2020 marked a major change in the lives of many workers around the world: the advent of remote work. Although it has existed for some time, never before has there been such an increase in this way of working. It has also become clear that many jobs that we previously thought needed to be done on site can indeed be done remotely. The crucial point is the transition to this mode which is not always easy.
With this article, we would like to provide several insights to assess the readiness of your activities.
- Identify important tasks and skills necessary for present and future business needs;
Evaluate the costs and benefits for both remote and face-to-face work;
Rearrange positions for long-term remote work;
Minimize unnecessary coordination between remote workers;
1) Identify important tasks and skills necessary for present and future business needs;
It is necessary to go beyond the fixation for the usual roles, thinking instead about what the key competences and tasks for the company really are, also anticipating their future needs. To do this, it is necessary to determine what skills you have today and where there are gaps. For example, consider customer feedback, performance evaluation data or specific evaluation metrics. Never settle for mediocrity but identify the ideal level of competence desired for each activity. Once you have a clear idea of the skills you need, you can start thinking about which roles can be sourced locally and which ones will need to be remote to attract more elusive and competitive talent.
2) Evaluate the costs and benefits for both remote and face-to-face work
Associate the analyzes of the first point with the estimated costs and benefits of on-site and remote work. When making these calculations, remember to take into account the reduction in real estate costs. Those who are far-sighted know that space management will change and that money spent on real estate or offices could instead be spent on staffing, acquiring technology or building relationships with customers. However, it is also true that remote work can require significant expenses for technology support along with periodic team meetings or in-person visits.
3) Rearrange positions for long-term remote work
Many jobs are not yet optimized for remote working. In virtual environments, delayed asynchronous communication is often relied upon, which can take away the ability to spontaneously communicate face to face or the perception of non-verbal signals (e.g. gestures), as well as paralinguistic ones (tone of voice). Overcoming these challenges requires building clearer organizational hierarchies and processes, for example by writing more detailed job descriptions and guidelines on how to accomplish a certain task. Involving your employees in this process can help them acquire knowledge and create a shared sense of belonging. And, where possible, structure your teams and tasks so that the employees of a given business are all remote or all in person because hybrid teams are the ones that can have the highest number of communication challenges. Finally, investing in tools and software such as virtual whiteboards, project management software and high-quality webcams and microphones can further help your team address the challenges of remote working.
4) Minimize unnecessary coordination between remote workers
Each company is structured in departments, teams or units that are often interdependent for the completeness of certain activities. The way in which certain jobs are assigned can increase the costs dictated by the possible extra coordination required, however bearing in mind that there are necessary interdependencies (such as that between the marketing team and the development team, for example) while others are not at all. and the elimination of which would not only simplify the life of the team members involved, but also the final coordination costs.
Remote work and success stories
Zillow: from an opposing company to a big supporter of remote working
Zillow is a real estate company with a huge online database of homes for sale and for rent that did not believe in remote working. For a long time, employees were in fact discouraged to work from home because managers were convinced that face-to-face communication and collaboration between colleagues in the offices were the key to success for the company. However, with the arrival of the pandemic, the company found itself putting its 5,400 employees into work remotely ... indefinitely. In fact, if initially the nose was turned up in the contrasts of remote work at the present the idea is that it is the best possible option. Instead of simply changing offices and workplaces, Zillow has actively created flexible work policies that emphasize the need to keep employees supported, safe and productive, such as "Move forwards. Stay safe" that you read on their site.
Zoom: an example of business opportunity thanks to remote work
Zoom is a video communications services company that has seen an increase in its revenues of over 350% in the second quarter and in profits almost 10 times, thanks to the registration of companies to the service to connect staff who work from home during the pandemic. In a recent CNN Business article, CEO Eric Yuan explained that "as remote work trends have accelerated during the pandemic, organizations have moved beyond addressing immediate business continuity needs to actively redefining and embracing new approaches to support a future of working anywhere, learning anywhere, and connecting anywhere".
GitLab Inc is a company that provides Gitlab, an open source web platform that allows the management of Git repositories and trouble ticket functions. The peculiarity of GitLab Inc. is that it does not have a physical location. More than 1,300 employees are part of the company in 67 countries and nearly all time zones. All employees work from home or (in non-pandemic times) in coworking spaces. Over time, the company has created a real culture on managing meetings between colleagues via Zoom and even an original way to introduce new employees and colleagues. On the site it is in fact possible to download an entire guide with advice on how to work better through remote work. Another peculiarity of GitLab lies in the payment of its employees. The company has embraced the philosophy of paying employees with local rates. This means that for example a worker from Milan will not have the same salary as the same worker who is in New York or San Francisco.
An American company focused on the production of web software, Basecamp like GitLab Inc. has also embraced the philosophy of remote working, offering this type of mode for twenty-one years. The founders of the company have even written a book and the site is full of useful resources to approach this way of working. While having a physical office located in Chicago, the company offers its employees the choice of where to work from. As for employee payments, unlike GitLab Inc., the company has chosen to pay all employees the same initial sum of $ 70,000 per year regardless of where they work, including entry level positions.
To conclude we can say that certainly there are work positions that are difficult to transform into remote positions. However, the days when an entire team shows up at the office at the same time will soon be - and are already partly - a memory. The speed and effectiveness with which your companies will be able to embrace and adapt to the new world of work will be critical to your success during this particular year, but especially in the long term.