There has been an amazing shift happening in the world of work. Long gone are the days when most workers not only work in the same office but also live in the same cities, and increasingly we are seeing teams spreading across geographical borders.

More and more organisations are introducing remote working and flexible hours to improve employee satisfaction and productivity by allowing employees to control from where and when they work. There is an increased focus on work/life balance, technology, and working smarter instead of harder. Remote work is empowering people to live more meaningful lives by blurring the lines between our professional and personal lives.

The origin of the 8 hour work day in the office

In the 18th century, during the industrial age, organisations started to maximize the output of their factories by making people work more as most of the work at that time was mechanical and hours determined overall productivity. In fact, the typical workday at this time was 10 – 16 hours. This began to change in the 19th century when a man called Robert Owen started campaigning for an eight-hour working day for all workers.

The rise of remote work

Technology has enabled us to work from anywhere, sparking a massive change in how and where people live as geographic proximity to work is no longer necessarily a requirement. Modern employees, powered by technology, can choose where to reside based on amenities, culture and the cost of living.

“ One day offices will be a thing of the past. But is the move towards flexible working too slow? ”

– Richard Branson

In 2013, a report by Gallup found that 39% of employees in the USA worked remotely; in 2016, the percentage had risen to 43%. Furthermore, half of the UK workforce is expected to work remotely by 2020. The telecommuting phenomenon, or working on the company’s premises part-time, appears to be growing; the HRM society found that 20% of companies offered it in 1996 whereas in 2016 this was up to 60%.

Advantages for employers

Remote working has clear advantages for companies. If employees are not required to work in an office, there is no need to rent an office, no need to necessarily buy and maintain computer equipment and pay for utilities. Thus, these savings can be reinvested in the business. Furthermore, organisations who don’t restrict themselves to certain geographic locations have access to a wider, more diverse talent pool.

Remote work is not only more convenient but also more effective

If you want to increase retention amongst your millennial employees, introduce remote working. Research from Totaljobs revealed remote working is in the top five most important considerations when looking for a new job and 45% of millennials would move jobs if they didn’t have the option of remote working. According to the research, 22% of employees prefer remote working because there are fewer distractions and 21% believe they are more productive overall when working from home.

One of the top ten productivity killers is working in the cubicle in the office. Furthermore, 77% of millennials believe that flexible working hours increase their productivity.

Co-working spaces

The rise of remote work can also be seen in the increased popularity of co-working spaces.  The increase in nontraditional work environments and the rise in remote working has altered the ways communities are forming.  Co-working spaces have opened up the possibility of forming relationships with a wide variety of people, perhaps individuals from completely different industries and backgrounds which can inspire employees to come up with creative solutions.

How to make remote work work

It can get quite lonely and you need to have the right mindset to be a remote worker.

A study by The Harvard Business review found that remote workers could feel disconnected from their colleagues if they are not managed effectively.

 What practices can managers do to facilitate productive working relationships with remote workers?

  • Keep in touch with the employees, check in with them frequently and consistently
  • Meet the employee face to face whenever possible. If in-person meetings are not possible, at a minimum utilize video conferencing.
  • Actively listen to the employees, and communicate trust and respect
  • Make expectations clear
  • No matter the time zone, always be available for the employees
  • Tailor the communication style and medium to the employees
  • Prioritise on building a relationship with the employee by checking up on them and asking them questions about their personal life.

Innovation requires trust

Remote work should not be considered an employee “perk” but rather it should be regarded as a workplace feature that enables employees to do great work. Companies should ditch the traditional concept of the office as creativity is not a time-bound skill and confining people to a certain location for a certain amount of time can hurt it.

People will stick around if their company has a culture of trust and flexibility, however, it’s up to the employer to create the environment in which they can thrive.

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