Is working remotely really the future?

Articles touting working remotely as the future are a plenty on the world wide web. Forbes, CNN and Entrepreneur.com have all written about the benefits of working from home. Unsurprisingly, most of us would jump at the opportunity to work from home – the flexibility and autonomy it affords us, the thousands of dollars in parking or public transport fares saved, and not to mention not having to spend hours each week suffocating in a tight carriage full of sweaty passengers!

Last week, IT News reported that IBM Australia has sent a memo out to their staff asking them to spend less time working remotely and instead spend more time in the office to better connect with each other and improve teamwork between its staff.

In the memo, IBM Australia remarks that “[they] achieve [their] best results when [they] operate as an integrated set of teams, aligned with each other, and working to meet the demands of the marketplace and of [their] clients.”

What went wrong?

Potentially nothing, but there has been a lot of discussion about the pros and cons of teams working from home and flexible employment arrangements – from its impact on business efficiency to staff morale.

Some businesses have found that they have had to restrict the flexible working arrangements for certain departments or personnel within the business to enable the business to operate efficiently and effectively.

For instance, at Dolph, all of our Trainers have the option to work remotely as it enables us to tap into talent that is not available locally (we even have a Trainer who lives in Sydney!) and enables us to increase the scope of our talent search to parents who need the flexibility to work around their kids. The role of a Trainer is also very independent – from developing their training plans, to assessing student submissions, it doesn’t change whether they are working in the office or whether they are working from home. However, our Admin & Student Support team has to work on-site due to the nature of the work and we would not be able to achieve the same team cohesion and efficiency otherwise. That doesn’t mean that the team cannot have flexible hours or flexible working arrangements, it just means that they are needed in the office to enable us to achieve our goals.

Benefits of working remotely in Australia

  1. Reduction in commuting time
  2. More productivity in most cases
  3. Fewer sick days as employees are able to properly rest
  4. Increased talent pool to source the right person from
  5. More time for staff to spend with their families which is a form of relaxation for most

Disadvantages of working remotely

  1. Little to no team environment and bonding
  2. Some companies are not properly equipped to monitor or measure their employee’s work – including the quality and efficiency of their work
  3. Poor communication issues may arise
  4. Managing workers remotely can be a challenge for today’s leadership teams as the knowledge and experience in the area is not as advanced and as readily available as managing teams in one location
  5. Security concerns, especially for companies with a high level of secrecy surrounding their operations or organisations who deal with a lot of sensitive data

How can it be fixed?

More concrete and readily available data is the first step to better understand worker behaviours and responses to remote working arrangements. Every organisation will have different needs and requirements which means that not all organisations will find offering their employees the option to work from home beneficial or valuable in any way.

First, an organisation needs to assess what their goals are and how their workforce can help them achieve it. Once that is tabled and there is a clear picture and path on how to achieve their goals, they can then workout what types of employees are needed and whether it is suitable to have the employees work from home. If an employee is needed to work on the in-house servers and maintain them, realistically they will not be able to work from home as the hardware cannot be moved and they have to be in the office. If an employee is writing up marketing copies or working on the organisation’s website, there might be an opportunity there for the organisation to enable the employee in this role to work from home. This is why ability to analyse and view a situation or a business case from various angles is important in every decision-making process.

Learn how to analyse and other important business functions in our online Diploma of Business to make sure you can help your organisation navigate these tricky waters and make a decision based on the results of your analysis.

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