For many, remote work has become the new normal — in Australia and around the world. It can come with various perks for you as an employer, and for your staff, but also pitfalls to be mindful of.
Remote working can make collaboration awkward for team members sharing projects, and being away from the office could leave some employees isolated and unproductive. In this article, we outline the pros and cons of having teams based at home, as well as our top tips for working remotely successfully.
Remote work is on the up in Australia
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, remote working wasn’t at all uncommon in Australia, with 20% of employees working from home regularly.
You won’t be surprised to find that this number has increased dramatically since early 2020. According to the Institute of Transport and Logistics Studies, home-based days have doubled for managers and almost tripled for employees in sales and admin roles during the pandemic.
While this results from necessary measures to combat the spread of the virus, remote working facts and figures show that many of us are embracing our new set-up. Over 80% of respondents to the Life after lockdown survey said they think employees should be able to continue working from home when the crisis is over, and social distancing restrictions are lifted.
Working remotely: pros and cons
Working from home is a very different experience and set-up compared to going to an office every day. For some companies and employees it works brilliantly, while others may need extra support. So what are the positives and the negatives of working remotely vs office life? Here are some points to consider.
Flexible remote work can offer more freedom and less stress
By definition, remote work comes with at least some level of self-management, and usually more flexibility than a typical office environment. It also means less office politics, which can cause strain on relationships and get in the way of productivity. These are probably some of the reasons why many sought out remote work careers before COVID-19 made it mainstream.
Cutting out commuting, bad energy, and the office dress code can help reduce stress and free up your team members’ time significantly. More spare time and less restrictive “rules” means it’s easier to fit work around other obligations and priorities, as well as personal preferences, empowering your colleagues to create a happier, healthier work/life balance.
Remote work productivity is high
Traditionally, many managers would worry that letting their staff work from home might see them slacking off, with productivity taking a hit. However, the coronavirus pandemic is proving that notion wrong.
In a recent survey, a massive 85% of Australian respondents said they are just as, or more, productive working from home, compared to being in the office. Many employers agree, with 57% of managers saying productivity has been the same, while 34.6% believe it’s higher since COVID-19 forced their teams to start working remotely.
Working remotely means spending less money
It’s not just time that your team can save by working from home. Less travel to and from the office, along with fewer store bought lunches, meals out, and opportunistic impulse buys will translate to substantially lower monthly outgoings for many.
Lower business costs
Companies can save money on remote working too. Having all or the majority of your staff working mostly from home can offer employers a range of savings on things like office space, events, office supplies, utility bills, and other facilities.
Companies can save money on remote working too. Having all or the majority of your staff working mostly from home can offer employers a range of savings on things like office space, events, office supplies, utility bills, and other… Click To Tweet
Remote work and isolation
While many Australians enjoy working remotely, others are finding the lack of a busy, sociable office environment a challenge. Physical isolation and feelings of loneliness are two big concerns expressed by people working from home. Both can harm your employees’ mental health and their performance on the job.
Technical issues, knowledge and infrastructure
The right technology infrastructure, including seamless communications and collaboration tools, is even more crucial when face-to-face teamwork isn’t an option. If your staff don’t have the right equipment, knowledge of how to use it, or easy access to IT support from home, they might struggle to do their jobs effectively.
In Adaptavist’s Digital Etiquette Report, 38% of remote workers surveyed said they worry daily about communicating virtually. On top of this, 44% state they weren’t given any training on the digital platforms their employers provided to help them do their jobs from home.
No “off button”
Another potential issue for employees working remotely is the tendency to never properly switch off, as the line between professional and home life is blurred. This is often linked to technology too — for example, if your team members find themselves using apps that would normally be reserved for family and friends to chat with colleagues about work projects.
It’s easy to feel like you’re “always-on” when it comes to digital communications, and nearly two-thirds of remote workers confessed to not switching off work notifications out of hours.
Innovation can suffer
Working from home can take its toll on business innovation, as team members feel distant and collaboration is less straightforward. When it comes to sparking creativity, a video call or instant chat often won’t generate the same energy and flow of ideas as being in a room with your co-workers, bouncing ideas off each other.
Could hybrid working be the way forward?
COVID-19 has proven to many business leaders and managers that remote working is perfectly viable, if done right. For employers looking at ways to combine the best of both — keeping staff healthy and happy, while boosting productivity and cutting costs — hybrid working could be an attractive solution.
Hybrid working is when employees split their working hours between being office-based and working remotely, either at home or in another non-office environment.
With hybrid working, employees can get the benefits of remote work (like more flexibility and a better work/life balance), while still having access to a communal office space and their colleagues. At the same time, companies that are savvy about resource allocation could potentially cut their overhead and running costs by quite a bit, without losing out on business performance.
5 tips for working remotely as a team successfully
When it comes to the best advice for working remotely and making it seamless, how you manage the transition and day-to-day workload will obviously vary from business to business.
That said, there are some general things that companies can do to give themselves the best chance of achieving a healthy and productive set-up for their teams. Here are our five top tips for making remote working work.
1. Encourage frequent catch-ups and communications
As much as the noise and interruptions of office life can be distracting and even annoying at times, many of us miss the social aspect of being at work. Informal, daily team catch-ups, regular one-to-ones, monthly all-staff meetings and ongoing communications can go a long way towards making your employees feel connected, heard, and part of a work family.
2. Agree on ways of working and expectations
Working remotely effectively will most likely mean adjusting some of your processes, as well as introducing new ones. Make sure everyone in your team is comfortable with the agreed ways of delivering work, and how to keep each other updated. Set specific tasks and deadlines, so that your team members know exactly who’s doing what, and focus on results rather than activity. Avoid micromanaging — but let your staff know that you are always available if they need your input.
3. Invest in technology
The software and systems you use in the office may not be as well suited to remote work. And even if they are, you might still have to introduce new tools to keep your colleagues collaborating and sharing information effortlessly. Reliable video conferencing and calling software will make team meetings and client updates easy to arrange when you can’t get together in person.
You’ll also want to make sure that you have a system in place that lets you work together on documents and share files securely, internally as well as with external partners. Popping over to someone’s desk to ask a quick question is no longer an option, so an effective team messaging app or tool is a good idea to keep communications simple.
4. Offer tech training and support
Ensure your employees know how to properly use any tool and technology that you’re relying on for remote working. Rather than just asking your team if they feel confident navigating new software or equipment, consider setting up mandatory online training sessions and making your IT staff available for ongoing support.
5. Don’t forget about the emotional support
COVID-19 has added extra pressure to many people’s lives, including money worries and the stress of not being able to see loved ones. Listen carefully to what your team members are telling you, or what they’re not saying. Try to be aware of people’s individual circumstances and look out for signs that they might be having a difficult time, like recent changes in behaviour.
Make sure you stay in contact with your team daily, sharing good news and praise, so that they do not just hear from management when there’s a tight deadline to meet, or something’s gone wrong. And finally, take the time for regular social conversations and non-work-related one-to-ones with your team, to help colleagues feel less isolated.
Ready to go remote?
If you’re looking at ways to make the logistics of remote working simpler, we can help with the technology side of things. Our fully integrated, secure communications platform combines everything you need to get work done in one intuitive app, from video, calls, and messaging to file sharing, task management, and analytics.
Originally published 07 Apr, 2021, updated 03 Aug, 2021