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  |   Business


Remote work is on the rise; traditional companies fail to adjust

The gig economy has paved the way for the rise of remote work. Multiple studies have found that remote work allows staff to be more productive and creative. The ability to work autonomously and manage time and resources independently is more important than ever.

A study conducted by Global Workplace Analytics found that 80-90% of workers would prefer the option to work from home on at least a partial basis. A Future Workplace report also found that surveyed businesses believe at least 40% of their entire staff would consist of full-time remote workers within the next decade. And the number of freelancers has seen an 8% increase for the past three years.

And yet, even with the trends and statistics in favor of remote work, many traditional companies are struggling to adjust. The top-down, micromanagement approach has proven ineffective time and time again as businesses fear losing control. And some of today’s businesses are experiencing difficulty hiring within their preferred pool of job seekers.

Former Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer is a clear example of a major company that wanted to make changes in workforce structure—by bringing people back into the office. In 2013, she made a controversial decision to place a remote work ban on her staff. This is a decision that Mayer repeatedly defended, citing the need for in-office collaboration, particularly when working on building important products. And yet, general reception wasn’t good. Similarly, Best Buy rescinded it work-from-home policy, as did Bank of America, Aetna, and Honeywell.

Remote work inherently complicates management and control. The more autonomy a worker has, the less of a stronghold management has. This new type of management-employee relationship can be overwhelming for business leaders. How can they manage their teams if they can’t see them?

Employee engagement is another concern for anti-remote individuals. After all, virtual workers who feel disengaged from a company can affect its bottom line. And other studies have found that disengaged employees cost businesses around $605 billion annually. The ability to build trust and keep staff actively engaged is more difficult when employees are spread out all over the map. And lastly, some companies are concerned that innovation becomes more difficult when employees work independently of one another.

Each of those concerns comes with a solution. Technology has made it easier than ever for businesses to transition into a more lax working policy. Already, in-office teams are using the same tools they use to communicate and collaborate in and out of the office: messaging applications for instant access to nearby staff, project management tools, email, time tracking software, and much more.

The same technology can be used to enforce a higher level of monitoring, when necessary. For example, time tracking software reveals insightful data to how productive an employee is. In a traditional office setting, this type of software isn’t necessary. When someone is sitting at a desk, you assume they’re doing work. This isn’t always the case. With these platforms, you can also set work statuses to ensure a seamless workflow between different members of the team. This prevents employees from interrupting one another during crucial project sprints.

There are also ways to keep remote employees engaged and innovative. Regular video conferences, remote work culture building, and virtual “water cooler” talk goes a long way. Some remote business also still have work retreats to bring their teams together once or twice per year. A corporate travel program can help your team maintain relationships with one another, as well as potential clients.

Checking in with your team regularly also helps curb the onset of distance bias—the idea that things and people closer to you are of higher importance than those that aren’t. Regular check-ups help establish a closer relationship and richer work experience without compromising an employee’s independence. Aiding remote staff with coworking space incentives is another way to cure the isolation remote workers might feel.

With the right tools, management teams can feel more comfortable opening up their policies to attract the workforce of today and appeal to the desire for flexibility.

This article does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editors or management of EconoTimes.

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