Remote working: why businesses need to work smarter, not harder
Flexible and remote working can hold the key to a happier, more productive workforce, but many employers and employees must first reach an agreement on cultural barriers.
The way many of us work has changed considerably in recent years. More flexible ways of working are on the rise, with people shifting where they work and when they work.
Managed properly the benefits are clear to see, from increased productivity to improved staff morale and better retention, all of which have a positive impact on the business bottom line.
Not everybody can work flexibly, of course, and not everybody can plan their day around when they are most productive. There are people who need to work in a specific location and most of us have core hours we need to keep to, when colleagues, clients, customers or suppliers expect us to be online.
For all those who can work more flexibly though – and want to – there are still many who don’t, often for reasons that are beyond their control, such as a company culture that dismisses progressive practices such as remote working, in favour of demanding people travel into the office each day.
In short, millions of workers are regularly being denied the opportunity to work more productively due to outdated attitudes, misunderstanding and poor communication.
It is those factors Dimension Data is seeking to cut through with a ‘Manifesto for Smarter Working’. We want to help organisations equip themselves, technically, but also culturally, for a future that will happen with or without them.
Research from Dimension Data suggests there will be a 40% increase in the proportion of large businesses that support flexible working within the next two years.
Furthermore, nearly half (49%) say they will have some employees working full time from home within two years. Unfortunately, for every business leading the way with such initiatives, there are others resisting, creating a divide that will be bad for business and bad for employees.
Companies who cannot offer their people flexible ways of working will find they miss out on growing proportion of the talent pool, as employees choose those companies that can provide the best work/life balance.
In sectors already suffering the effects of skills shortages that risk alone should encourage organisations to address these issues.
There are also socio-economic and health factors which organisations should not overlook.
Overcrowding in cities and the impact on the cost of housing and the cost of office space is encouraging forward-thinking employers to foster a culture of remote and flexible working to make their own businesses more cost effective and their employees’ cost of living more manageable.
Similarly, there is a growing body of research that suggests making people work when they are less effective is bad for stress levels and employee health.
Technology can make it happen, but overcoming those cultural barriers are critical to making it happen effectively, and exploiting the full potential of the technology.
We probably all know people who are ‘night owls’ or ‘early birds’ and trying to force both into the same working pattern, if it can be avoided, is clearly not the smartest approach to team management.
Crucially, many of the considerations here are cultural in nature.
There was a time when the assumption was technology was the greatest hurdle to overcome in terms of breaking people out of the office environment. Connectivity and security were major concerns.
Five steps to smarter remote working
Nowadays the technology to work securely from almost any location is available to all organisations and its effectiveness is well proven on a daily basis. Instead, it is cultural barriers that are holding people back.
It is for all these reasons that we are targeting the relationship between employers and employees with our ‘Manifesto for Smarter Working’.
We believe this manifesto presents five areas organisations need to reach an agreement on as an important first step to establishing an effective, digitally enabled, productive and progressive workforce.
We agree the office is just one place we can work
Even the sleekest of offices only suit most of the people, most of the time. There will always be instances where the office isn’t the best environment to work.
We do not need excuses to work smarter
Many people feel the need to excuse remote working with reasons unrelated to work, such as waiting in for a plumber, but ‘I will get more work done, to a higher standard’ should be the only reason anybody needs.
We know trust isn’t about turning up
Healthy relationships rely on trust earned through mutual respect and value. We shouldn’t have to be in an office for people to trust we’re working.
We believe great work can happen any time
When we do our best work is rarely dictated by what time it is. What matters most is delivering the best work possible, with consideration for others involved in the process.
We value working smarter over working longer
Being first in and last out doesn’t mean someone is working better or harder. We need to evolve the way we measure performance to focus on productivity, not hours and minutes.
We work with many businesses that have used technology to liberate their workforce from limiting and restrictive ways of working, but in our conversations with every one of them we have heard first-hand how important culture and understanding are.
Technology can make it happen, but overcoming those cultural barriers are critical to making it happen effectively, and exploiting the full potential of the technology. We hope this Manifesto will help organisations kick-start important conversations.
Managing a remote team? Read How to build culture across a team of remote workers
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Mark Grant, GTM Manager: Digital Workspace Productivity
Mark Grant is a digital workspace expert specialising in productivity and collaboration. He has more than 18 years’ experience in the field, having worked for organisations including IBM, Intel, Sonus and now Dimension Data UK.