Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, most organisations considered the office as the main, and sometimes only, place of work. However, overnight business leaders had to reimagine their existing operation models – what was once the heart of our workday simply became an empty building, and the phrase “work is something you do, not somewhere you go” became more appropriate than ever.
Remote working has been a welcomed change for employees and employers – nearly 50 per cent of employers said they intend to allow employees to work remotely full time going forward, while over 80 per cent intend to permit remote working some of the time as employees return to the workplace. Facebook, Google, and LinkedIn are already preparing for this shift by postponing the return to the office until 2021 – nearly a year and a half after the beginning of the pandemic.
Nonetheless, remote working is not for all businesses, and certainly not for all employees. Over the past months, many have been struggling with loneliness, burnout, and reduced work-life balance. For many, the office is a necessity to perform their job.
In these uncertain times, one this is certain: one size does not fit all.
While some will choose to continue working remotely permanently, and others will be eager to reopen their offices, we believe that once restrictions ease, a hybrid, or flexible, workforce will be the path to success for the vast majority of organisations.
The challenges of a hybrid workforce
Unfortunately, a hybrid workforce doesn’t come without challenges. Striking the right balance to protect all employees won’t be easy.
Collaboration and communications become even more difficult when employees are split up between home and the office – the risk is affirming a two-tier workforce, where remote workers get the short end of the stick.
Even before the pandemic, companies who had adopted a hybrid workforce reported that over 50 per cent of remote workers felt their onsite colleagues didn’t treat them equally, and didn’t receive the same opportunities as their office counterpart.
Feeling isolated, left out, and not part of the company are all possible risks for remote workers in a hybrid model. Ultimately, business leaders will need to make sure both their remote and office workers receive the same inclusive and enabling working experience, regardless of their location.
Remote-first or remote-friendly?
In order to meet the needs and requirements of all employees in a flexible model, organisations will need to turn to a remote-first approach.
But what do we mean by remote-first? Unlike fully remote companies, remote-first companies retain a physical workplace; yet, unlike remote-friendly or traditional companies, for a remote-first company, remote is the rule, rather than the exception.
This means that all employees are hired as remote workers, but can choose to use the office space if, and when, they wish to do so. All positions are performed using remote tools and processes, regardless of where the employee is choosing to work from.
A remote-first company will expect, and most importantly will empower employees to work remotely. In this scenario, the working environment is digital-first in order to include all relevant employees; video conferences are conducted outside of the meeting room, using standardised communications tools; information and opportunities are equally accessible by all members of the company; and performance is measured by output, rather than hours worked or location.
The benefits of remote-first
A remote-first approach, when done properly, ticks many boxes for a successful long-term strategy, especially in this new pandemic reality. Some of the most obvious benefits include:
- Financial savings – in most cases, remote-first companies will reduce the number of physical offices, reducing their CapEx.
- Improved business continuity – by adopting a remote-first approach, businesses will eliminate the risk of disruption due to external events.
- Promoting diversity and deepening the talent pool – traditional models are often limiting for people with disabilities, or for non-local candidates. A remote-first approach solves this problem by allowing them to work from anywhere, any time.
- Supporting employee wellbeing – a remote-first approach gives employees much more flexibility. Whether they prefer to work from home, or from the office, they have the ability and resources to do so.
Establishing a remote-first company
Remote-first won’t be easy to achieve for most companies – it requires a fundamental shift in company policies, processes, technology, and most importantly, culture.
Business leaders will need to listen to their internal customers and adapt their strategy to their needs and requirements. Every single person within the company will need to buy-into this approach, and for that to happen, organisations will need to make sure all employees have the same working experience.
It will be more important than ever to give employees the choice and the ability to work from wherever they see fit without feeling left out or stressed because of that choice.
Technology, and IT teams, will play a fundamental role in this shift. Employing the right tools to enable employees to successfully and productively work from anywhere will be fundamental in the coming months. Organisations that have adopted sticking plaster solutions at the beginning of the pandemic will need to re-evaluate their current technology stack and understand which solutions benefit their employees, regardless of their location.
Communication and collaboration will be exceptionally important to enable a remote-first approach. A complete UCaaS solution will allow your employees to collaborate and communicate, virtually from anywhere – building a strong UCaaS strategy that adapts and evolves with the requirements of your internal and external customers will prove vital.