Ironically, the same organizations have now enforced their employees to work from home in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak. For the record, tech giants Twitter and Square have already announced that their employees can work remotely forever and other organizations are following the suit as well.
I agree that remote work is the only option to sustain through the crisis for organizations (excluding the essential services). At the same time, it is also implicit that businesses could have reaped benefits with remote work enabled even in pre-COVID time.
A majority of the workforce is now experiencing the unthinkable which is hailed as the world’s largest Work From Home experiment. Let us now focus on the term ‘remote work’ a bit. Originally it means to provide flexibility to the employees while positively impacting their overall employee experience. Surprisingly, this unanticipated shift has given rise to mixed feelings and opinions about productivity, well-being, and social relationships which impacts individuals and organizations.
Amid the noise owing to the stringent restrictions and other external factors, it is now widely perceived that to work remotely is to work only from home. Working remotely connotes that an employee can work from home or any place of his/her choice and comfort giving rise to Work from Anywhere! Simply put, remote work is the flexibility, and working from ‘home’ is a choice.
To make this work, organizations should have a well-defined set of policies and a system of tools for communication and collaboration. Once the crisis passes and normalcy restored, people might prefer going to the nearest café, mall, co-working space, or any other place where they feel safe and pleasant to work from. Thus, it makes the term ‘work from anywhere’ more relevant and accurate for the depiction of flexibility than ‘remote work’.
Almost 70% of the businesses favor Work from Anywhere as the norm. The benefits derived from its sudden adoption has businesses fascinated and filled with anticipation about the future of work with Work from Anywhere as a key cornerstone. Optimization of organizational costs, prioritizing employee well-being, reduction in commute and pollution levels, and many other reasons made the business ecosystem to accelerate its adoption.
Considering these interesting developments, is it leading the business landscape to see ‘work from anywhere’ as the future?
OFFICE SPACES WON’T FADE AWAY
Vanishing of traditional workspaces is one of the misconceptions that lingers around the future of work. Offices spaces won’t become extinct even though the companies have fully gone remotely. One of the reasons is the inability of telecommunication tools to completely replicate the experience of a face to face conversation. The modern-day communication comes at a cost of humanized-experience.
Unlike the office, remote work involves online communication and as a result, the unfiltered exchange of emotions between individuals is diminished. Also, there is a section of people who still prefer office over their home for being more productive.
Every company is not the same and the transition to a complete Work From Anywhere model depends on its industry and maturity. Small companies have to deal with challenges like inadequacy of technology and data security for implementing a full-fledged remote work.
Adopting a hybrid-remote model could be a good start for such companies to eventually shift to complete work from anywhere scenario in the long run.
FLEXIBILITY DEMANDS MORE DYNAMISM
Do you give your employees the true flexibility in working from anywhere? If your answer is an immediate ‘yes’, you might need to re-read the question. Just enabling your employees to work remotely is not sufficient flexibility. True flexibility lies in giving leeway to employees in fixing work schedules as per their comfort. Nearly 32% of the individuals feel having a flexible schedule is the biggest benefit.
A typical nine-to-five regimen may or may not be appreciated by all the employees. Managing work and home demands simultaneously would cause stress and affects their consistency in achieving goals. This essentially highlights the need for welcoming dynamic work schedules. Being kind and respecting the boundaries of your employees elevates trust in them and strengthens their commitment towards work.
As the culture of work from anywhere is evolving, organizations are starting to accept and embrace the fluidity of work time. This lays the foundation for the future of work to be more employee-centric.
ESTABLISHING A STRONG CULTURE NEEDS MORE EFFORTS
Cultural changes are tough to do remotely. Somewhere in the process of focusing on bigger changes, organizations tend to miss out on finer details that eventually turn into hurdles.
Let me just give you a better idea with the story of Sravya. Sravya is a playful and hardworking employee in our organization and she recently achieved a milestone of doing 14 sales a month while working from home. The whole team has praised her efforts and she felt elated by their gesture.
In her usual workday at the office, she would play Table Tennis with colleagues at 1 PM and then would go for a walk with her peers when they talk about the world in general and share updates on their lives. Since she is working from home and missing those games and talks, she experiences online monotony.
Culture is built with conversations, interactions, and shared experiences. At our office, informal conversations, fun activities like having a 1v1 match on Xbox contributed significantly to build bonds. Culture is not something you can derive and directly implement in your organization from an online article because it would just not work. If you want to make your culture interesting, conduct regular polls do a deep-down analysis and understand what your employees do and do not want.
Use internal sharing platforms, announcements, and polls to engage your employees by establishing two-way communication between you and them. Promoting open communication, encouraging ideas and creativity, building stronger relationships contribute to shaping your organization’s culture.
WORK-LIFE BALANCE STILL NEEDS ATTENTION
Even though commute-time is eliminated, it does not mean unlimited work-life balance for employees. The problem of imbalance persists as employees experience work interference due to household work or family needs. Work boundaries often get blurred and sometimes make employees compromise on their leisure for work.
Frequent online video conferencing invites mental exhaustion and declining productivity. Loneliness is another challenge that employees have to deal with being distant from their peers.
Businesses cannot take well-being for granted in a Work from Anywhere scenario and it deserves attention like it always did. Managers are trained to be compassionate and support employees in coping with stress and anxiety issues.
As I mentioned before, allowing dynamic work schedules help employees in finding perfect work-life balance by letting them optimize their work hours strategically. HR technologies help organizations in making quick configuration of flexible shifts, policies and offer various features to streamline complex remote work processes.
Businesses have now experienced the reality of having remote-teams and are coming closer to adopt work from anywhere in the future. Although there was considerable progress ‘Work From Anywhere’ still baffles many companies. For making a confident shift to work from anywhere, it needs the organization’s willingness and readiness to face the challenges that come with it. If done right, it would reap countless benefits to the businesses while balancing it with employees’ well-being and growth.