Remote Work – What Does It Really Mean?

In a February 2018 report, freelancing website company Upwork released the results of its annual workforce survey. The report examined current hiring practices of over 1000 US managers, and it showed that 55 percent agree that remote work has become more commonplace as compared to 3 years ago. In fact, all findings indicate that remote work is likely to become the new normal. According to Lauren Moon of Trello, technology today has enabled more and more employees to work outside of an office. In her article, she looks at reasons why some are expressing high praises about the idea while others have nothing good to say about it.

Occasionally Working From Home

Remote work seems to have a stigma attached to it. But the misplaced disapproval stems from a confusion of what a remote worker really means. For instance, some people do not make a distinction between someone who works on an office but is allowed to work from home a day or two, and someone who belongs to a fully functional remote team.

The New York Times reported that of the 60 percent of Americans who work remotely, only less than half of their working hours are spent working outside a traditional office setting. People work from home a few days a week for a variety of reasons. They may have a doctor’s appointment, a PTA conference, or a very early call. Some may prefer the occasional quiet of home for greater focus, and be away from usual office distractions.

However, these occasional remote workers do go to the office and work most of the time there. As such, their work setup at home may not optimized to allow them to deliver the same level of productivity. For example, they may lack a dedicated workspace, fast and reliable Internet connection, or even childcare.

At the same time, their occasional work-from-home schedules can negatively affect their collaboration with the rest of team staying at the office. Teammates not in the office may miss out on discussions and decisions that happen spontaneously. If someone calls for a meeting, the person working at home may not have the video conferencing equipment to be virtually present with others. These are some of the disadvantages of being a remote worker if there is no company-wide structure that supports remote work.

A Remote Team Only By Name

Another factor that contributes to the remote worker stigma is when companies call themselves a remote team without providing the means to be one. For instance, a valuable employee needs to move, but the company decides to keep the person. He or she is allowed to stay with the team but works remotely.

However, the company does not make adjustments for the person to effectively perform as a member of the team. The video conferencing equipment or software is not working or maintained 100 percent. Much time is spent on setup every time there is a meeting to include the remote employee. He or she gets an email chain and spends much time just trying to catch up on what has happened in the office instead of being part of the discussion and decision making. In effect, remote employees, especially if there are only a few of them, contribute less as long as policies to accommodate and support them are absent.

A Fully Formed Remote Team

According to the Upwork report, an increasing number of managers expect more of their team to work remotely in the next 10 years. And 38 percent predict that their full-time permanent employees will work remotely in the years to come. Indeed, some companies as early as now have successfully implemented remote infrastructure and support structures for their employees. Also noticeable are the presence of policies that make use of strategies and best practices adopted company-wide to facilitate successful remote work. Trello, together with other remote companies such as Evernote, Zapier, Stack Overflow, and Atlassian, among others, recommend best practices for virtual discussions and meetings, digital tools for effective remote work, and building the proper company culture.

Characteristics Of A True Remote Team

Employees of a true remote company make specific adaptations so that their environment is more pleasing and equally professional, just like any other co-located office. For example, communication occurs digitally in open channels. Anyone, at anytime, can participate in the decision making process. People who are not present in the office are not left out of decision making. During meetings, all members are visible on their video screens. Also, employees have regular check-ins with their managers for clear expectations and deadlines.

Remote Work Is Work

Some companies hurriedly declare that remote work is not efficient for them after haphazardly trying it with a few employees for a short period in a half-hearted manner. To truly make it work, companies must adopt policies that require regular check-ins and expectation discussions with employees. Managers will be giving them work to turn in and deadlines to meet wherever they may be working.

At the same time, remote workers must be equipped to have a digital communication channel such as a chat app capable of recording communications and decisions in a transparent way. Furthermore, financial means must be provided to enable them to upgrade their home Internet connection that is fast enough for video calls.

In conclusion, remote work is still work, only it happens in locations other than the standard office. So, when some people discredit remote work, it is possible that what they experienced negatively is not the same remote work wherein all stakeholders – company, managers, and employees alike, give their best to accommodate and support the structure for the success of everybody.

Original article: Working From Home Is Not Remote Work

Jose Maria Delos Santos

Jose Maria Delos Santos

Jose is a subject matter expert and member of the writing team for Project-Management.com and Bridge24. He has written hundreds of articles including project management software reviews, books reviews, training site reviews, and general articles related to the project management industry.

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