No longer a novelty, remote working is now a reality for much of the global workforce.
Team members are now used to working on projects together despite being in different cities, countries or time zones. And, thanks to cloud-based software and messaging apps, employees have the collaborative working tools they need to ditch the commute and join the out-of-office club.
Even when the world returns to ‘normal’, many who have had to adopt flexible working as a temporary solution are likely to choose it for good. In 2019, IWG’s Global Workspace Survey found more than half of employees were already working outside their company’s main office at least 2.5 days each week. Now that professionals have experienced remote working first-hand and companies seen that efficient work can be delivered at a distance, that number is likely to grow.
Almost any department can work remotely – and benefit the business by doing so. By revamping the remote office set-up, relying more on digital tools and moving away from manual processes, companies can get closer to a paper-free culture, help reduce their people’s commute times and implement technologies that automate labour-intensive processes. Facilitating remote teams can help companies move with the times and make their operations more streamlined.
Remote working does bring its own challenges. For departments whose output is not necessarily visible, such as IT and Finance, or for employees who tend to be introverted, there is a risk that remote working can leave them feeling isolated or segregated from the wider business. And where the nature of their work is time-sensitive, it’s extra important for these teams to remain in sync with business activity taking place back at the main office, and to have quick reaction times to prevent a lag in crucial operations.
A way to overcome these obstacles is for management to schedule – and stick to – regular updates with the teams. A weekly briefing over a conference call, task-management software and a clear communication strategy for knowing which deadlines to prioritise are all vital. And expectations should be set about how available remote teams need to be to take urgent calls. It’s not about time-policing – it’s just about making sure important processes don’t slip through the net by making remote teams feel involved (and accountable).
To build effective working relationships with the rest of the business, all remote teams can be invited to digital social events and important in-house briefings, to foster a stronger sense of connection with the company they represent. This also helps other employees appreciate how their own role is integrated with the actions of the business. A more connected team benefits an organisation as a whole and boosts the chance of making remote working a success in the process.
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