Companies and jobs are becoming more and more global. The new generation of workers brings new values into the workplace, in which “life balance” plays a bigger role. Personal freedom is directly associated with trust and accountability. New technological options and greater mobility encourages freelance work for those who prefer flexibility to a monthly pay cheque. This article is about what remote work means for employees, managers and freelancers.
Being present or being there.
We still live in a world in which often, being present in an office space is associated with productivity or dedication to the employer. For many companies, home office or remote work is still a privilege for management or those connected to the right people.
But being physically present does not necessarily mean that a person’s mind and focus are on the job. In the world of open office spaces and countless meetings it’s often quite the opposite. According to a survey conducted by Harris Poll, U.S. employees at large-sized companies (1000+ employees) spend only 45% of their time on their primary function. 14 % of their time is spent on email, the remaining 40% of their working hours is spent on meetings, admin and “interruptions”.
Globalisation and the associated decentralisation of organisations mean physical presence should no longer be an indicator for productivity. Being considered for specific roles or even a promotion, should not be determined by location. If companies really want to tap into the global talent pool and profit from diversity and cultural enrichment, it’s necessary to adapt leadership and organisational mechanics to fit that ambition. This means hiring remote workers.
According to a Deloitte study (Winning over the next generation of leaders, 2016), millennial workers feel repelled by traditional corporate structures, often believing such companies are solely driven by bottom-line goals. Companies that successfully manage to keep millennial workers on board, provide a healthy work-life balance, opportunities for personal development and allow for flexible working hours. Trust pays off, as the latest millennial study by Deloitte (The Deloitte Millennial Survey 2017) has shown:
“(…) Accountability and flexibility are highly correlated; those working in the more flexible environments report higher levels of personal responsibility. For example, where flexible working is most deeply entrenched, 34 percent take “a great deal” of personal accountability for their organisations’ reputations. This compares to just 12 percent within enterprises where there is low flexibility. (…)“
It’s not either or. It’s the right balance that makes for a winning formula.
Mastering the art of remote work requires effort from all participants. Its a balancing act between spending enough time building and deepening relationships, mostly through digital tools since you are not on site. While at the same time leveraging the ability to retract from distraction and noise. The latter is particularly important in the attempt to reach a state called „Deep Work“, which was introduced by Cal Newport in his book in 2016.
- Individuals need to develop a sense for when they need „down time“ from people, and when social contact is beneficial.
- Teams need to find a way to create a solid foundation for virtual collaboration and establish rules so that the absence of one does not create bottle necks for others.
- Managers with local and remote workers need to evolve their leadership and coaching skills. Their challenge lies in unifying a distributed team and maintaining strong bonds to those who get less face time.
For freelancers this way of working is already the norm. Frequently, they don’t see their clients face to face every day. This is particularly true if they are juggling more than one assignment. Freelancers can arrange for face time with their clients and then retract and “get things done”. With the dawn of new communication and collaboration technologies, this has become even simpler. Staying in touch with their clients has never been easier.
Making relationships with remote workers, work
In a publication from the Harvard Business Review on a 2017 study with 1’100 employees, the following key aspects of managing remote employees were described:
- Check in frequently and consistently
- Use face-to-face or voice-to-voice contact
- Demonstrate exemplary communication skills
- Make expectations explicit
- Be available
- Demonstrate familiarity and comfort with technology
- Prioritise relationships
Not all aspects require physical presence, but they require more than the occasional phone call. Modern technology accommodates all the points mentioned above, even without excessive travel or time investment. It also allows for the adoption of these aspects by every member of the team.
Fleep builds bridges and maintains relationships with remote workers
At Fleep we believe that conversation is a key element of a successful team, onsite and remote. Whether it‘s about the exchange of ideas or simply about staying in touch. Developing a deeper understanding of one another and fostering relationships of any kind requires talking. Sometimes this exchange is in real-time in a chat or an audio conversation, sometimes it can go on for a longer period and be an asynchronous conversation between two or more people on a specific subject.
Fleep is designed to serve both scenarios, but ensures that live & persistent exchanges are kept in one single place. This is how we give our users the power over their conversations whilst avoiding „fear of missing out“ and the need to constantly check instant messages. Through our integration with any major e-mail client, Fleep can radically improve the way you communicate with colleagues and partners allowing you to connect seamlessly with them all in one place no matter how remote you are physically.
About the author
Philipp is a business coach and consultant who helps teams to find the “True North” for their digitalisation programs & projects. He works with structured discovery, design methods & engaging workshops, drawing on his cross-industry experience in internal & external digitalisation along the way. Find him on digital-sherpa.me and Twitter!