Remote work - how to make it work!

Our ideas of where and how work should be conducted are changing. The trend towards remote work is likely to continue and become a sustainable and valuable option for the future of work.

By David Bradshaw, Chief Executive Officer
17th November, 2023
David is a highly experienced consultant specializing in business strategy, lean operations/automation, and human resources. He holds a Master's degree from the University of Cambridge, UK, and an MBA from Quantic School of Business and Technology.

Remote work has recently emerged as a contentious topic, frequently debated among professionals and employers. The discussion among executives over whether to allow it will likely persist into 2024, and beyond.

Opponents of remote work argue that it negatively impacts productivity, collaboration, and company culture. Proponents highlight its potential for enhancing work-life balance, focused work time, and increased job satisfaction.

So which side is right? The answer of course, is that both sides have a fair argument. There are pros and cons to each mode of working. As is often the case in HR and PeopleOps, there is no single “right answer” to this complex issue. The pros and the cons vary between industries, organizations, job function, and even the individual.

The push to return to in-office work has gained momentum this year as many companies attempt to reinstate the pre-pandemic work culture. Seeking to counter the remote work trend, many employers are implementing various strategies to coax their employees back into physical workplaces. By organizing team-building activities, providing commuter stipends, promoting in-person interactions, and even issuing direct orders - employers are encouraging a transition back to the office. Despite these efforts, 90% of office workers say they don’t want to go to the office five days a week. And so, you can’t put the genie back in the bottle!

As virtual technology continues to advance and the traditional workforce shifts, our ideas of where and how work should be conducted are changing. The trend towards remote work is likely to continue and become a sustainable and valuable option for the future of work. Here’s how to make it work:

Establish Clear and Frequent Communication

Effective communication is the key to a successful remote work environment. In the absence of face-to-face interactions, clear and consistent communication becomes even more critical in ensuring that tasks are understood, goals are aligned, and issues are promptly addressed.

Implement clear communication policies and tools to facilitate seamless interaction and collaboration among remote teams. Encourage regular check-ins, virtual meetings, and open dialogue to build a sense of connectivity and support.

As well as being clear, the communication needs to be frequent and proactive. We often forget the informal communications channels that keep the information flowing on a day-to-day basis in the office environment – such as unintentionally meeting someone at the coffee machine, going out to lunch with colleagues, and those impromptu whiteboarding sessions that pop up out of nowhere.

By prioritizing effective communication practices, organizations can overcome the challenges posed by distance and ensure that remote teams remain connected, informed, and motivated to achieve common goals.

Foster a Culture of Trust

In a remote setting, where direct supervision may be limited, fostering a culture of trust is essential to building strong working relationships and effective collaboration within a dispersed workforce. Trust reinforces employee engagement, productivity, and overall job satisfaction.

Cultivate an environment where employees feel trusted and valued, enabling them to deliver their best work while maintaining work-life balance. When employees feel valued and trusted, they are more likely to take ownership of their work and demonstrate a higher level of commitment to achieving shared organizational goals.

Develop Clear Remote Work Policies

Remote work policies should outline expectations, guidelines, and performance metrics for remote employees. Ensure transparency and clarity regarding work hours, deliverables, and communication protocols to maintain accountability and facilitate a structured work environment.

Invest in Technology

Ensure that your remote workforce has access to reliable and efficient technology to support their daily tasks. Provide software tools for seamless communication, project management, and collaboration to enhance productivity and streamline workflow processes.

Invest in communication platforms that facilitate real-time interactions, video conferencing, and enable efficient virtual meetings. Implementing project management software and cloud-based storage solutions allows for centralized data organization, streamlined document sharing, and collaborative project tracking. Ergonomic home office equipment and technical support services also play a crucial role in promoting the well-being and productivity of remote employees. Offering stipends or allowances for home office setup, high-speed internet access, and necessary technical equipment enables employees to create a comfortable and efficient remote work environment, minimizing potential disruptions and enhancing overall job performance.

Strike a Balance with a Hybrid Work Model

The hybrid work model recognizes that one size does not fit all. Blending remote and in-person elements is a strategic compromise when fully remote work is impossible or not preferred. This approach allows employees to customize their work environments based on tasks, personal preferences, and lifestyle demands. Those who thrive on face-to-face interactions and collaborative energy can still engage in the traditional office setting when needed. The strength of the hybrid model lies in its adaptability, offering the best of both worlds without significantly compromising efficiency or team cohesion.

As we navigate the landscape of the modern workforce, it remains crucial for businesses to stay aligned with the evolving needs and expectations of employees. Establishing a thriving, forward-thinking organization means embracing a flexible approach that integrates the benefits of remote work with the advantages of in-person collaboration.