Remote work, is basically a practice of employees working from home, coffee shops, hotels, or any other out of office location. As a matter of fact, in the Europe and the U.S more workers are finding themselves with the flexibility to work remotely. I personally have been working remotely for various clients and companies for the past three years. While most have been U.S and Europe based, a good majority have been Ugandan clients! So, this could explain my enthusiasm with remote work and why I believe it could save some companies resources and time.
One could solidly argue that tech advancement continues to enable ‘first world’ workers to become productive and engaged from anywhere. But I could argue that the same tech tools are being successfully used across Africa to facilitate effectual remote collaboration. In retrospect, averagely 89% of global remote employees affirm to taking advantage of collaboration technologies, with 85% confirming they use them at least once a week.
Why remote work?
Personally, I detest traffic jam and I believe we waste a lot of productive time seated in cars or commuting. We probably arrive at home swamped and too tired to read a book or tutorial to advance our knowledge. We’d rather delay at office and wait for the traffic to settle down or attend an evening class, than face the wrath of traffic. Additional factors such as cost of commute, dwindling office space, over use of “totally open workspaces” that do not allow for focused work, play a role. The good news is that technology is making remote work easier than ever, and both employees and employers are capitalizing on its potential benefits.
But there is still a stigma!
Unfortunately, attributing to our unorthodox African culture, remote work will come with the stigmas of isolation and the potential for reduced employee productivity. Naturally, I’d expect some employers to be skeptical of the idea that working remotely is engaging and productive for all. But research has shown that 94% of remote workers use collaboration technology to connect with colleagues, and over a third use it multiple times a day. 90% of workers also said that these tools are improving productivity between teams in different locations. It could come down to improving culture and setting strict expectations. That said, remote work is clearly not for every company because of poor culture or individual ethics. But for those who desire can consider it, research points to strong and thriving results.
So, back to the benefits.
Firstly, I believe with smart rotation and remote policies, companies can save millions a year when people work remotely. A Bloom research study found that one company saved $1,900 per remote employee over a nine-month study period. Effectively on office space and furniture alone, and that some employees were willing to even take salary reductions, or exchange vacation time or benefits, just for the ability to work out of the office on occasion! In summary, the lack of a commute saves employees valuable time and money, while enabling them to start earlier or work longer. Research has clearly shown that many employees with remote arrangements: met their goals more reliably and productively. While keeping happier, healthier with less stress.
Challenges will always arise!
While beneficial, remote work does not come without challenges. From lack of discipline to complete projects, poor focus on tasks, and feelings of isolation from colleagues. While employer barriers include: tracking productivity, unifying company culture, and employee trust. In all honesty, most leadership roles and engineering roles are among the areas difficult to transform into remote ones. Though software engineering is thriving in this space, now more than ever
It all starts with Trust, Character and ethic!
Essentially, effectual remote work comes down to trusting employees to meet their work goals while giving them effective tools to collaborate with team members remotely. Companies should critically examine key roles and objectives to decide if working remotely will deliver the business results needed, and if yes, what support systems need to be initiated like employee training, manager training and robust digital technologies. Remote work can be a workforce that thrives on trust, pervasive communications and real-time collaboration. With amazing results! A philosophy focusing on results, on meeting goals and completing tasks on time, whether all the work is done in the office, in a combination of in-office and remote work or totally remote!
Arrangements that can be considered
Three types of remote work arrangements can be considered:
- As-Needed Remote Work: Someone who needs to work from home on an as-need basis or a company emergency situation, e.g., a sick child or bad weather.
- A Flexible Work Arrangement – someone who works from home part of the time on a regular basis.
- A Full Remote Worker – someone who works from home 100% of the time
Some Helpful Tips
- Rotate days at home so that a certain percentage of staff is always in the office or schedule mandatory days in the office.
- Establish a consistent methodology for communicating.
- Make sure expectations are clear.
- Check productivity and performance regularly to determine if it is not working for someone.
- Keep remote workers in the loop just as if they were in the office.
- Have the staff add their photos to Outlook and Skype.
- Use Slack and Skype for instant messaging and video capability to talk instead of email or phone for all staff whether remote or in-office.
Some Pitfalls to Avoid
- Avoid micro-managing, the #1 deterrent to productive and successful remote work.
- Not communicating on a regular basis.
- Not inviting remote staff to meetings.
- Not checking the activity reports to see productivity.
- Not spot-checking the actual work being done.
Ensure all your workers have a reliable Internet connection. This is your lifeline. Consider real-time communication tools like HipChat and Slack. These help to keep conversations consistently moving all day through a central communication hub. Provide secure access to critical information. Whether through an online project management tool like Asana or Trello, or repositories like Dropbox or Google Docs. Make sure to provide access to data that the rest of your team uses, so there’s no separate workflow required to keep you up to date.
A Professional Computer Engineer, technical writer and Software Product Manager, Denis is very passionate about helping businesses create software products and succeed with technology. Denis spends his free time playing the guitar and writing music. Denis passionately believes in sharing any information to help enterprises grow.