Remote working has been gaining momentum for a couple of years now, with companies looking to offer flexibility and location freedom as the ultimate perk. Designed to help with work life balance, gain talent regardless of location, and remove the dreaded commute, remote work seemed like the next step in the evolution of the workplace.
Then, COVID-19 hit.
Suddenly we were all working from home in a more fundamental, intense way than just a flexibility perk. Before we knew it, business leaders who were starting to come around to the idea of remote working began to discount it as a long term option due to isolated workers who had homeschooling, lockdown and limited remote-friendly processes to contend with.
But this is not remote working as usual.
Traditionally, the arguments against allowing remote working are as follows:
- There’s a lack of work/life balance and workers struggle to switch off
- On-boarding new employees becomes increasingly difficult
- The company culture and relationships suffer due to a lack of “water cooler moments”
- There are too many distractions at home that threatens productivity
- Remote workers are more susceptible to burnout
These excuses are weak at best. Especially when you have the right tools for the job.
Balance and Burnout
A major benefit of remote working for a lot of people is the ability to balance their work and home life more successfully. Working from home means that you can pick up the kids from school, use non-existent commuting time to indulge in hobbies or exercise, and being able to have the flexibility to work where you need to.
The flip side of this is that the line between work and life becomes increasingly blurred, something that we have seen during this pandemic. This being said, if you have the correct processes in place neither imbalance nor burnout should be a concern.
Wundamail is one email, once a day that collates the entire team’s updates into a single compilation. There’s no chasing up colleagues, no lengthy Zoom calls, and everyone knows who’s working on what. These three aspects save precious time, stress and it creates a structure in your remote working environment that you can rely on. Wundamail goes out at the same time every day so you always have that constant. This means that you’re not waiting around after hours for updates, something that can often happen and affect the mental health of remote employees. Having a constant, reliable, daily update from the entire team like this allows you to know where everyone stands and reassures you that you can switch off and the world won’t end.
Another benefit of remote working is that it widens your talent pool exponentially. You’re no longer tied down to the applicants in a small radius from your office, which often means you can get more qualified, experienced applicants who simply don’t have the means or the desire to move to whatever city you’re based in. So, the fact that onboarding difficulties is a common argument against remote working is a curious one. Again, it all comes down to having the infrastructure and processes in place to deal with it. This is another reason why working from home during lockdown is viewed negatively by many leaders: no one was prepared.
Nevertheless, using a company or team-wide approach such as Wundamail makes remote onboarding simple. Instantly, the new recruits can see who is working on what, who they need to go to for particular tasks, and see the wider strategy at play. To go a step further, leaders can also set up a separate Wundamail exclusively for new recruits. Here the new recruits can share what they’ve learnt, help each other and leaders can share useful documents and content directly with all of them - regardless of location or time zone. Also, it’s a great way to keep track of a group of new recruits in one go, rather than chasing them all - especially if they work in different departments or teams.
Culture and Relationships
This is always a big complaint about remote working - that employees are isolated and miss out on vital social interactions that help to build and maintain a positive company culture. Whilst some may feel this way, particularly post-lockdown having not had the opportunity to experience the more positive aspects of working remotely, there are plenty of opportunities to more successfully embed company culture and build relationships when working remotely.
Company culture often ends up being nothing more than a series of posters with company values scattered around the office - a tactic designed to constantly remind employees of what they should stand for - but more often than not, it becomes wallpaper and too easy to ignore over time. Simply put, it needs constant refreshing and updating to reflect what’s going on in the business at the time. Wundamail is integral in driving this. Here, you have a direct line to all your employees on a daily basis. Need to drive strategy and vision? Put it in your daily question, ask your team how much they feel like they embody these values, or what they believe the company to stand for. This way, employees feel more invested in the company and it’s vision moving forward.
As for building relationships and the more social aspects of the workplace, these of course are invaluable. Even during lockdown we’ve been utilising video tools to stay social with our teams, our friends, our family. In a lot of cases, we’ve actually spoken to more people than usual during lockdown, simply because we can’t leave the house, and we’re concerned for everyone around us. For out of work relationships, working from home actually frees more time, commuting-wise, to catch up with friends and family.
For work-based relationships you can utilise Wundamail with more social questions every so often to engage and entertain your team (we have an ongoing debate about who has the best Instagram-worthy lunch). Alternatively, do as we do at Wundamail HQ, and have a short 15 minute video catch up to see everyone’s face and use Wundamail to follow up on anything that’s been discussed. It’s the best of both worlds without compromising on time or efficiency.
This is always an excuse that pops up when discussing remote work. When you’re at home, without a manager constantly looming over your shoulder, there’s too many distractions and productivity will take a massive dive. Statistically not true. There are hundreds of studies that show that due to the lack of coffee runs, gossipy desk neighbours, and the generally noisiness of the office, remote workers are much more productive and efficient than their office counterparts.
The distractions that commonly come from remote work aren’t the usual suspects (we’re looking at your Netflix “in the background” obsession), but work from home tools that aren’t fit for purpose, or multiple tools that all work against each other. Don’t overcomplicate things by using Slack, traditional email methods (i.e. cc-ing the entire team on a simple request), and back-to-back Zoom meetings. All that adds up in time and notifications that actually distract workers much more than having some music on in the background. Over-monitoring your team means that they don’t have time to do their actual tasks - pick a main remote working software and stick to it. Wundamail is simple, gets to the point and only sends one notification a day, which employees are expecting. This gives them the rest of the day to get on with their job, rather than getting jolted out of the zone every two minutes by unnecessary Slack threads.
Remote working isn’t just around the corner anymore, it’s here. Whether you’ve loved working from home or not, not giving your team the option, is now, no longer an option. Even if you’re planning a return to the office, chances are it’s going to be staggered with a mix of remote and office-based teams, so it’s imperative that you sort out your processes and get on board. These excuses just don’t fly anymore. All of them can be countered with basic preparation and moving forward not only do the younger generation prioritise companies that offer flexibility, the prospect of a second wave could mean we’re still working from home six months from now. The old leadership adage that’s plastered across motivational posters worldwide is “fail to prepare, prepare to fail”, take this time to get ready, because offering flexibility is going to be mandatory soon enough.