In the past, working from home was marred by a bad reputation. Many employers believed their workforce would be too distracted at home, where managers couldn't keep an eye on their direct reports. However, recent events have spurred thousands of companies to rethink their stance completely.
Remote work was pretty uncommon a decade ago. Working from home was usually only available as a special arrangement, and it was practiced mostly by teams that didn't require a physical office space.
What was once unique for digital businesses such as web agencies, designers and developers, has spread throughout different industries, and is practiced by companies both big and small.
Companies that are aware of the possibilities to organize work digitally are becoming very vocal in support of this change. It's no longer a question of whether you can make your remote teams more productive or not - businesses are quickly moving into the realm of optimizing every aspect of their remote operations.
What's a workplace, anyway?
The shifting perception of what a workplace is has been a cause of many remote working trends we see today. For employees, it's all about having a comfortable place to do their best work. The benefits of remote working for employers is all about keeping costs low and minimizing overhead. More workers in the field mean less demand for office space.
But wait, what about productivity?
Improved productivity is one of the most considerable benefits of remote work. Remote workers are more productive than those who work in offices, reporting that they get more done than their colleagues. And we've talked about different ways to improve your business performance by organizing your remote operations using ActiveCollab.
Though the conditions of remote work during coronavirus are atypical, people and companies are bound to see improved productivity. No more interruptions. No more water-cooler chat or long lunches.
The future is all about the bottom line
Once the negative preconceptions and biases are dealt with, the only thing that matters for any business is their bottom line. And one would argue that the crucial factor in every bottom line is a happy and productive employee.
Therefore, we could conclude the intro by stating that the future of remote work will revolve around keeping your remote workers happy and productive. How is the post-pandemic business climate going to respond to the growing demand for remote employment? We don't know all the answers, but we're happy to share our predictions.
A stronger human element in the workspace
Shifting from mostly on-site to fully remote is considerably more complicated than just sending employees home with laptops. It requires a significant shift in management practices and communication methods. Holding lots of one-on-one meetings, which are typical in office settings, is "a company killer." Instead, collaborative team meetings should be the norm. Everyone is on the same page, and there's plenty of transparency.
Otherwise, it's too easy to become siloed, which only sews confusion and negatively affects workflow. That's where clear expectations, KPIs, and the tools to support them are crucial. In the absence of paper rustling and staplers clicking and the general bustle of human activity, which often gives the illusion of productivity, only the result counts.
There's a stigma to remote work that many of those in top management can't seem to shake. For that to change as off-site employees become an increasingly common part of the corporate workforce, managers need to develop and deploy soft skills that bolster communication and increase levels of trust. They'll also need to ditch the antiquated notion that strict monitoring equals higher productivity.
You don't need a water cooler to maintain company culture
Culture is actually more important in a virtual environment because being part of a very dynamic and engaging culture is how remote workers separate their work from their life in the same environment. When they log on, they really feel like they're part of something. Being connected to their teammates tells their brain it's work time. And then when they shut their laptops but are still sitting in the same remote workspace, that's personal time.
Furthermore, not only can company culture be converted to a remote scenario, but it should be converted to prevent remote worker isolation, increase employee engagement, and enhance productivity.
For many, remote work will become standard work
But not for everyone. Someday in the not-too-distant future, it won't even be new. Remote work will simply become work. And because necessity is the mother of invention, we're being pushed toward that future more quickly than anyone ever imagined.
Many believe that this move towards work from home will be a more permanent change, rather than a temporary one. A survey conducted by global research company Gartner with 317 CFOs and business finance leaders found that 74% plan to move their previously on-site workforce to permanently remote positions post-COVID-19. The most significant factor driving this permanent change was the cost-saving benefits of working from home — a factor that they have gotten a clear insight on during this current outbreak. After all, it'll still be all about the bottom line.
We're witnessing a game-changing technological shift
Organizations are relying more than ever on technology to enable work to happen seamlessly with employees dispersed. There is a soaring demand for virtual workplace solutions that allow teams to collaborate, communicate, and operate as usual. As organizations move their meetings to conference calls, their workspace to a project management board, and their processes to digital workflows, many are seeing the huge benefit in efficiency, convenience, and transparency that comes from bringing work online.
Similarly, social workplace activities and water cooler chats are finding their online version through employee-driven group chats and virtual happy hours. As the digital workspace slowly replicates all the elements of working in the same physical space, more companies are likely to stick to this as a long-term solution and method of working together as part of their new normal.
Post-lockdown will be a true test for remote work
Unforeseen circumstances have paved the way for the first true test case for remote work. The temporary transition may not be what we were expecting, but that won't change the results. Organizations are now getting a firsthand look at how WFH policies could work for them. It may not be right for everyone, but many employers and employees alike will appreciate the benefits that remote work provides.