What started as a means to stay agile during the pandemic has quickly evolved into an accepted, sustainable, and arguably superior option for work. That’s right: Remote work is here, and it’s here to stay.
Between the flexibility it affords, the office space it saves, and the time it reclaims (no more commutes!), remote work has become a popular alternative to in-person work among employees and employers alike. In fact, remote jobs have become so popular that employers are allowing team members to telecommute as a strategic way to attract and retain top talent.
The future of work involves working from home, so keep your organization competitive by learning the benefits and challenges involved with supporting a remote workforce.
What is remote work?
Remote work is a flexible arrangement where employees work from a location that isn’t employer-provided on a full- or part-time basis. These employees might operate from a home office, a coffee shop, a co-working space, or, if they’re living the life of a digital nomad, as they travel.
Remote work has gained rapid popularity over the past five years—not just for employee health, but for employee engagement. According to the 2022 State of Talent Optimization Report, the No. 1 reason employees quit is a lack of flexibility. The Great Resignation is in motion, and as employers look to keep their top performers happy, remote work will only become more commonplace.
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How has remote work changed?
While telework used to be limited to tech startups, freelancers, and certain customer support jobs, the challenges introduced by the coronavirus forced employers to get creative about where and how work gets done. The result: Remote work opportunities quickly gained ground as a desirable employee benefit.
A 2021 survey released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that 38% of employed people performed some or all of their work from home that year—up from 24% in 2019. Many of today’s organizations are fully remote, while others offer a hybrid work model, which includes a combination of remote work and scheduled office time. According to Gallup, 78% of employees were working either hybrid or fully remote as of Q2 2022.
As organizations and technology adapt to necessary changes in the work environment, new systems, tools, and processes have helped mitigate the challenges associated with remote work. Office meetings have become video calls, hallway conversations have been replaced by Slack messages, and team collaboration has transitioned from in-person brainstorms to online software tools like Asana and Miro.
For employers, remote work has provided an opportunity to save on office overhead, boost employee engagement, and even improve the hiring process (since they can now recruit talent from anywhere). Likewise, employees have gained the ability to work where they want, when they want, while cutting down on the costs associated with commuting and striking a better work-life balance.
Health concerns might have been the catalyst for the rise of remote work, but the ever-changing job market transformed remote work from a stop-gap safety measure to a must-have employee benefit.
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Remote work and productivity
It’s easy to see why remote work is an appealing option for employees, but how does it impact productivity? Many companies—from Netflix to Disney—view remote work as “a pure negative” or creatively stifling. Are those claims really accurate?
According to 1,000 employees surveyed in Owl Labs’ 2021 State of Remote Work report, employee satisfaction and workplace productivity are closely linked—and remote work is a key driver of that satisfaction. Here are the facts:
- 90% of remote employees claimed to be as or more productive than they were in the office.
- 55% say they work more hours per week from home than they did in the office.
- 82% said working from home has a positive impact on their mental health.
- 84% said working from home made them happier.
A lot of the perceived disadvantages of remote work’s impact on productivity aren’t actually related to remote work at all; they’re just more obvious when separated from the traditional office environment. Productivity hinges on hiring the best candidates, aligning people with the right projects or teams, creating a positive company culture, fostering good communication, and demonstrating strong leadership.
If your organization is missing any of those elements, productivity will suffer—regardless of where work is physically done.
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The challenges of remote work
In spite of its many positive advantages, remote work is not without its challenges. From culture to communication, here are five potential roadblocks to productivity—and tips to help you overcome them:
1. Employees are disengaged.
Ensuring that your employees feel seen, heard, valued, and satisfied can be challenging from a distance. Remote work can be isolating, and it’s all too easy to miss the warning signs of an unhappy employee without regular face-to-face interactions. Increase engagement with team-building activities, pulse surveys, video conferencing, and regular check-ins.
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2. Your company culture feels artificial.
How do you build culture without a shared environment? Core values can help. Cultivate a well-defined culture based on the qualities that matter most to your organization and make sure those values are reflected in every aspect of your business, from compensation to communication and beyond. Being a business worth working for pays off.
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3. Virtual onboarding is difficult.
Employee onboarding is one of the most critical parts of the employee experience—especially when a worker is fully remote. Make sure your new recruits feel included, informed, and empowered, and do so without requiring them to set foot in an office.
Providing a seamless virtual onboarding process is an excellent way to boost engagement, satisfaction, and productivity. Quickly open up lines of communication with new team members. Check in frequently to ensure they feel supported, and set them up with an “onboarding buddy” they can reach out to with any work- or culture-related questions.
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4. You have outdated technology.
Technology makes remote work possible. Implement clear channels of communication, such as a video conferencing platform like Zoom, a messaging app like Slack, or project management solutions like Asana.
Also make sure that employees are provisioned with any hardware or software access that they may need to do their work effectively.
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5. Managers are struggling to lead.
Some employers who are reluctant to adopt a remote work policy have concerns about supervision. This is where your culture and communication really shine. Attempting to micromanage remote employees is an easy way to make everyone—ICs and managers alike—miserable.
Trust is a load-bearing wall in any organizational structure, but particularly so with remote work. Hire trustworthy, talented people, keep the lines of communication open, schedule regular performance reviews, and define expectations clearly for a truly optimized remote work environment.
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How PI can help support remote work
Most of the concerns about remote work stem from uncertainty and a lack of visibility. When employers can’t “be with” their employees, they feel they can’t support them and enable them to succeed.
But here’s the truth: You can support your employees—even remotely. And it all starts with awareness. The more you understand how your people are “wired,” the deeper your understanding of their strengths and weaknesses, workplace drives and needs, and sources of motivation. Learn into that well of knowledge, and it makes management a breeze.
As a talent optimization platform, The Predictive Index makes all of the above possible.
- Use PI’s flagship behavioral assessments to get insights into remote employees that go far beyond casual watercooler chats.
- Leverage 65+ years of behavioral science to hire top talent, build cohesive teams, and improve one-on-one relationships.
- Monitor and manage engagement over time using powerful pulse surveys, and build a best-in-class remote culture.
With PI, you can hire with certainty, lead with purpose, and build a remote work environment that works for everyone.