As the pandemic took hold in 2020, many companies made the transition to 100% remote work, and many are now 100% office free.
This has been a topic of many coaching conversations with businesses worldwide. So, what is the future of work from anywhere (WFA) and the possible remote workforce of the future?
As we start to transition back into whatever our new normal is going to look like, remote work will remain a part of our lives, so we must learn how to do it well.
The book, Remote, by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, explores how one of the world’s most successful small companies manages to work remotely, and make it work… both for the company and their employees.
3 Reasons the Time is Right for Remote Work
Remote work allows for long, focused blocks.
Your best work happens in focused blocks. It rarely happens in small fragments.
For many of us, the office is the last place we want to go to get work done. That’s because offices are the world’s best interruption factories, slicing and dicing our time into small fragments, and interrupting what time is left with ad hoc requests.
Meaningful work, creative work, strategic work, and planning work all require time and space to get “into the flow.” Your best work requires flow, not interrupted fragments.
Cutting a commute frees up a lot of time.
Community has a huge impact on productivity and well-being. If your commute is 30 minutes each way, you are spending almost 260 hours of every year commuting. That is almost 7 full weeks of work hours, just going back and forth from the office. Not to mention the money you spend for the privilege.
People can now work on a schedule that is best for them.
There are some types of work, like manufacturing, that require people to be present in the same space. The rest of us have a remarkable opportunity to work at times that are best for us.
The “9 to 5” mentality is antiquated. Advances in technology allow our work to be asynchronous. Technology now allows us to get work done around our family schedules, the sleep patterns that give us the most energy, or around other things that leave us fulfilled and truly “on” when we’re working.
If you can escape the 9-5 mentality, you’ll unlock all sorts of great benefits both for the productivity of your workers, and their wellbeing. It’s a virtuous cycle.
The 9 to 5 mindset is so ingrained in our culture, there are a number of hurdles to overcome if you are going to make a shift in your business.
6 Reasons Why People Don’t Want to Go Remote
Now that we’ve covered why you might want to work remote, here are some common arguments against it.
Reason 1: The “Magic”
“The magic only happens when we are all in the same room.”
There is no denying that there is a place for synchronous work. Much like a jazz band, creativity, planning, and strategy work can be enhanced by live interaction.
Reason 2: Familiarity
“You can’t know that people are working if you can’t see them.”
Here’s the thing – lazy workers will always slack off, even if they are right in front of you. And productive workers will always work, even if you can’t see them.
Being remote might finally force you to deal with the unproductive people on your team.
Reason 3: Distractions
“People’s homes are full of distractions.”
This is potentially true. However, distractions at home are often no worse than at the office.
If home distractions are keeping any of your team members from doing their best work, you could encourage them to try working from a coffee shop, library, or co-working space.
Reason 4: Security
“Having your team work remotely is a security risk.”
There are plenty of steps you can take to make remote work secure, just like at an office.
Reason 5: Productivity
“If big businesses don’t do it, why should we?”
In 2020, Silicon Valley tech giants realized that their workers were getting as much done (if not more) while working remotely. As a result, many have allowed employees to permanently have the option to work remotely.
Reason 6: Sunk Costs
“We are paying so much money for this office.”
Of course, this is a great example of the sunk cost bias. It’s irrational to make this part of your decision.
You should only weigh the costs and benefits directly related to becoming a remote-first company.
PwC conducted a national remote work survey of employers and employees. The company concluded that now is the time to reimagine how and where we work.
How to Collaborate Remotely
Ensure there is overlap between working hours.
This way, you won’t cause any large collaboration delays.
Build in a social aspect of work.
In the office, people gather around the coffee machine or the water cooler to take a break and socialize. Make sure that whatever technology you are using allows for that, and make sure that socializing still happens.
This ensures that everybody stays in the loop on what’s happening at the company. This can be accomplished through a weekly discussion thread where everybody gives on update on the work they are doing and their plans for the coming weeks.
Avoid excess meetings.
Zoom fatigue is a real thing. Beware of too many meetings on Zoom leading to no work getting done and ultimately burn out. Make sure you give people the time and space to work on tasks that are critical to their role.
Check in with your employees.
According to John Baird, co-founder of Velocity Group, “Every team meeting should involve an opportunity to break out and connect with fellow workers. These breakouts enable people to check in with how others are doing.”
Baird recommends asking employees two important questions during virtual meetings:
- How are you doing?
- How can I support you better?
The answers to these questions will give leaders an opportunity to connect with employees and provide necessary support.
“It’s amazing how these questions facilitate dialogue and build trust,” Baird says. “During stressful times, people need to be heard, listened to, and supported.”
Potential Pitfalls of Remote Working
Even if you set up your remote work environment perfectly, it would be naive to think there won’t be pitfalls.
Avoid cabin fever.
Get out of the house every once in a while to work in a coffee shop or a hybrid co-working space.
Ironically, the biggest fear of managers (that their people won’t work as much remotely) turns out to be completely unfounded.
The bigger danger is overwork, or more specifically, being “always on.”
Make sure you create a separation between work and home, and when you are done with your work, “log off” for the day.
Test remote work.
A great way to test working remotely is to have an entire team work remote, and pay attention to the quality and quantity of their work.
Address stakeholder concerns.
Are you wondering what your customers, clients and stakeholders will think of your company working remotely?
Address their concerns head on. This way, you can make sure your work doesn’t suffer (and ideally improves from the transition). To set your team up for success, check out our guide on how to run effective virtual consultation calls.
Hiring and Keeping the Best
One of the largest benefits of going remote is that your talent pool becomes a lot larger. You will start to find quality employees in areas you have never thought to look such as other states and even other countries.
Meet job candidates in person.
Remember that even when you hire someone for remote work, you can still meet them in person. In fact, the authors suggest you do this whenever you can, because you’ll learn a lot about them in the process.
- Did they show up on time?
- Do they treat other people well?
- Are they decent human beings?
Retain your top talent.
Alternatively, whenever you find exceptional employees, you’ll want to make sure you find ways to retain your employees. Teams get better over time as they learn how to work with one another, and it takes time to develop that synergy.
Identify new ways to show appreciation that will differentiate your business from other companies. You can do little things like providing holiday experiences and encouraging and funding employees’ career-related hobbies.
How to Manage Remote Workers
Trust but verify.
You cannot effectively do your job if you don’t know the details of what your people are working on. So double down on the things that will help you do that. Try not to worry as much about when and where the work gets done.
Use one-on-one meetings.
Frequent one-on-one meetings with each of your team members will be critical. This will enable you to coach them on their work output, but also keep a consistent open line of communication.
For more information, listen to our podcast episode with Karin Reed, where we discuss how to make remote meetings work.
Get together occasionally.
You will still want to bring your team together in person occasionally. It’s easier to work together with people you’ve met in real life. It’s also a good idea to have an occasional work sprint in person to finish up or launch a big project.
Look out for overwork, not underwork.
If you’re managing effectively, work will get done just as well as in person, if not better. The bigger issue will be people burning out from overwork because there is less separation between the home and office.
4 Coaching Tips for Remote Workers
Here are a four tips to consider to set you set yourself up for success in remote work.
Build a work routine.
For example, even though you could easily roll out of bed and do your work in your pajamas, consider putting on your work clothes.
Divide your day into chunks.
Build in time for catching up, time for collaboration, and time for doing serious work that requires flow.
Create a dedicated workspace at home.
Make sure you have a dedicated workspace in your home, preferably a space that doesn’t get used for other things.
Try working in different spaces.
Break up your routine by making sure to try out different places to work. You might find a place that is great for churning through emails, a space that is great for creative work, and a place that’s great for your video calls. Now that you are not chained to your desk, use your freedom to get your different types of work done at the highest possible level.