Remote Workforces: The Future of Work
Remote workers aren’t SLACK - they use it
It is 1.04pm in the afternoon in Australia.
I’m sitting at my computer, starting to write this piece about remote work. I’m using Google docs so it can live somewhere that is directly accessible and editable by my colleagues at Stay Unplugged, who are mostly based in Europe and fast asleep right now (I hope).
When they wake up (and have had a bucket of coffee), they’ll SLACK me if they have any questions or want to make changes to the copy, after which they’ll prep it for publication before whacking it into the CMS and publishing it.
This is quite simply the future of work.
OK, not the future of ALL work. There will always be certain industries that by virtue of their very nature will need their workers to be physically located at their place of work. Nurses are a great example, as are airline pilots, baristas, grounds people, magistrates...the list could go on.
And yet even these professions face automation, the rise of AI and increasingly improved robotics that could mean their roles require less on-site activity and be done remotely.
How the Dispersed Workplace improves your business. And your people.
But what do we mean exactly by “remote work”?
Many will have heard the term tossed around in all kinds of circles and publications and for those going the literal, no, it doesn’t (necessarily) mean being on the top of Everest or in the jungles of Borneo trying to find a wifi connection to send an email, although it could...and why not, we say?!
Essentially, remote work is a workstyle that allows professionals to work away from the traditional workplace, quite often from home but also increasingly at any number of coworking places springing up all around the globe.
And while some employers still can’t get their heads around the notion, fearing it might impact operations, many, many others are embracing remote work, seeing benefits galore.
The latter who fear the rise of remote work do so most likely out of a sense of loss of organisational control, which is understandable to some degree, and could conceivably impact on the bottom line if instead of getting daily tasks completed remote workers are slacking off.
But the reality is, the same worker who might take advantage of the opportunity to remote work by bingeing on Netflix or sitting on their balcony trying to get an early suntan as soon as they are out of the office is just as likely to be unproductive under the eye of management when on location in a traditional workplace.
You know it’s true.
It’s about the individual NOT the workstyle
Compare this to 95% of your workforce (hopefully) who are conscientious about getting the work done. Imagine how much more work they might get done, or how much better they might get it done if they no longer have to negotiate some of the more onerous aspects of going to a physical workplace, such as horrible commutes, dealing with crowded urban places, constant interruptions by colleagues and juggling family/personal commitments up against work and the HUGE stress that comes with this.
On this latter point, comes a huge benefit of remote working - the increasing democratisation of the workplace. Allowing more remote work means women are able to juggle the joint responsibilities of motherhood and a professional life. People with disabilities that hamper them getting to a workplace no longer face this hurdle. Older workers for whom removing the need to travel to work means they can work much later into their lives due to days being effectively shorter and less onerous on them due to the removal of the dreaded commute.
This, linked to a generally happier workforce, could also mean greater staff retention and thus savings in hiring and training.
While we’re talking about hiring, how about being able to employee someone tens of thousands of miles away? What a boon for HR to be able to hire the BEST person for the job rather than the most local. Or if you do hire someone on another continent, no more relocation expenses thanks to the rise of remote work.
But wait. There’s more. So much more.
Think of the huge savings in not having to buy or lease real estate to house a large workforce and the associated reduction in office infrastructure and operational costs.
And if you’re an environmentally aware organisation, you’ll smash your carbon footprint as a consequence of not needing to run a huge work premises but also in terms of workers not making the commute.
These benefits aside, it’s the “P” word most employers want addressed - productivity. The good news is that a variety of studies and polls (eg this 2017 Gallup Study) point towards far more engaged employees with higher productivity from groups who work at least some of their work week away from the office, with the rationale behind it being that employees with a semblance of control over their work-life balance are happier.
There is also much to be said about how workers feel towards an employer who trusts them to work remotely and who puts their wellbeing front and centre by offering the option of remote work. Good vibes all round.
None of this is to say that a remote workforce becomes a “set and forget” situation. Far from it. Thanks to the ease of online collaborative software - from Slack to G-chat to good ole reliable e-mail to any other number of similar programs - a remote workforce is still superby connected....so long as everyone has a cable or wifi connection!
And for those worried about morale or cohesion, being a dispersed workplace does not mean culture fails. Far from it. Again, all those brilliant collaborative tools ensure your workforce remains super connected while still allowing you to plan social gatherings and functions, on-site staff training and face-to-face meetings at regular intervals.
Remote work is also another reason we set up Stay Unplugged. While our digital detox retreats are a superb chance for an onsite work unit to get away to some awesome remote place (like, well, Lofoten. So good!) to reconnect by disconnecting from their digital devices and physical workplaces, the retreats also offer the perfect opportunity for remote workers to get together...yes, you guessed it, to become less remote by going to some really remote places.
The benefits of remote working stack up big time. Remote working and dispersed workforces are something all employers would be smart to be interrogating and implementing where possible.
They are without doubt the true future of work.