Remote working became prevalent since the pandemic began. It may have disrupted the economy and commerce for a few days but even a pandemic cannot stop businesses from functioning and capital from flowing. Initially, management was treating it as a short-term option but with time its advantages have become clear. A bit of uncertainty due to virus mutations and pandemic’s timeline has also worked in remote working’s favor.
Although working from home offers several benefits but comes with its share of challenges. From the perspective of the management/HR, we have to look at the effectiveness of a remote working policy and how it translates into work output and optimum management of resources.
Keeping all these in mind, let us look into the advantages and challenges of remote working and what to keep in mind while formulating a working policy for remote work.
Benefits of Working from Home
Large-scale internet penetration in recent years and good connectivity have made remote working a feasible option. Other than efficiency and business continuity, there are several other remote working advantages for both staff and management that we have listed below.
No Daily Commute
Commuting to the office cuts into a lot of productive time. Commute times are getting longer and longer. The time taken to reach the office from home can be from half an hour to 2 hours on average. All this translates into nearly a full workday in a week itself. Employees may reach both office and home late which may affect their productivity. Remote working saves all this time. Your employees will start work on time, be more productive and maintain a good work-life balance.
Location Independence Lets You Tap into a broader Talent Pool
This remote working advantage works for both employees and the management. Hiring is not limited to a geographical talent pool. You have wide-ranging access to hire resources from all around the country or world. This means hiring experienced candidates that are the right fit for the job.
For employees, it means shifting to their hometowns or locations with better quality yet affordable lifestyles. Other benefits may include spending more time with the family, better educational opportunities for children, opportunities for up-skilling among others.
Better Overall Employee Health & Work-Life Balance due to Flexible Schedule
Remote working statistics indicate that remote work has grown by 173% since 2005. It allows the employees to create a flexible schedule for themselves. They can plan and manage their day better. They can spend more time with their family and also work on physical fitness. All these lead to low stress and better physical and mental health. This also has an indirect correlation with the organization’s performance which we have elaborated below.
This remote working advantage again works for both employees and the management. All that commuting, coffee & smoking breaks, dining out, buying corporate wear comes out of the employees’ pockets. There is also a greater risk of contracting communicable diseases like common colds, flu, etc. leading to sick leaves and medical expenses. All this adds over time. Work from home lets you save all that money which you can invest for a secure future.
Management also benefits with considerable savings on rental, commuting, and administrative expenses. Fewer sick leaves lead to higher productivity. Less sick leaves also mean savings on medical reimbursement and insurance for the employees. All these savings will help raise the company’s profit margins with the added advantage of increased bonuses for the management.
Effective Team Meetings & Fewer Distractions
Admit it, one time or other, all of us went through the torture of attending the meetings not directly concerning us and agonizing about missing the deadlines. While working from home, you need to be more intentional about organizing meetings. You have to set the agendas beforehand so the desired outcome of the meeting is clear. This leads to highly effective and productive team meetings.
Better for the Environment
Remote working means less commuting and less administrative expenses that mean reduced energy use (ACs, lights, stationery) as well as fossil fuel consumption. This all leads to reduced pollution levels, a reduced carbon footprint, and a better environment.
Challenges of Remote Working
A lot of people enjoy remote work, but it poses several challenges too. Let us look at some remote working disadvantages below.
Remote working requires a proper setup. Any interruption like poor connectivity, power failure, and slow devices will affect productivity. Also, IT personnel cannot go to every staff member’s household for troubleshooting each and every technical issue. To counter this, staff members should be trained to resolve minor technical problems. For major problems, there is always the option of raising a ticket and visiting the technical helpdesk.
Remote working may cause distraction as people will be more relaxed without a supervisor watching over them. They may also get distracted by children, family members, or home-related work. This may have a direct impact on their productivity. The solution to this is to create a separate workspace and dedicate a fixed amount of time to office work. Ask your family members not to disturb you while you are working. You should concentrate only on your work at the time.
Lack of Communication & Collaboration
Working together, sitting next to each other during meetings, and going for breaks together generates a sense of camaraderie and team spirit. It leads to mutual understanding and efficient collaboration between team members.
But in remote working, with virtual communication like emails and text messages, there are increased chances of miscommunication. Written communication without visual cues may lead to misunderstandings too. There is also a chance that the emails you send are going to spam hell and not even be read by the intended person.
To counter this challenge, schedule regular team meetings through video conferencing tools like Zoom. As a manager, you can also organize monthly or quarterly in-person team outings. This will build trust and promote healthy communication.
Blurring Professional & Personal life
A major remote working disadvantage is the blurring of professional and private lives. This was already a grey area before remote working started due to the pandemic. Several people used to work on weekends and for extended periods either willingly or unwillingly. It was encouraged and considered a sure-shot way of getting that coveted promotion. Even now several employees face a difficult time setting boundaries. They fear that they will be left out and are available constantly even when their shifts are over. Over time this can drain them and cause exhaustion and breakdowns.
This challenge can be overcome by creating a healthy work culture where boundary setting is encouraged and respected. As a manager, you have to lead upfront and ensure no boundaries are violated. Your employees will feel safe and protected leading to better talent retention and a healthy working atmosphere.
Things to Consider Prior Creating Remote Working Policy
Remote working is here to stay and has become the “new normal”. Creating a remote working policy is necessary so that the employees and the management are on the same page and employees know what is expected of them. Here are a few things to consider before creating a remote working policy.
Work out which roles in your organization can be filled remotely. Some positions may have to be present in the office premises, so make that clear while formulating the policy. In a time of a crisis like the present-day pandemic, eligibilities may change. Make sure to add these contingencies into a business continuity plan and remote working policy.
Availability expectations should be clearly defined. Some employees may be allowed to create their schedules, but others need to be available for a fixed time every day. For e.g., an employee working with an offshore team must have the same schedule as the team they are attached to. These details should be put in the remote working policy for clarity.
Tools & Technology
The remote working policy should provide information about the equipment and devices need to carry out the work. Mention the type of devices and technical support the organization will provide or bear the cost of for remote working purposes.
The policy should mention what employees have to undertake to keep the company’s data safe. This may include prohibiting the use of public wi-fi, not sharing the official documents outside the organization, locking the devices when unattended and if your company uses VPN, then recommended process of using the VPN.
A remote working policy should include how productivity is going to be measured. It should state clearly the parameters like the number of sales, conversions, client interactions, average handling time, or the number of tasks completed.
The policy should state clearly the mediums and channels through which team communications will take place. This may include emails, official WhatsApp groups, and video conferencing tools. The policy can also include the average time taken to respond to official emails from supervisors and colleagues.
So, these are some of the things to consider before forming a remote working policy. A robust and well-defined policy is essential to create the right remote working environment.
New World of Remote Working
Due to the current scenario, technological development, and employees preferences, it is clear that remote working has become essential. We have to understand its nuances, the changes we have to undertake, and the possibilities it brings. This new world of remote work no longer requires limitations of working time and geographical location. Emphasis is more on performance and collaboration. This new world requires a different kind of management that is focused on autonomy, information access, self-responsibility, and trust-based working relationships.
Remote working is hardly a new concept and has been around for quite some time. But the pandemic and technological advancements have made it the favored way of working. It has several advantages and some challenges too but for now, it is the preferred choice of the workforce.
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