In the space of a few weeks, remote working has become the new normal for many workers as Covid19 has achieved a massive step change in the world of work.
And while working from home is sensible in the face of a global pandemic, we believe that experiencing the benefits of remote working will promote a cultural shift from the traditional 9-5 office experience.
Covid19 may have moved it centre stage but remote working was already waiting in the wings. Look at the number of employers using flexible working to attract new staff (source HR News):
84% in the UK
82% In the US
This is no “flash in the pan”, or an outlier trend that can be easily dismissed as being popular only in developed economies.
6 ways technology helps remote collaboration
Technology is a key driver of this trend, with the growth of mobile technology and high-speed broadband and many tech companies entering the collaboration space.
Competition has proved a boon as relatively new players such as Zoom have disrupted the market with easy to use collaboration tools.
6 tools you need to stay productive and connected while working remotely:
1. Instant messaging – products such as Slack and Microsoft Teams enable remote and distributed teams to keep in touch in a more dynamic and flexible way than email. The ability to create channels makes it easy to organise conversations and to get things done across multiple time zones.
2. Video conferencing– if people weren’t aware of Zoom before 2020 they certainly are now. Skype, Teams, Zoom and Google Hangouts et al are now essential for remote workers and managers to touch base, strategise and plan. The ability to screen share makes it easy to brainstorm ideas even across continents.
3. Project management tools – apps such as Asana, Monday, Trello and Microsoft Planner enable distributed teams to keep up to date, prioritise tasks and stay on track with their workflow and minimise long email trails.
4. Cloud storage – for teams working on projects and documents remotely it’s imperative that they can work on files easily and securely – applications such as SharePoint and Dropbox enable them to do this while reducing costs in IT infrastructure. They also make it far easier to collaborate on documents in real-time without the need to be faced to face.
5. Meeting and resource scheduling software – Providing collaboration tools such as video conferencing is one thing, but getting people to engage with them is an uphill struggle if they are difficult to organise. Meeting and resource scheduling software removes the admin, making it easy to organise a meeting even in multiple locations via an app – important for agile workers.
6. Productivity suites – while some of the tools above may cut down email it’s never going to disappear. There will always be a need be for an integrated email client, calendaring tool, spreadsheets, word processing and presentation tool. Enterprise suites such as G-Suite and Office 365 mean that you can now have full office productivity from your living room or home office but free from office distractions.
The introduction of 5G will also herald a revolution in the capacity for homeworking with speeds considerably faster than most current home broadband connections.
So the lure of working from home permanently may become too compelling to resist…
Who’s reporting benefits from remote working?
- Talent recruitment and retention
Matt Mullenweg – co-founder of WordPress – suggests in a recent TED Talk that remote working is the most effective way to build a company, making this key point about finding talent:
“In Silicon Valley, the big tech companies fish from essentially the same small pond or bay.
“A distributed company can fish from the entire ocean. Instead of hiring someone who grew up in Japan but lives in California, you can gain someone who lives, works, wakes up and goes to sleep wherever they are in the world. They bring a different understanding of that culture and a different lived experience.”
- Productivity and attendance
Remote working can also create extraordinary improvements in productivity, as a two-year study from Stanford University found.
Researching the large Chinese travel agency Crip – 16,000 employees – they found that not only did the remote workers work a full working day longer per week than their office counterparts, but also employee attrition was reduced by 50% among the telecommuters. They look less time off sick and less time off in general.
The study also found that there were other benefits to Crip as they saved $2000 per employee in rent by reducing their office space.
Remote working reduces office commutes are reduced, which is great for the environment and employee wellbeing – a 2001 study by German scientists found that commuters were twice as likely to complain of ailments such as pain, dizziness, and severe sleep deprivation than non-commuters.
A recent remote work experiment from digital asset management company Bynder bears this out. They found that for many employees the daily commute was a major stressor.
During the experiment almost 90% of them found it useful to use Zoom, Google Hangouts, and Slack to keep in touch during the workday.
The benefits of remote working are multiple:
- Improved productivity
- Fewer commutes
- Real estate cost savings
- Better for the environment
- Attracts a better talent pool
The downside? Feelings of isolation, perhaps – but these can be alleviated with good communications and supportive technology such as meeting and resource scheduling software that keeps everyone effortlessly in the loop.
Can we really predict yet what a post-Covid19 world will look like? Not really.
But remote working is not going to go away any time soon – and many organisations will be making some major reassessments once the forced conditions of the coronavirus crisis are over.