Remote work doesn't work. Here's why.
With the sudden migration to remote work because of a global pandemic, it has come as a surprise to most organizations that work within the professional services realm can be performed from any location with an internet connection. The world wide web became available in 1991, and now, organizations are realizing how commonsensical this model is in the year 2020. The processes and procedures historically followed relied on the demand of an in-person presence and could not assimilate into a remote environment. This phenomenon has created a new brand of workforce, one that has requirements that are run with efficiency established as its baseline metric. For job positions and operations that are currently established in many large-scale organizations - remote work simply does not work.
Meetings have become the 'productivity standard'. Many professional jobs are measured on an hourly or salaried pay period for performing work. This reinforces the belief that if people are not constantly 'busy' during their 9-5, they aren't working hard enough. What's a poor soul to do to when their plate is overflowing while they're stuffing their mouths full of backlog? They feel compelled to schedule a meeting. The perception that "you're not being productive if you're not in meetings and trying to do actual work at the same time" lays the groundwork for distrust and micromanagement on a grand scale.
Great work happens when employees are allowed to concentrate and collaborate without consistent office interruptions. Working remotely won't eliminate every distraction, but they're more likely to be distractions that you're able to control, or one that will provide a nice mental break in the middle of the day. This also creates the space that employees need for intentional collaboration, without the potential of constant burnout.
Rethinking accountability. Showing up to work in person should not be the standard for whether or not an employee is producing meaningful work. When the majority of employees start to worry more about why someone is OoO rather than how the work that employee performs impacts their position, it is likely that an organization may need to put their culture under a microscope.
It is important to note that not all jobs are built for remote work. However, for those that can be performed from anywhere, requiring an in-house presence is a symptom of an engrained culture that made sense for a different time period. Remote work requires a deliberate approach in the form of measuring performance. Creating diverse and reliable metrics with criteria revolved around content and quality of work eliminates the uncertainty around who is producing, who isn't, and the ability to discuss why with those employees that aren't delivering.
Organizational change fatigue. Change initiatives, if implemented poorly, are unfocused, anxiety-ridden, and cause panic leading to change overload. With all of the uncertainty happening in the workplace today, changes are constantly being implemented without the right people, without the right skills, using the wrong type of communication.
A lack of understanding of the signs or the impact sudden change can have on workforces can cause higher rates of turnover, stress, and skepticism that can undermine potentially successful change efforts all together. Organizations should develop a culture that is focused on engagement by collecting and utilizing data that is relevant to the employee experience. When organizations embrace a culture that puts employees first, like providing a stipend for the needs of working parents with kids learning virtually or for primary caregivers, then it makes people want to stay.
Fixing what isn't broken. Sliced bread is amazing, but have you ever tried toasting it? Understanding the ins-and-outs of office life established the foundational structure to continuously improve work conditions. We live in an unprecedented time to reshape what it means to work better, happier, and stay ahead of the curve. It is imperative that we use the precedent set by the past to influence that of the future.
Every situation has its challenges, and working remote is no miracle cure for cultural issues, but there are some amazing upsides for those that do work remote. From the lack of commute, providing increased hiring opportunities for employers, and the ability to live a life that puts being human before everything else- it's worth taking the time to refine your organization's operational processes. Your employees and leadership team will thank you for it.
We're ready to find the best approach for your organization. Contact ReVise Consulting today!
Bryant, M. (2016, March 03). 20 Years Ago Today, The World Wide Web Was Born - TNW Insider. Retrieved from https://thenextweb.com/insider/2011/08/06/20-years-ago-today-the-world-wide-web-opened-to-the-public/#:~:text=On%206%20August%201991%2C%20exactly,world%20as%20we%20knew%20it.
Fried, J., & Hansson, D. H. (2013). Remote: Office not required. New York, NY: Crown Business.