Remote Work…What’s In It For My Organization?
Is remote work right for every organization?
Is remote work right for every individual?
Some people would answer ‘yes’ to both questions, perhaps even before considering the positives, or potential draw backs, even though that working remotely is the future of work – employers and employees would be wise to sit back and think through this opportunity before making a decision.
Background & Context
Let’s first be sure we are using the same language; for our purposes we are defining ‘remote work’ as
work conducted by The degree to which this happens can vary greatly; six configurations will be discussed in a subsequent article.
We’ve found this working list of terms and descriptions extremely helpful. And there are many terms used when referring to this context of working, such as:
- Remote workers
- Virtual workers
- Digital nomads
- Distributed workforce
- Hybrid teams
Employees Vs Self Employed
Another consideration before moving forward in this conversation is to understand the employee vs self-employed arrangement.
Remote workers can fall into both categories: those employed by the organization but not required to show up at a specific location on a regular basis, or a freelancer who is a self-employed individual who might either be engaged in a term-based project, or as part of a function that can be outsourced (i.e. payroll, marketing…).
3 Cases That Support Working Remotely
Now, with a better understanding of the often-confusing terminology, we can consider why someone would want to work remotely, followed with an examination of why an organization would want to consider engaging a remote workforce.
To bring clarity to the reality of remote working, here are real life examples from three remote workers: (a) a freelancer, (b) a full-time global employee working 100% remote, and (c) a small business owner with a flexible work environment (we’ve changed the names for the sake of their privacy).
1. The Freelancer
James was transferred to Europe 5 years ago to work with a large technology company. Rather than returning to Canada once he finished working at the company, he and his family decided to spend a few years slowly travelling throughout Europe. James now works as a consultant and researcher, and is able to take on contracts from anywhere in the world. His travelling has allowed him to network, which in turn has increased his potential client base, as well as serving as a constant source of new learning about culture and society.
2. The Full-Time Global Employee
Helene works for an organization in Europe who does business globally. A large percent of their business comes from Canada and the U.S., however, they didn’t have a physical North American presence. To meet the needs of their North American customers, the organization sent Helene to Canada, specifically the Okanagan, to provide service and support closer to home. Helene remains an employee of the European organization, lives in BC, and works out of a Coworking space.
3. Flexible Small Business Owner
Matthew is a small business owner who is scaling his business using a remote work force. His story is a little more complex, but common. All of his staff are employees, but are operating with limited physical space. In order to facilitate growth without increasing overhead, Matthew took a look at his people strategy and considered what roles need to be physically present 100% of the time, and what roles can be flexible. He determined that his sales person did not need a dedicated office since the majority of the time they would be out meeting customers. The same was true for the customer support role. Since support was provide via live chat or email, the physical location was irrelevant. However, since there was also a store front, James wanted his customer service person to provide consistency for both face to face customers and virtual ones.
His solution was to set up a common space where those currently, and in the future, could make use of shared space rather than needing to increase their physical space. He then realized that the marketing role did not need to be physically present at all, since everything was created and communicated electronically. Why take up valuable office space when the work could be conducted anywhere. All roles would have employee status, but not all required physical presence.
Benefits Of Remote Work
Within these examples the benefits of remote work quickly become apparent. Abodoo, a remote support organization in Ireland, clearly outlines their 9 valid reasons for embracing remote work, or ‘Smart Working’ as they have coined it.
These advantages are built out in the article:
- Higher Output
- Control Over Costs
- Diversified Workforce
- Expanded Recruiting Pool
- Interruption Prevention
- Employee retention
- Stronger Culture
- Lower stress
- Lower carbon footprint
Employees Leading the Shift to Remote Work
The benefits of having a remote work force are clear. But it’s not the businesses who have driven this radical shift in the way people are working. Rather, it’s the lifestyle and advantages to the employee that has forced businesses to consider making changes.
From the 250 remote workers we interviewed as part of our research, we learned of some real challenges, challenges we will discuss in a subsequent article; however, these 7 advantages seemed to far outweigh the challenges identified:
- Life balance
- Greater productivity
- Less distractions
- Greater intentionality when scheduling meetings
- Freedom from office politics
- Lower carbon footprint
The question, then, is what’s in it for you? With so much to gain, and with such rich resources to help address the challenges, how might this shape the way you and/or your company operates?
In upcoming articles we will take a look at…
- Sorting through various configurations for remote work, and knowing when we are ready to go?
- Choosing the players; both those working remote and those managing remote teams.
- Supporting remote workers and measuring performance in a remote workforce.
Read More of Roberta and Nathan’s Work
- How To Create A ‘Remote Work’ Strategy For Your Office
- Choosing Who Can Work Remotely and Who Should Manage Them
- Remote Work: How Do We Measure Performance and Success?
Roberta Sawatzky is a business professor and consultant, with 30+ years experience creating environments where individuals and teams can perform to the best of their abilities. Her current research is directed towards remote workers and how they can best be supported. Nathan J. Sawatzky is a researcher & business culture consultant with a particular interest in technology and its impact on society. Past experience includes Disney, Two Hat Security, and Facebook.
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