Remote working describes the arrangement by which employees work mainly from home and telecommunicate with their company. The practice is becoming increasingly popular with mainstream organisations as the link between flexibility, freedom and worker productivity has become more evident. Thanks to technological inventions of the last 10 years, the need for a physical office space is falling away and the implications for both companies and workers are incredibly exciting.
Cloud computing has brought with it a multitude of benefits: flexibility in bandwidth, automatic software updates, faster disaster recovery but, most importantly, it has enabled more people to work successfully at a distance with improved connectivity, file sharing and back office functionality. As long as employees have access to the Internet, they can work from anywhere that they choose and from any time zone they like. Now it is up to the organisations for which they work, to empower them by making this a reality.
SYNAQ introduced remote workers in 2012 based on the learning outlined in the book Remote Office Not Required by the founders of 37 Signals, Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson and has been enjoying the evolving model of remote working enormously. With staff based in Cape Town, Johannesburg and other global destinations, the company is growing with an international workforce and continues to compete with multinational giants.
The flexibility of working at a distance positively affects employees’ work-life balance and therefore their productivity. When employees reduce time wasted in commuting and settling into a working space, they feel more engaged, interested and care more about their jobs. The workforce of this era is far more insistent on a work-life balance compared to previous generations. More employees are moving out of major cities to avoid traffic congestion and high living costs, while city dwellers are seeking employment closer to home or flexible working conditions. Less time commuting means more family time or meaningful time for personal activities and this makes for an appreciative employee who is keen to retain their rewarding work environment.
Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, give fascinating insight into the new definition of working productively. They explain that work doesn’t necessarily happen at work. Offices are, in fact, “interruption factories” and meetings are “time-stealers”. The workday becomes “work moments”, yet thoughtful and important work requires uninterrupted stretches of time. It is better to find a workspace that fits your style, be it at home, at a coffee shop or at a co-working facility in order to produce authentic, intellectual work. Finally, the Industrial Age confines of the office seem to have lost their appeal.
Likewise for business owners there are many competitive advantages in borderless working. As employees can work from anywhere, why be restricted to a limited locale of workers? Organisations are now able to operate on 24-hour business operations that can double productivity and improve customer service dramatically. Without a large and expensive to maintain central office there is a reduction in overhead costs such as office rental, and other centralised telecommunication expenses. But the challenge is changing output requirements from hours logged in at the office to task productivity achieved. Of course, more relaxed working hours appeal to everyone, but employees do need to agree to maintain to a 40-hour workweek with set productivity targets. Once this is in place, it is up to the individual to plan his/her workload across the allocated hours. Cross team management must take place to ensure that business needs are achieved with a collaborative team and less micro managing.
Goingremote allows the most talented people to produce the best work, regardless of their location. It also means that people can decide where they live based on who they are and what the like, rather than on how central it is to their workspace. Both employers and employees alike are enjoying the benefits as the advantages stack up but the onus is on business owners to take the progressive step towards making this new style of working a possibility.
By Yossi Hasson co-founder and CEO at SYNAQ.