COVID-19, Digital Media, Digital Marketing & Technology, Social Innovation, Technology
Pros and Cons of Remote Work: How to Maintain Business During the Pandemic
Due to the spread of COVID-19 and the latest recommendations given by the World Health Organization (WHO), the issue of transferring a part of company employees to remote work is getting extremely urgent.
In fact, remote work is well-known to employers and is actively used by thousands of companies today.
Specialists in the IT field, digital, marketing and advertising agencies have been effectively working outside their offices for many years already. Remote work is actually a standard in many areas. Flexibility, speed and trust are the main drivers for the development of remote working practices.
Pavel Adylin, CEO of Artezio,believes that the pace of modern life, growing demand for the speed of decision-making, staff shortage, growing globalization – all has facilitated the transition process to remote work among numerous businesses today.
IT companies don’t think having employees in the office open space is a necessary condition for successful operation. The most important element is correct task assignment for each staff member and quality execution on time.
Assignment of Tasks
The correct assignment of tasks directly affects the end result and, therefore, is the cornerstone of many current problems and misunderstandings that are mistakenly referred to as “work from home” mode.
Management believes that the goal is clear – you just need to undertake and complete your tasks. However, while starting to perform their tasks, specialists can encounter problems that require detailed discussion. This can lead to additional cycle of discussion and reformulation of tasks, and, thus, extension of initial deadlines.
Some managers think that the main reason for failure is the lack of opportunity to talk with an employee personally and explain the task in simple terms. Others blame the lack of usual working environment and proper focus while working from home.
Leadership’s ability to unambiguously express their thoughts becomes highly important. You should discuss confusing points and expected results with your team. It will help not only get what you need, but will also allow tasks to be completed right on time. Use of the main principles of SMART and decomposition can be effectively applied for both remote employees and those working in the office.
Pros and Cons
As in any other approach to job management, working from home has its advantages and disadvantages. Some of them can be a real obstacle for managers when moving employees to work remotely, while others can open up new business opportunities and increase work performance.
Among obvious disadvantages, the following can be highlighted:
Discipline and motivation It is assumed that remote employees are more difficult to motivate and, moreover, control than in the office. Many employees can experience difficulties with the discipline due to the absence of the management nearby.
Control It is believed that the control over employees performing their duties becomes more complicated to maintain during remote work. As a result, initial deadlines might have to be moved or reconsidered. It is necessary to constantly monitor remote employee performance, comparing it to the results they have shown in the office. If performance is declining, you should try and find the reason why. After that, it might be better to get the employee back in the office or implement additional measures to control their work, if the reason is difficult to eliminate.
Home environment The home environment disciplines the employee less than the work environment. In addition to other family member’s working schedules, the employee will more often get distracted from the set task or won’t work at all.
No visual contact
It is a psychological barrier caused by the inability to look in the employee’s eyes and provide the required information immediately. The lack of opportunity to come up to the employee personally and discuss the required questions can make the situation worse.
Among the possible advantages are:
Flexible work schedule
For many employees, the ability to switch their work schedule (or combine the office and remote working modes) increases their performance and personal responsibility. It is said that shifting the focus from solving one task to another from time to time allows for better opportunity to unleash the potential and creativity of specialists.
Focus on results Greater commitment to the results of work, not just the process. Transparency of results. Understanding of what is expected from you at the end.
Additional opportunity for the employer to motivate and encourage employees.
Strengthening discipline Reducing the risks of coming late, force majeure related to road situations or weather.
Convenience of the workplace
The absence of background noise, the ability to adapt the surrounding environment to your own needs, if living conditions allow.
Reduction of operational costs
For example, costs for office space rental and basic office needs.
What Do Employers Fear?
In addition to the above mentioned disadvantages, there are some other difficulties that can turn off employers from transitioning their staff to remote work entirely:
Peculiarities of business
Some businesses can’t physically transfer even a portion of their employees to remote work. It is mainly due to the specifics of business or its technological features. Among other reasons, many company clients require personal meetings and direct communication with them.
Specialists’ level of experience
Training junior specialists and their introduction into the industry can be less effective in terms of the remote collaboration. Employers prefer fast and efficient immersion into the job for junior team members directly onsite together with the assigned experienced mentor. The specific features of the corporate culture can also place additional constraints.
Personal and corporate data safety
The issue of company and employee data safety when working remotely has high significance. The risk of phishing and virus attacks as well as industrial espionage and data theft grows significantly.
Personal relationship and communication
Classic office work has shaped a natural habit that allows approaching the employee any time of the day, consulting, explaining things in detail, specifying some questions, and solving problems during the working process.
Remote work places its own rules on the communication process. The principle of mutual help is strongly felt in the remote work environment as well, but you will have to get used to its peculiar features. For example, instead of the direct communication in the office, sometimes you need to ask your colleague for a moment to speak on the phone or talk in the chat.
What to Begin With?
To understand if your business would benefit from remote work, try to answer a couple of questions honestly:
Do your employees have personal computers and hardware that allow for proper communication?
Are they fast and powerful enough to perform tasks?
Do your employees have fast access to the Internet at their remote workplace? Is the Internet connection fast enough for doing set tasks and videoconferencing?
Do employees require mobile Internet connection to complete their tasks? Who pays for this service? Is it included in your operational costs?
Can company employees use messengers for communication? Are you satisfied with current restrictions and options of the messenger? Is your communication recorded?
Is videoconferencing and meeting process well organized in your company?
Are you satisfied with the service quality and its costs? Does the service support a large amount of users simultaneously?
Is IP telephony organized in your company? Is there possibility for each remote employee to make calls from their computers?
Do company corporate resources and working data have sufficient protection? Do you provide a VPN access?
Are encryption and certificate policy used for company sensitive private data?
Do remote employees have 24/7 access to major corporate resources? Is your infrastructure well prepared? Are costs for organizing such access included in operational expenses? Has performance testing of the internal resources been conducted at peak load?
Is there a possibility for easy access to office apps, such as text and excel editors, email, and calendar? How is collaborative editing of files and documentation organized?
Do you use specialized software for work? Think about the licensing in advance. Does it allow several users to work simultaneously? The licensing question is highly important and applied to the main office apps mentioned in the previous question as well. Advice: think over using open source products in your work. They can help greatly in reducing your budget and maintaining the quality of services at the same time.
Do you need to use something similar to a whiteboard? Do you hold mass meetings and brainstorms? If so, think of relevant software or services for this purpose.
Are you planning to set up a reporting process for your employees to record the working time spent? Do you as a manager need to be aware of the current status of tasks for each employee?
Is your activity strictly regulated?
Are there any official or “informal” industry rules? Do all employees know how to follow them? Think over all regulations and instructions necessary for your business in advance.
Have you ever thought of keeping accumulated experience in your company?
What will happen if a key person with this knowledge quits or gets ill? Where will you keep all training materials?
Are you ready to synchronize employee work located in different time zones?
Remote work together with a flexible schedule assumes a situation where employees can be based in different time zones. Even a minimum time difference can affect the production process. Think of coordinating your employees, specify obligatory time intervals when everyone should be online.
There is no single or correct approach to organizing remote work.
Think about what can be implemented in your particular case. Where you can be more flexible, keeping your current indicators, and where you need to demonstrate calm and restraint.
Try finding a proper balance between remote work and work in the office. Analyze which employees can be easily transferred to remote work already today, and the transfer of which staff members can affect your business. As a result, you will be able to make a balanced decision about scalability of successful remote work principles that are right for you.
Already today, thousands of companies apply the latest technologies and practices in their remote work. Get involved too. And remember your employees’ health is the greatest asset to your business.