Should your staff be coming into the office every day or should they be free to work from home? Or from anywhere they like, for that matter?
Flexible working, remote working and remote teams (or virtual teams) are big topics at the moment as companies are reviewing current and future working practices in an effort to increase productivity and maintain a competitive edge.
What Is Remote Working?
So, what exactly constitutes remote working, and how can it help businesses? Fundamentally, a remote team is a group of employees that work outside the traditional office environment – from coffee shops or coworking spaces, from a home office many miles away or from a company location on the other side of the world.
These teams come in all shapes and sizes: Some companies offer remote working as a staff incentive while others leave it up to individual employees to decide where to work and some businesses are fully distributed with no physical office at all.
The Disadvantages Of Remote Teams
If you’re now asking yourself what’s wrong with having people work in offices, you’re by no means alone. Many managers struggle with the concept of remote working, asking obvious questions such as ‘how will I know they’re actually working?’, ‘won’t it disrupt our company culture?’ and ‘wouldn’t we be setting an undesirable precedent for the rest of the team?’
The Benefits Of Remote Teams
Scratch deeper and you can detect issues around staff supervision and trust, productivity and efficiency, communication and management, personal support and empowerment, and a big question mark hanging over the sense of team. All of these can and should be addressed with specific training, as is beautifully explained in this video from iManage Performance.
In fact most of the misgivings about remote working mentioned above have been proved wrong with studies showing that remote working policies lead to better productivity and efficiency for the business as well as greater engagement from team members. Having remote employees is the first step in embracing the future of work, with a positive impact on all concerned. Here’s a summary of the main benefits.
1. Better productivity
According to a study in the Harvard Business Review, remote employees complete almost a whole day’s extra work per week compared to their colleagues in the office. Whether it’s the absence of the usual office distractions, the ability to concentrate without being interrupted, the flexibility to work during their most productive times of the day (or night), or the freedom to choose inspiring work surroundings, it’s clear that remote working leads to greater productivity among team members.
Gone are the days of unnecessary meetings in the office, and spontaneous catch-up meetings that turn into hour-long conversations for no particular reason. Remote team meetings are purposeful and to the point, with a clear agenda, goals and action plans. Meetings are conducted over video software and scheduled in specific time windows, while many topics are better dealt with by email or via an instant messaging platform. Less time spent on unnecessary communication means more time getting work done.
3. Creativity unleashed
To start with, businesses will feel most comfortable in allowing their best employees to work remotely. That way, your ‘superstars’ are rewarded with greater work-life flexibility while getting the opportunity to further prove their leadership and soft skills with greater responsibility and autonomy. The beauty of remote work is that by unshackling your best talent from the office, you can help bring out the best in them. Inspired by different surroundings, they’re far more likely to come up with new creative solutions for the business.
4. Effective staff incentive
Allowing your team members to work remotely acts as a trust sign and recognition for good performance; it shows the human side of the business. Employees greatly appreciate this access to work-life flexibility and will repay their employer with greater loyalty and a genuine desire to prove their value – by working harder. With the average cost of replacing an employee estimated at around £12,000 for small and medium enterprises, incentivizing your best talent to stay is a shrewd move.
5. Professional development opportunities
For office-based employees, access to professional development and networking opportunities are compromised during working hours, while out-of-office hours may be taken up with family or other commitments. Remote working overcomes these obstacles by offering greater flexibility on how to schedule working, learning and networking time most effectively. Professional skills development is now possible, benefitting both the individual and their employer.
6. Access to global talent
With remote working practices, hiring new team members no longer needs to be limited by physical location, and the accompanying compromises in finding the right person with the best skill set to fill your vacancy.
Now you can fish in the global pond, with unfettered access to a vast pool of candidates anywhere in the world and the ability to really pick the best person for the job. Whether you have one or several remote employees, today’s communication channels are simple wherever you are, with video calls and a time zone calculator all that’s needed.
What Do You Think About Remote Teams?
What’s your experience working with (or as part of) a remote team? Do remote teams have other disadvantages or benefits that I haven’t listed here?