It is undeniable that COVID-19 and resulting stay-at-home orders
have caused a shake up in the way we approach our working and personal lives. Many businesses have been forced to shift to remote work being the norm in their day to day operations.  Not every job can be done from home, but for those that can,
should remote
work continue to be an option?  

According to a survey conducted by MIT in early April, 

  • 34.1% of employees report they were commuting and are now working from home. 
  • 14.6% reporting they were already working from home pre-COVID-19. 
  • 11.8% report being laid-off or furloughed in the last 4 weeks.  

This suggests nearly half the workforce is now working from home!  

Surprisingly, many businesses who have been forced into this new
remote workforce model, have discovered it may be a very viable approach to their workforce strategy moving forward.  

Even as restrictions are lifted and businesses begin to open, there is still an uncertainty as to what “returning to the NEW normal” will actually look like.  

 

Telecommuting, work from home, flex work.  Is it all the same?

Sort of.  Remote work is more of a blanket term for remote work options.  Remote work simply means options of getting your work done from anywhere without actually having to commute into the office.  

Telecommuting for example, is electronically completing your work from anywhere you choose.  For some, this can be a café, restaurant, even while traveling or living out of state or abroad.

Work from home, means just that. You work from home.  Some people love the flexibility of working from their living room or home office where you can complete your work in the privacy of your home, where you can create your ideal work environment, and for some, without ever having to change out of your PJ’s! 

Are flex work and remote work the same?

The term remote work references location; where you are getting your work done.  Flex work or flexible hours, references to the ability to manage your schedule.  It’s worth noting not all flex jobs are remote and not all remote jobs are flex! Skillcrush breaks it down into 5 helpful categories:

Alternative Work Schedule – Your work can be done outside the
typical 9-5.  You will still complete your 40-hour work-week, for example, but you determine when that works best for you and your own schedule.

Working Remotely – You determine where, but the when can still be determined by the needs of your company.  While this option provides geographical flexibility, your work hours may still fall within the company’s set daily work times.

Compressed work schedule – Frontloading your work hours to allow
a day off.  If you are able to work 9-10 hours, four days a week, this option could allow for a 3-day weekend every week!

Work from home days – This option incorporates some approved remote work days and can be a great option for long commuters to take a day off the road.

Workcation – A vacation mixed with work.  It’s not for everyone, but if you are able to balance all the responsibilities of a work day with your vacation, this option allows for people to take a break from the office environment and turn their travel destination into their workspace. 

Is it right for me?

For employees, an important consideration for pursuing remote work
options is exploring the skills and requirements to complete work outside of the offic
e.  Some considerations should include:

  • How self-motivated are you?
  • What challenges or distractions exist that could hinder productivity?
  • Are you able to create a functional workspace?
  • How much do you like or need the actual face to face interaction with colleagues and peers that can be lacking in a remote work setup?

Flexibility has pros and cons, but if you are able to balance the
challenges with the perks, then remote work can definitely be a viable option to pursue.

Is it right for my company?

According to Katherine Mangu-Ward, for Politico Magazine, “COVID-19 will sweep away many of the artificial barriers to moving more of our lives online…and while not every job can be done remotely, many people are learning the difference between having to
put on a tie and commute for an hour or working efficiently at home was always just the ability to download one or two apps plus permission from their boss.  Once companies sort out their remote work dance steps, it will be harder—and more expensive—to deny employees these options.”

This pandemic has forced companies to speed up and streamline their technological capabilities, showing that remote work can be a possible, viable approach and one that employers will have to consider for purposes of employee satisfaction and business continuity should another pandemic or disaster occur.  Among some of the remote work challenges companies face is the ability to manage employees when you everyone is geographically separated.  In our Wejungo blog, Guide to Managing A Remote Workforce, we share the following helpful tips: 

  • Trust the people you hire and drive accountability.  Ensure a high level of communication at the beginning by putting in the face to face meeting time and phone calls necessary to make your team feel cared for and engaged.  Remind your team that the freedom and autonomy from flexible work arrangements depends on remaining accountable to their team and the company mission. Set clear expectations and avoid misunderstandings.
  • Establish rules of engagement and a common team language.  Set clear expectations for frequency, means, and ideal timing of communication for their teams — and as a result, find ways to boost performance in their high potential employees. Setting a collective language for your team will help them navigate breakdowns in communication. Having a common team language will help your remote team members get comfortable with learning from failure, identifying challenges, and being solutions-oriented rather than dwelling on the problem.
  • Create opportunities for collaboration which will ensure more team building, strengthen productivity, streamline work and allow
    for effective communication.

Remote work and flex opportunities are not one size fits all for employees or companies, yet for many companies and their employees in this “new normal” it seems to work out well and will forever change the way we work and do business.