties.
Stress and wellbeing
Individuals working from home, a café or co-working space have a flexible working week, minimal commute (if at all) and a better work/life balance for them (and their family, if they have one). In parallel though, they can feel disconnected from their employer, leading to a demotivated mindset and lack of self-esteem.
Organisations have a responsibility for their staff’s wellbeing and to ensure equal opportunity for all. How do your managers monitor their team’s stress levels? How do they flag any areas of concern?
39% of remote staff work additional hours to complete tasks ; this is a considerable risk to the individual concerned. Senior staff must have the right management skills to lead, motivate and maintain positive wellbeing for all of their team.
Management and leadership
56% of people surveyed on flexible working believe managers need to adapt their skills to manage a remote workforce .
Office-based teams and those working remotely look for leadership from senior staff to drive company culture and unite all parties. Leading a remote team is significantly different to one that is physically located together. How would you deliver negative feedback to a remote worker who is always late for conference calls? How do you run remote appraisals and manage performance from a distance?
Being trusted to work away from the office builds a sense of faith between managers and employees, so staff feel empowered instead of micro-managed. And yet nearly a fifth of remote workers who shared their views on working life likened a constant connection to the office to being under surveillance … Because of this, remote workers can adopt a need to constantly be online, prioritising image and exposure over performance. No different than an office-based worker staying late every day to prove their worth, a good manager needs to be aware of this and support the remote worker concerned to avoid issues associated with ‘remote presenteeism’.
Organisations benefit from heightened morale and retention rates, and lower overheads. But managers can struggle balancing remote workers with office-based staff, keeping stress levels low and ensuring equal opportunity across their team. HR, L&D and D&I professionals are upskilling their people top-down to embrace the ever-changing workplace; from team leadership, communications and employee engagement, to staff development, equal opportunity and inclusivity.
LiveTime Learning hosted a webinar on 22nd May sharing best-practice processes to help forward-thinking organisations support their staff and get #remoteready. Email them to get your copy of the recording.