For some time now, businesses have placed greater emphasis on remote operations, both internally and externally. Without choice, the topic has been thrust into the limelight and is currently being widely debated.
Lately, companies such as Twitter, Square and Facebook have made announcements that employees can continue working at home “forever”, sounds great, but how does that work? At Gradient, we appreciate that every business is unique, and what works for some will not work for others. As such, we have evaluated the pros and cons of the remote working landscape. How well can projects really perform if carried out remotely? And will any value be lost in the service offering? Read on to find out.
In 2018, the average work commute, according to TUC, was nearly 59 minutes. Already there you have at least an hour extra that your employees could be working instead of travelling to the office.
The Bottom Line
Arguably the most significant plus point for business in remote delivery is in the savings, savings which produce equally attractive gains in productivity and happier employees. The immediate overhead costs to consider saving money on include utilities, rent and repairs and travel expenses.
Remote working brings along with it a flexible outlook in many ways. If operations are entirely flexible, you can work on the go if needed, service clients anywhere in the world and attract the best talent to help you do that – without forcing them to move location.
Hidden Health Benefits
Earlier this year, ZenBusiness surveyed 1,035 remote workers about their experiences to uncover some of the aspects of being remote that don’t often get spoken about. A staggering 99% of remote workers reported it had at least one positive impact on their life.
Now might be the ideal time to move your business into new markets. If you have been able to tweak operations to serve your existing customers remotely then who is to say you can’t break into foreign markets if there is a requirement for your product or service. Also, you may now have a proven track record of remote delivery, meaning you are not starting from the bottom.
Some believe that working away from the office can bring a truckload of distractions that will harm employee productivity. Contrary to popular opinion, did you ever stop and consider the distractions in the office that kill productivity?
- Office noise
- Company politics
- Distractions in your personal life you must attend to in work time
It is also common amongst remote workers that most of the time, they will work additional hours. In a study by Cardiff University, quoted by People Management, 39% of people who mostly worked from home often worked extra hours to get through their tasks, or to help out colleagues, compared with 24% of those in fixed workplaces.
As a society, we are familiar with the traditional methods of conducting our work, regular meetings, daily status calls. Agile project management offers flexibility while still encompassing controls and procedures. It recognises that the key to successfully managing projects is to break them into stages, plan the current step in detail while maintaining flexibility about subsequent stages. Although traditionally constructed for teams located close to each other, this method is extremely responsive and could be adapted to eradicate the complications of remote teams.
One of the biggest struggles working remotely according to Buffer is loneliness. It would be naïve to ignore the effects of working outside of a ‘normal’ office environment and the impact this can have on people’s mental health. It is also known that humans crave physical contact. On the flip side, there are a lot of technologies to utilise to overcome this – make use of digital platforms to break these boundaries.
Keeping your team connected is the key to a successful project as you won’t have the ability to monitor progress physically and have reassurance in this way. It’s up to you to ensure the group all sing from the same hymn sheet and there are many ways to do that. Very popular are regular video calls where your team and clients can see one another, much more beneficial than a traditional phone call which does not allow you to:
- Read facial cues and gestures
- See your colleagues and customers
- Build trust quickly
- Give immediate feedback on visual representations
Management of Team Members
Keeping abreast of how your team are feeling and what they are doing can be hard to do by solely using remote communication methods. You may have suspicions that some may be distracted working remotely more than others, or that some of the team tend to overwork. It will be up to the team lead to be attentive to both the wellbeing and productivity of each individual.
It can be extra tricky to build strong relationships with people you don’t physically see. Forget the convenient small talk and water cooler chats – your team will have to go the extra mile to build connections. Although there are plenty of collaboration tools out there, you must nurture the team to make the best of the technology available to them in keeping in touch, getting to know each other and growing into a force to be reckoned with.
Having people work in different time zones (the longest gap being a staggering 26 hours!) and alternate areas of the world may mean that there is no one size fits all approach for running a remote team. Take into account religion, language, time, infrastructure, priorities and work habits.
The progression and development in technology make it relentless in its path. Technology is enabling businesses to take the natural step towards the future of work. Having the most appropriate technologies available to all members of a project team is essential in making sure time is kept on schedule and budget. Couple that with support of the right partner, and a diligent project team – you can successfully execute projects remotely with less risk of the project falling out of scope.