Work from Home: Is It Now Work from Anywhere?

Work models have been forced to become more flexible with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ve all witnessed the scramble to set up home offices in corners of bedrooms and kitchens across the world. However, more progressive organisations and thought leaders are now embracing the concept of work from anywhere. In other words, rather than expecting employees to remain local, these organisations are adopting the concept of 100% remote working.

Taking a lead from the giants

Work from anywhere became a talking point after social media giants Twitter and Facebook made announcements about the possibility of allowing employees to work from home permanently. Companies such as Articulate and Zapier had already been using technology to implement 100% remote working at the start of this century, but the social media giants turned the concept of work from anywhere into a mainstream concept. The pandemic has forced organisations into ad-hoc remote working arrangements that could now be made more sustainable.

 “Companies don’t yet have the policies and structures in place to fully support remote working. There will be a period (after Covid-19) when people may need to go back to the office in some form or other, but I’ve noticed that companies are more interested in how they can properly set up remote working now,” says Jennifer Dowling, organisational psychologist and remote work expert.

Employees who are allowed to work outside the office at least once a month are happier and more productive. Employers save money on facilities, hardware, electricity, and internet bills. With many employees now unlikely to return to the office for some time (if ever), organizations will need to make work from anywhere work for them.

Why should organizations allow employees to work from anywhere?

Even when workers return to offices as COVID-19 restrictions ease, things can’t return to the way they were. Modern offices are designed to fit as many workers into a confined space as possible, and this simply won’t work in a post-pandemic environment. Compelling employees to return to offices where they don’t feel safe would be counterproductive.

 Fortunately, even though it happened with no notice or preparation, our current work-from-home situation has shown just how productive remote can be. Organisations maintained their operations, with remote employees being as productive as they were in the office—if not, more so.

Research backs the work-from-home productivity thesis. Remote staff work an average of 1.4 more days per month than their office-based counterparts, and a Stanford University experiment showed that fully remote employees were not only 13% more productive, they also demonstrated increased employee satisfaction and lower turnover.

Business leaders are endorsing the trend too. A Gartner Inc. CFO survey revealed that 74% of companies aim to move to more permanent remote-working arrangements after the pandemic.

Where it doesn’t work

Of course, not every worker in every organisation can work from anywhere. On-site engineers and operatives, data centre operators, and many other employees would find it impossible to do their work from anywhere. Each organisation must make its own decisions about its business needs, but most will discover at least some applications where remote working from anywhere makes practical sense.

How to facilitate working from anywhere

For workers with the capability to work from anywhere, their employers must find ways to ensure success regardless of location. Technology is the key. Communications and productivity tools including cloud-based team messaging, calls, and video conferencing should be combined on a single platform to make life easier for everyone.

Platforms such as Asana, Workzone, Trello, and Jira allow managers to assign projects and tasks remotely, with employees able to access and prioritise assignments.  As well as communicating with remote employees to inform them of targets and deadlines, these kinds of platforms offer resources such as training and KPIs to support their success.

Companies also need to review their management practices, given that managing fully remote teams creates specific challenges around aligning work schedules, measuring productivity, and feelings of isolation. To combat loneliness and boost morale, it is vital to organise purely social interactions with your colleagues. Managers should ensure that their teams feel comfortable taking time out for virtual chats on Zoom, MS Teams, or your organisation’s platform of choice.

From a costs perspective, many companies already have expense policies around how employees fund equipment for home working, but if work from anywhere is to be adopted, these policies need to be expanded.

Should companies consider subsidising coffee purchases or fund space in a local hub or coworking space, for example? Should the company finance employee travel to different locations for upskilling or other work-related experiences? How should organisations facilitate social events among employees who are not meeting in real life anymore?

Jennifer Dowling recommends that companies should prepare for a future that involves remote working by examining their experience of working from home during the pandemic and determining what worked and what didn’t work. “They can start looking at their policies and feeding policies on what they’ve learned,” she says.

How to Succeed When You’re Working from Anywhere

As an employee, it’s natural to be concerned that working outside the office could damage your career prospects. Your achievements may not be as visible to those who make decisions, and you may be worried that you won’t be as eligible for promotion.

 Author Bruce Tulgan completed his latest book, The Art of Being Indispensable at Work, a matter of weeks before lockdown, but the advice he offers is just as relevant now. His guidance on navigating a changing world where lines of authority are blurred centres on being really good at your job—wherever you are. By always making the right decisions, you will show good judgment and gain respect and trust. When you are working from anywhere, collaborative relationships become even more important, so the ability to manage them successfully will be key to your career progress.   

How Kerry is Equipped for Co-working

Kerry hubs offer co-working office spaces that frees you from the challenges of poor connectivity, inadequate equipment, distraction, and isolation. Sharing office space safely allows remote employees, freelancers, and start-up entrepreneurs to establish dynamic communities who enjoy access to affordable, high-tech facilities, as well as engagement with like-minded individuals.

As a result, rural areas are getting a new lease of life, and the work-life balance is being restored.

Kerry Hubs

Over to You…

How has your company been managing remote working? Have you developed strategies you would like to share? What aspects have you found particularly challenging?

Contact us at KerrySciTech – we would like to follow up on our members’ experiences and explore ways to help companies in the science, technology, and engineering spaces manage the remote working experience better.