Remote Working: Overview
Our research focuses on the key challenges faced by employers and employees in a remote working environment, obstacles faced by employers when providing remote working facilities, strategies employed and investments made, and examples of companies that help organizations transition into remote work.
According to our findings, maintaining a work-life balance is the key challenge faced by remote workers while employers were most concerned about reduced productivity and focus. Resistance to change and company culture is the biggest obstacle faced by organizations in transitioning to remote work. Eagle Hill Consulting, Toptal, and Liberty Mind are examples of companies that help organizations in remote work related change management.
CHALLENGES OF REMOTE WORKING
Maintaining a Work-Life Balance
- Visual Capitalist has reported that according to a survey conducted by Buffer, "unplugging from work" or maintaining a proper work-life balance was the biggest challenge (22%) faced by remote workers.
- The article further states that due to the lack of clear-cut change in location and defined working hours, employees had more difficulties in dividing between their work time and personal time.
- The second biggest challenge faced by remote workers was loneliness (19%). The report from Buffer states that along with communication and collaboration, loneliness has remained among the top struggles of remote workers over the past three years.
- An article from Slack states that along with its advantages, remote work has the potential to isolate staff, which can have a significant impact on their performance and retention. Study findings show that 85% of workers want to feel closer to their remote colleagues and that detachment also affects their engagement.
Collaborating and Communication
- Communication and/or collaboration was another major issue according to 17% of survey respondents with the lack of in-person contact being a challenge for some employees.
- It was also found that a third of employees were concerned that the full extent of their professional efforts and contributions will not be appreciated by their managers due to the lack of in-office contact.
- Slack has reported on a study finding that shows that "84% of remote workers hide workplace concerns for a few days before informing higher-ups, and 47% admitted that they didn’t address issues for more than a week."
Reduced Employee Productivity and Focus
- The State of Remote Work report by Owl Labs shows that the two biggest concerns of employers of remote workers are reduced productivity (82%) and reduced focus (82%).
- It was also found that remote managers that receive training are 15% less likely to be concerned about these challenges compared to managers overall.
Lower Employee Engagement and Satisfaction
- Survey results show that the third biggest concern of employers was lower employee engagement and satisfaction (81%). According to Slack, disengaged workers cost the US economy up to $605 billion in lost productivity each year.
- The Harvard Business Review has reported that according to a survey by Virgin Pulse, two-thirds of remote workers aren't engaged and over a third never get any face time with their team.
- It also found that remote workers are much less likely to stay at a company long term. Only 5% see themselves working for the same place for their entire career compared to a third who never work remotely.
Concerns about Getting Work Done
- The report states that despite research which shows that employees choose to work remotely to improve productivity and focus, many mangers still worry about whether employees get their work done (80%).
- It further states that "what's more, these concerns are ignoring some of the other challenges remote workers are facing, such as feelings of loneliness and isolation."
IMPLEMENTING A REMOTE WORKFORCE
OBSTACLES FACED BY EMPLOYERS & STRATEGIES EMPLOYED
Changing a Long-standing, Non-flexible Working culture
- Visual Capitalist states that according to the IWS Global Workspace survey, the main business challenge faced by employers in shifting to flexible working is the resistance to change. The IWS report shows that globally, this has been reported by 60% of businesses.
- It further states that over 50% of companies didn't have remote/flexible working due to "longstanding company policy." Hence, the biggest barrier is in changing long-standing attitudes towards flexible working.
- Two out of five survey respondents have noted that there is further resistance due to the fear of how the company culture could be impacted and the lack of understanding about the benefits of remote working.
- According to Avanade, employers are addressing these concerns by implementing organizational change management strategies which include gaining awareness of what's changing and new ways of working to create a positive environment for workers, right-sizing communication and training, and evaluating the cultural and strategic impact of digitized workplace models.
- The second biggest obstacle faced by employers is ensuring that remote workers have access to all the technology required to work productively and securely.
- IWS has highlighted some of the key technology considerations made by employers when creating a remote working environment: issuing of hardware such as a company laptop or mobile phone (55%), access to secure printing and scanning facilities (45%), the need for greater data security for specific departments (41%), and site-to-site VPN requirements (41%).
- Avanade has highlighted that due to the pandemic, organizations were forced to speed up their processes and get employees to switch to "Microsoft Teams and other remote working technologies basically overnight with some very basic training and communications."
- SHRM has reported on survey findings which show that 94% of businesses were faced with technology problems while employees worked remotely. Some of the biggest issues included being "frequently disconnected from corporate networks, slow file downloads, poor quality of video meetings, and long response times when loading apps."
- Some of the strategies implemented by organizations include early warning systems that automatically monitor remote networks and applications and send early warning signals or reports of problems (e.g. Knoa Software).
Privacy and Data Security
- Another key issue is privacy and data security. 45% of employers have highlighted that concerns over the privacy of people and their belongings, information, and data has been an obstacle in shifting to flexible working.
- SHRM states that a PwC survey found that 61% of CIOs have seen an increase in cybersecurity risks due to the remote workers' use of non-enterprise devices and software, downloading unsecure apps, sharing work devices with family members, etc. The survey also found that there is a lack of proper training given to these employees on the dos and don'ts of protecting digital information and assets.
- Some of the solutions to such risks include implementing zero-trust security policies, use of adaptive multi-factor authentication, single sign-ons to reduce multiple passwords, and educating workers.
INVESTMENTS MADE BY EMPLOYERS FOR REMOTE WORKING
- IWS (2019) states that while 57% of remote workers have reported to having a fully equipped home office, only 28% have confirmed that their organizations have contributed to their set up costs.
- According to survey findings of Fortinet, 40% of employers spent more on skilled IT workers to enable security and productivity for employees working from home, and 32% invested further towards a business continuity plan.
- Nearly 60% of enterprises expect to spend more than $250,000 on secure telework investments in the next 24 months, the majority of surveyed organizations intend to make unplanned upgrades towards existing teleworking systems, and many plan to invest in new technologies.
- When it comes to providing office equipment for remote workers, organizations follow one of the following four methods: provide all necessary office equipment, including a laptop, phone, printer, chair, etc; provide only a laptop; provide a technology allowance for workers to buy their own equipment; or follow a "bring your own device" policy.
- Overall, there are five broad categories of tools that remote workers require to work effectively: mobile hardware tools (e.g. laptop, smartphone, internet access); virtual collaboration & communication tools (e.g Slack, Skype, GoToMeeting); project management tools (e.g Microsoft Teams, Basecamp); performance & employee engagement tools (e.g. Trackstar, Glint); and cybersecurity tools.
REMOTE WORKING CHANGE MANAGEMENT COMPANIES
Eagle Hill Consulting
- Website: link
- Eagle Hill Consulting specializes in change management for remote work. The company focuses on change, talent, strategy, and performance. According to its official website, the company provides team-based change, virtual change management, culture and performance, and workforce planning related solutions.
- The industries it serves include financial services, health and life sciences, public service, and technology, media and entertainment. The company has locations in Washington, D.C, Boston, and Seattle.
- Website: link
- According to its website, Toptal is the world’s largest fully remote company. It offers "customized solutions to companies of all sizes to help build and sustain a robust remote work environment."
- The company has two main offerings: people and operations (managing productivity, communication cadence, employee engagement, resource management, management training) Technology and tools (remote access capabilities, virtual & cloud infrastructure, remote tech project management process, IT solutions, security & access control)
- Website: link
- According to its website, Liberty Mind "helps businesses successfully launch remote and flexible working practices and helps business and people thrive together." The company is based in the UK.
- It provides solutions related to helping businesses decide on the best flexible working model, training employees, and provides guidance "through testing, trialling and launching your flexible working practice."
Soaring Fox Consulting
- Website: link
- Among other services, Soaring Fox Consulting provides solutions related to virtualization of management processes and states that "from remote working strategy to adaption of corporate values we offer hands on support guidance on your journey towards a new way or work and management." The company is based in Austria.
- Website: link
- Intergranet specializes in digital change management. According to its website, the company focuses on "redefining digital processes, tools and techniques required to achieve your next tier of goals."
- Among other services, Intergranet provides solutions related to "lead workplace transformations and change such as remote working and cloud based teams."