Tech in the ‘anywhere’ workplace
The coronavirus pandemic has shown us that we don’t need to be in an office to do our work. We think ‘work from anywhere’ will be here to stay. Here’s why...
Even before the coronavirus pandemic, working from anywhere (WFA) was beginning to take off. With cloud computing, reliable wifi, productivity, and time tracking apps, and secure, portable devices, it was just as easy to work at home or in a coffee shop as it was in the office.
Enlightened employers had already started to give employees the flexibility to manage their workspaces before Covid-19 came along.
With the enforced lockdowns and the sterling efforts of IT teams across the world, employers realized that employees did not necessarily need to come to an office. They could:
- Access IT support virtually
- Use Zoom or Microsoft Teams for meetings
- Use communication platforms such as Slack or Asana to stay in touch
Many businesses were able to maintain the quality of their service while their employees worked in their own spaces. And as we emerge from the pandemic:
- 40% of Americans say they would prefer to work from home full time
- 35% would like to do a hybrid of office and home
- 25% want to return to an office full time
The benefits of WFA
In a few years’ time, we’ll probably look back at the traditional nine-to-five-commuting-to-work-culture in astonishment at how restrictive, creativity-stifling, and exhausting it all was. Modern remote working - or telecommuting (where technology is a substitute for commuter travel) as it’s known - undoubtedly has its benefits:
- Higher productivity: remote workers are between 20% and 45% more productive when they have the flexibility to choose where and when they work.
- More employee engagement: When people feel in control of their lives, achieve a work-life balance, and are out of the rat race, they feel happier. And happy people engage more cheerfully with work, their customers, and their colleagues. The benefits for a business are obvious.
- More diversity: Businesses that embrace WFA have around 30% more female leaders than more traditional ones. Employees with caring responsibilities, disabilities, or who cannot afford to live in big cities can all work remotely as part of a diverse, inclusive team.
- Makes employers more attractive: According to one survey, only 3.5% of employees wanted to return to office-only working, with 26% preferring solely home working, and a whopping 70% favoring a mixture. Businesses that offer the opportunity to WFA are likely to attract more top talent.
- Saves money: It’s estimated that an employee who works from home 50% of the time saves between $2500 and $4000 a year on clothes, commuting, parking, food, and drink. Businesses can operate from smaller premises, saving money on relocations, rent, utilities, cleaning, and catering.
- Helps the environment: With fewer commuters using cars and public transport, carbon emissions will reduce.
The downsides of working from anywhere
For all its undoubted benefits, WFA has its downsides:
- Employee management: It’s harder as a manager to keep tabs on team members who are scattered remotely. Are they distracted? Is their WiFi reliable? Can they be easily contacted? Are they really doing all their contracted hours? By keeping in regular contact and using productivity and time tracking apps, everyone can feel confident that team members are contributing fairly.
- Mental wellbeing: We’re social animals, and many of us thrive in an office environment, bouncing ideas off and helping others, rather than the potential loneliness of remote working. Most people prefer a flexible hybrid; some days WFA, some days in the office, and it looks likely this model will be the future of work.
- Overwork and burnout: Conscientious employees may find it hard to switch off. Without a daily commute or scheduled lunch breaks but with an always-on culture, people may be tempted to work continuously and out-of-hours. It’s important to set work boundaries and provide support so that employees feel no guilt taking time away from work. This is far cheaper than losing talent through burnout and then having to re-recruit.
- Harder recruitment of top talent: Time was, you could attract the best people in your commutable area with simple geography; they couldn’t venture that much further afield. With WFA, the best people can telecommute anywhere in the world, and it’s about to get more competitive. Telecommuting also gives you the chance to snap up international talent, but to do this you’ll need to ensure your employer branding and employer value proposition (EVP) sets you way above the rest to attract and retain them.
Empower a true work from anywhere culture
WFA is here to stay. You have to embrace it, and empower your employees to work that way. Here’s what we recommend:
- Listen to your employees: it’s essential that your employees can speak their minds whenever, wherever. By using always-on feedback, your people can have their say, pass on information, and flag up issues in real-time, before they become problematic.
- Keep up the culture: Taking the lead from employees, find ways to make sure everyone feels included and supported within the particular culture that attracted them to join you in the first place. Team virtual lunch meetings, water-cooler sessions, and chat functions can help everyone feel connected wherever they’re working. Direct lines of communication mean that the early signs of burnout can be detected.
- Provide decent tech: For Zoom meetings to be a success everybody needs reliable devices and WiFi, which up until now, would be supplied by the office IT department. WFA would seem to be a logistical tech nightmare unless employees are given the budgets and means to buy their tech or use their own. For this to work, the finance department will need to work closely with IT and come up with a solution that gives employees autonomy to organize themselves.
Moving from working from home to WFA
The workforce of the future will be able to work from anywhere, not just home. Using a combination of listening, surveying, analysis, and actioning tools and services, such as EmployeeXM for IT, you’ll be able to support your people wherever they are.
The IT investments you make now will pay off in employee engagement, increased productivity and intent to stay with your company.
You’ll be able to:
- Continually understand and close the gaps in your employee technology experience
- Combine real-time behavioral feedback with project management data to reduce risks and encourage adoption of new solutions
- See data coming through in real-time, so you can keep one step ahead of issues
- Gather feedback after every IT interaction to identify issues, priority cases, and notice opportunities
- Improve experiences that drive employee engagement and help your people do their jobs well
Global companies are accustomed to coordinating a large, dispersed workforce, although they may not always seamlessly collaborate and innovate. By making investments in joined-up tech that lets your people work from anywhere, you future-proof your business, whatever the world throws at it.
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