The stigma surrounding working from one’s basement needs to be eradicated and instead recognized as a benefit and privilege. Hands down there are more advantages to a flexible and mobile work set-up for “office work” than disadvantages. Of course there are plenty of jobs where a person is required to be at a particular location at a particular time, such as storefront businesses, schools, hospitals… but for those of us who work desk-jobs, it’s time to change the paradigm.
Those of us lucky enough to be middle class in western society where most of our needs are met, according to Maslow are becoming less interested in increasing our incomes and more interested in satisfying our values. People are spending their time and money on improving lifestyle and collecting experiences rather than on stuff. So, instead of motivating your team with monetary rewards or health benefits (which are expected standards these days), motivate them with flexible working arrangements. This is especially important to note as millennials take to the workforce. Millennials are the least engaged population in the workforce and the majority who were polled said that flexibility and work-life balance were significant motivating factors.
Another poorly engaged segment of the workforce is women, and for a lot of the same reasons as the millennials. Businesses are losing out on intellectual captial because women leave the workforce often to become the primary caregivers of their children. If flexible work options were more available, including part-time professional work, there would be less of a brain-drain for businesses.
Flexible, mobile work options for those approaching retirement would also potentially keep people with extensive experience in your business without having to take a hit on the bottom line. Because life expectancy and quality of life has extended significantly, people are less interested in retiring at 60 or 65 so why not keep them engaged and mentoring the younger generations?
Even though it’s more common to have remote teams, there are still a lot of perceived challenges. I’m going to debunk those notions with solutions that can help you grow your business and improve your intellectual capital…
- Challenge: Out of sight, out of mind. When I created the education website for the organizing committee of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic & Paralympic Winter Games our budget was only 1% of the entire Games budget, and therefore very low on the priority list for internal services. By being on-site, I was able to build relationships with the various teams that I needed to help get the work done.
- Solution: Social media and team-based tools such as Slack help to create relationships and stay top-of-mind. Coming together in-person on a quarterly basis will help to bridge any gaps. This has to be taken on as a priority for your business because tools are only good if you use them.
- Challenge: Access to a great Internet connection.
- Solution: With cellular data getting faster and cheaper, this is becoming almost meaningless. Paying for a big data bill is worth it for the freedom.
- Challenge: Sometimes it’s easier to just turn to the person next to you or pop by your employees desk and discuss something rather than writing an email.
- Solution: By having the team on Slack whenever they’re working, quick conversations can happen. If necessary, the next step could be a video or voice call. With Slack open, you know the person is “at their desk” and therefore in your line-of-sight.
- Challenge: Lack of social engagement from working at home alone.
- Solution: Again, Slack is a great way to stay connected with your team, especially if you use a “random” channel or “watercooler” channel. Unlikely friendships may even form. Also, getting out into the community around you by working at coffee shops, parks, beaches, co-working spaces, temporary office spaces can also help.
- Challenge: Lack of discipline or productivity or being heavily distracted.
- Solution: See solution above. I’ve also found that I work more productively and even longer when working remotely. In fact, it’s sometimes a challenge to shut work off! When working in an office environment, especially the open concept that’s so popular these days, the distractions and productivity drains were much worse.
Working remotely also comes with a pile of other benefits. Here’s a list of what I’ve experienced from being able to work wherever I want:
- Creative inspiration – changing location can change your perspective and help you unlock that great new idea.
- Diversity of thought – talking with different people rather than always being around the same team helps to provide new points of view which is always a benefit.
- Flexibility – a consistently timed work day doesn’t often work in my business where things are often time-sensitive and deadline-driven. Being able to put the hours in when needed then take a break when things are slow has improved efficiency and productivity.
Share your thoughts on the pros and cons of remote work on our social channels @antennasocial.