Employers and their employees have contrasting perspectives on remote working. For companies it’s a way of working. Whereas for employees it’s a way of living, with the pros and cons that go with any lifestyle.
Regular work at home grew 173% from 2005 to 2020, significantly faster than the rest of the global workforce. Covid-19 has accelerated this shift, even in the face of some big business backlash. While companies like Fujitsu and Twitter are allowing staff to work from home indefinitely, Netflix founder and chairman Reed Hasting recently said “no, I don’t see any positives.”
Hundreds of millions of people around the world now work remotely because their employers had no other option. Nobody was fully prepared for the drastic changes of a global health pandemic. The last six months have meant learning on the job and hashing together remote work solutions for traditionally office-based teams.
How can we retain productivity with a fully remote team? How do we replace the casual conversations between colleagues over the coffee machine? How do we secure technology and infrastructure? How do we embed a remote working culture? Do we need to make structural changes within our organisation?
Companies tend to adapt their practices so they can continue as close to normal as possible, the “new normal” as some like to call it. Such an enormous work shift will bring pros and cons. It won’t be normal. Companies focus on the work. But for employees, remote work is a huge shift in lifestyle and living. It has widely celebrated advantages and omnipresent yet rarely publicised disadvantages.
There are countless studies about remote workers and the trend is overwhelming positive. Remote employees have more time and autonomy. They are happier and perform better. But there’s also isolation and loneliness, exacerbated by health restrictions on movement and socialising. It’s more difficult to switch off and the line between work and life becomes blurred.
Before it was wake up, eat breakfast, drink coffee, commute, chat to colleagues and then open emails. For most remote workers it’s wake up, open emails while eating cereal, reply to emails while the coffee is brewing.
The classic stereotype rolled out by reluctant employers is that remote working reduces productivity. Employees will be slacking when away from their bosses’ eyes. Remote work studies are unanimous in showing remote workers are more productive than their office-based counterparts. And that they work more hours. It’s a struggle to unplug after work, because work is always there, not a commute away.
Since long before lockdowns and health restrictions it’s been suggested that the future of work is remote. Before Covid-19 56% of global companies allowed remote work, with 52% of global employees working from home at least once per week. Buffer surveyed 2,500 remote workers for their State of Remote Work report – 99% wanted to work remotely at least some of the time, for the rest of their careers. All statistics indicate continued growth and appetite for remote working.
Remote work is proven to increase employee loyalty and retention. It reduces costs, as companies can reduce overheads (especially office space) and better make use of technology. Yet there is still this nagging reluctance and of course it doesn’t work for all companies. Employers need to understand that the success of “work” will depend on how well their employees enjoy and adapt to the lifestyle, not just the working practices.
There is the reality of flexible schedules, working from any location, a gym class at 11am, a solid afternoon’s work while looking after a two-year-old, responding to emails at 9pm, no commute, long lunch, taking a break and getting back to the desk at odd hours.
Both the work and the lifestyle demand specific skills that are different to those of a great office worker. Like the ability to work independently, with little supervision. Accountability is essential. A great remote worker needs to be a great communicator, collaborator and organiser.
When companies struggle with remote working they blame the way of working. Yet every way of working is most dependent on the people who are working. Some are far more suited to a remote work lifestyle than others. Some thrive, others struggle.
This is a challenge that Search Remotely is helping employers solve. It’s the first worldwide jobs platform specific to remote working. Only fully remote jobs are posted on the platform. This attracts a community of people actively seeking remote work and the lifestyle it brings.
Companies will find remote working to be more successful when more of their employees have the experience, skills, desire and ambition to work remotely, accepting all the ups and downs of this lifestyle choice.