What does the future of remote working look like?

In the last two years, companies discovered that secure remote working is a viable option for more than just the IT team. From healthcare to the supply chain, companies, business leaders, and employees have uncovered the benefits of remote work across their organisations. More employees reduced their commuting time while sustaining their productivity levels. Companies lowered real estate costs and increased employee retention rates. Before 2020, less than one-quarter of the world worked remotely; that number jumped to over 55% in 2020 (according to one survey, where 84% worked in IT.)

Since companies have now gained confidence in the viability of telecommuting and seeing how productive many employees can be, it appears that remote working is here to stay. Globally, more than 40% of global workers will stay remote going forward, and 60% of U.K. employees will work remotely regularly by 2022. With so many telecommuting options now available, what does the future of remote working look like going forward? Let’s take a closer look.  

1. Remote Working Will Continue to Evolve

Workers are now used to having the option of working outside of a permanent location, so companies will need to consider that in the future. Will it be a fully remote option like Shopfiy, Square, and Dell or a hybrid, partially remote one like Deloitte and Siemens

It’s not a matter of simply looking at job titles and workflows to see which roles and employees can work remotely. It’ll take a collaborative effort between employees, managers, and company leaders to see what works best for everyone today, tomorrow, and in the future. 

2. Managing Remotely Requires Sophistication and Emotional Intelligence

A remote working environment can be a challenge for managers who are not used to it. They’ve got to juggle asynchronous workflows and schedules while maintaining team cohesion with their employees. Being able to convey empathy via email or instant messages (IMs) is an essential part of remote management. Likewise, learning how to gauge emotional responses from others online without the benefit of body language and eye contact. 

Managers and other leaders will require extra training for remote work, and that includes emotional intelligence training. It’s not just a matter of managers saying or typing that they “understand” an employee’s situation; they’ve got to show it too. 

3. Help People Work From Wherever

The phrase “working from home” has been replaced by “remote working” because people have realised they don’t need to be “at home” to work. All they need is a computer and internet connection, so companies need to recognise that employees will take that opportunity. The appeal of remote working for people is the ability and flexibility to individually tailor their work experiences. 

This flexibility has prompted some companies to start offering remote working allowances to cover any expenses they may incur for this. Buffer, a social media software application company with a fully remote workforce, offers an annual $200 stipend for technology/home office costs, a monthly $200 stipend for coffee shop working purchases, an internet reimbursement stipend, and a one-time payment of $500 to set up their home office. 

4. Asynchronous Communication Is Here to Stay

“Asynchronous communication” is more than a buzzword. It’s a good description of how we communicate while working remotely. It refers to any communication that doesn’t happen in real-time. Generally speaking, that means email, Trello comments, Slack chats, phone messages, and more. Synchronous communication is the opposite and happens in real-time, such as video chats, conference calls, voice calls, and in-person meetings. 

Remote workers can’t walk over to a colleague’s desk to ask a question or attend a kick-off meeting in a conference room. They might even be located in different time zones from their colleagues. Asynchronous communication lets remote workers talk to each other no matter where they’re located. Software tools can help everyone stay connected and updated on what’s going on and what they need to do their work even when they’re not physically together.

5. Infrastructure Will Make Or Break

New technologies have contributed to our ability to work remotely over the last few years. These tools and apps can significantly enhance their remote working experience while still maintaining the human factor in work. But many corporate network systems weren’t designed to handle an entire workforce working remotely. They were designed and scaled before situations where entire workforces would be connecting to it simultaneously via VPNs

IT teams should plan for situations where they will need to support a larger, distributed employee base if they wish to support a fully remote workforce. A solid IT and cloud strategy will help account for additional remote workers and avoid the situation Cisco found themselves in when they had to use their own solutions to ration VPN access when their network became strained in March 2020.  

6. Technology Levels The Playing Field

Technology can make remote working more welcoming and collaborative, no matter where people work from. Just look at how video meeting platforms remove the unwritten hierarchy of conference table seating and how users can personalise the background and experience. 

Digital collaboration tools go beyond file sharing and video conferencing apps. New entrants like screen recording apps Loom and Droplr can help remote employees make quick screen recordings for walkthroughs or presentations. Miro and Gather can recreate the in-person whiteboard brainstorming session. These tools make it easier for remote workers to stay connected and work efficiently while helping them take control of their work schedules so they can consume materials when and how it’s most convenient to them.

7. Virtual Onboarding Will be Essential

Effective onboarding can boost employee retention by 82% and increase productivity by 70%. And that’s for employees working in-person. It becomes even more essential for remote workers because it’s hard to replicate that immersive experience that helps set them up for success. They can’t tap a nearby colleague on the shoulder for help or easily walk over to their new boss to ask a question. 

As remote working is here to stay, companies will need to find ways to create and improve their virtual onboarding process. One of the biggest challenges for new employees during the onboarding process is understanding their manager’s expectations, so consider revising existing work policies and job descriptions to incorporate remote working policies and define those expectations. 

Other ideas include streamlining the employee handbook and other new hire documents into digital-friendly formats, asking experienced team members to mentor new employees via phone, Slack, etc., and encouraging the rest of the team to get to know new hires on a personal level. — that goes for leaders and other colleagues too. 

Remote Working Is Here to Stay

One of the major obstacles to remote working was the outdated idea that work could only be done on company property. As technology has evolved, however, that perspective has slowly changed. We’ve seen that almost anyone can work remotely with a laptop and high-speed internet connection. There are tools that replicate nearly every aspect of the office experience and IT devices that can reduce the time people need to spend on location. 

Companies will continue to grow in confidence with the way they combine technology and remote working to maintain and sustain their business, and more people will switch to fully remote work. In the last decade, remote working has grown 159% globally across job types and industries. What will the next decade look like? What will the next decade look like? 

If you would like to discuss your organisation’s remote working opportunities then get in touch with the Redcentric team today.

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