Does Your Organization Even Need an Office?

Image: Does Your Organization Even Need an Office?

Remote Employees: Are They Right for Your Organization?

I recently shared a story on my Twitter account about organizations that have moved from traditional office environments to an arrangement that features primarily remote employees and virtual workspaces. Some of these organizations have even shut down their offices entirely and moved to 100% remote work. This not only saves the organization money in real estate/ rental costs, but this strategy often makes team members happy due to the flexible schedules that it provides.

According to Flexjobs, a remote job search website, the number of completely remote organizations has been increasing, but the numbers themselves are still very small. In 2016, the site found 125 organizations around the world that are mostly or completely virtual, up from 25 such organizations in 2014.

While it’s highly unlikely that your organization can go completely virtual, it doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from having some team members work remotely and leveraging the positive outcomes.

What You Need to Consider About Remote Employees

There are several considerations that you need to take into account regarding remote work, whether you’re planning on hiring new remote employees or allowing existing team members to work remotely.

  • Employee Personality Fit
    • Organizational behaviouralists and researchers at Work Evohlutation have created an empirically-based personality assessment that identifies the alignment of an employee’s personality traits with the requirements of working successfully in a remove environment.
    • Not all employees will be a natural fit to work remotely, therefore it’s important to understand who will excel in this type of environment and who may require additional support.
    • When recruiting team members, it’s important to identify how successful they will be against several criteria, including job performance, engagement and work-life balance.
  • Managing Deadlines & Expectations
    • Some leaders find it difficult to manage their teams when they’re working remotely. When someone is working in the same physical office for eight hours a day, it’s easy to keep an eye on them and check on their progress. However, when someone is working in a different location, you’ll need to use different management tactics to stay connected and measure performance.
    • It’s important that you set clear expectations with your team so that everyone understands project goals and how progress will be measured. The use of video chat, online project management tools, regularly touch base conversations and a environment of trust are all critical to ensure performance standards are met by virtual team members.
  • Communication
    • Sometimes it can be difficult to connect with remote employees, especially if they work in different time zones. This isn’t just a potential challenge for leaders, but for colleagues as well. When one person can’t walk over to colleague’s desk and ask a question, overall communication in the organization can be affected. That’s why it’s important that leaders establish a team communication protocol, which identifies the best medium and mechanism for how the team should share information.
    • Building communication practices that take into consideration time zone differences, communication style preferences and the best way to engage all team members in team and small group discussion is a must have for success.
    • You may also need to take customer service communication into account. If you have team members who need to be available to speak with clients during certain hours, it’s important that you establish these requirements clearly. It may not be possible for customer service teams to work remotely, depending on the nature of your business.
  • Engagement and Morale
    • Remote team members can sometimes feel isolated and disconnected from the rest of the team. They don’t benefit from the same ‘water cooler’ chat, the energy buzz in an office and casual after work get-togethers. Therefore, it’s crucial that leaders come up with ways to make remote workers feel like part of the team by hosting virtual jam sessions and fun online team events.
    • Before you decide to have some employees work remotely, think about the culture of your organization and how you can maintain this culture and attempt to re-create it in a remote environment.
    • As with any organization change, success is dependent on strong leadership that is transparent, supportive and communicates openly.

If you are considering offering remote work, you’ll need full leadership buy-in and a clear strategy on how to deal with any potential challenges. This is a growing trend and increasingly so organizations are embracing this new world of work. However, it’s not the right fit for every type of organization.

Look at your business critically and determine if and where remote work is possible.  Then do an analysis of the benefits of offering this type of work and how the organization, department and employees will profit from it. Offering remote work or virtual workspaces can help you attract new talent, especially by broadening the labour pool you can draw from, and retain those who already work with you. Just because your current work environment is “how we’ve always worked,” it doesn’t mean your organization shouldn’t consider potential new work scenarios.

An organization that changes and adapts to a shifting marketplace is much more likely to have long-term success than one that remains ridged. You may just find that you don’t need an office (or can get by with a much smaller one), to be able to engage and service your customer and your employees.

Giselle Kovary

As president and co-founder of n-gen People Performance Inc., Giselle is dedicated to building strategies and programs that target, motivate and engage a multigenerational workforce. She is a sought after resource to industry leaders, having worked with 18 of the top Fortune 500 companies. Over 60,000 people globally have experienced an n-gen workshop or presentation. She has devoted more than fifteen years to researching the impact that generational differences have on organizational performance. Giselle has co-authored two books: Loyalty Unplugged: How to Get, Keep & Grow All Four Generations and Upgrade Now: 9 Advanced Leadership Skills. She has a Master’s degree in communication studies from the University of Windsor.

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