How to do remote work the right way

'From time and financial savings to increased productivity, remote work provides many valuable benefits for employees'

How to do remote work the right way

During the pandemic, many organizations shifted to a remote landscape and while some struggled mightily to bring everything together, for other businesses, it was the best thing that ever happened.

“We’ve never had more job applicants,” says Erin Bury, co-founder and CEO of Willful, a do-it-yourself online will platform. Changes came about following Willful’s shift to a fully remote setup earlier this year.

These included the implementation of a core hours policy, which requires workers to be online between noon and 4 p.m. but allows them to work any time of the day.

“It really provides that time when everybody is online to connect in meetings,” she says.

Previously, the company conducted such things as noon lunch-and-learns or 5 p.m. meetings, which didn’t work out for employees in other times zones, according to Bury.

By shifting things, the company managed to imbue a sense of ownership among its far-flung workforces.

“People want to be treated like adults; they don’t want to be micromanaged. They don’t want to have their boss looking over their shoulder and asking why they weren’t in their seat at 9 a.m. We’re really just trying to reframe the expectations around a remote flexible team. And, in my opinion, it’s been very successful.”

‘Didn’t miss a beat’

For one fintech company, the move to become 100-per-cent virtual meant a boost to its productivity, despite initial misgivings.

“Even though the pandemic was awful, we managed to get a lot done… we were able to make some acquisitions, we were able to raise funds, we were able to go public, we are able to open up another office, we moved data centres, we did all kinds of stuff during the pandemic. So, we didn’t miss a beat.”

“As a matter of fact, I think productivity improved during that period of time,” says Don Gray, CEO of the fintech company

As a result, the company has decided to have its more than 300 employees work remotely full-time, instead of going to one of its offices in Canada, U.S., Brazil, Mexico, U.K., Switzerland, Hong Kong, China and Singapore.

“We felt that this would be a great not only retention but recruiting tool for us also going forward,” says Gray.

Why come back?

While this move to remote is going well for some employers, for those who are desperately trying to entice folks back to the home base, they are having great difficulties creating a great reason to come back, according to a new report.

The problem with return-to-office schemes is that they lack a “compelling narrative,” according to Poly, with the situation putting at risk the success of hybrid work arrangements.

“The return to office lacks a compelling narrative, and short-term gimmicks like free coffee and doughnuts have run their course,” says Bill Zeng, senior director, APAC, Poly.

He made the remarks as a 2022 Poly study found that out of 508 employees across Australia, many are hesitant to return to workplaces.

Gimmicks such as free coffee are being overpowered by the following reasons cited by employees on why they are prefer working remotely:

  • Reduced commuting time (61 per cent)
  • Easier to maintain work-life balance (49 per cent)
  • Higher noise level and more distraction in the office (30 per cent)

It is now on the shoulders of employers on how make returning to the office appealing, with Zeng pointing out that more focus should be placed on the “total experience” instead of just perks.

“People need a reason to return, so organizations must carefully assess the office experience they aim to deliver, and how this equates to the remote working experience: an equality of experience, whether in-office or remote, is key to a successful hybrid working model,” says Zeng.

“It is a matter of thinking beyond the perks and instead thinking about the total experience on offer [and] how spaces work, the technology behind them, and most importantly, addressing any people and culture issues,” he says.

“The mindset of organizations should be about magnetizing people back to the office, rather than forcing them to return.”

Money and balance

But one thing that might just seal the deal for many employees, is the plethora of savings that comes from remote work.

Almost half (45 per cent) of workers say they save at least $5,000 a year by working remotely, according to a survey by FlexJobs. One in five estimate a cost savings of more than $10,000 per year while 29 per cent estimate they save at least $2,600 each year.

“From time and financial savings to increased productivity, remote work provides many valuable benefits for employees –– but work-life balance is king,” says Sara Sutton, founder and CEO of FlexJobs. “Healthy work-life balance can be instrumental to the success and longevity of an organization, and [is]…. a top priority for today’s workers and job seekers.”

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