In the first part From our deep dive into remote working, we’ve looked at its growing popularity and the various benefits associated with it.
As another Christmas draws to a close, we start to think about going back to work. Returning to work in the office is a terrible idea for most, but it could be a lot better than staying or working from home for some. The reluctance to embrace the movement of tech giants like Facebook, and the withdrawal of the remote work policies of its trend-setters like Yahoo, should give anyone considering remote working a break.
Why IBM, which won nearly $ 2 billion by selling their office buildings after setting up telecommuting, bring their employees back to the office? Why would Google, which has one of the most progressive work cultures in the world, categorically reject telecommuting?
We took a deep dive into the world’s best workplaces to identify the pitfalls and serious drawbacks of remote working and why sometimes it is best to avoid. Flexible and remote working have occupied a central place in the debate on the future of work. While there is a lot to be gained, working remotely is not without serious side effects. You must beware!
Isolation comes at a worrying cost
In the previous article, I discussed the success of Nicholas Bloom’s 2-year remote work study. However, a significant number of subjects in the telecommuting control group requested to return to the office. The main reason? Solitude.
Solitude and insulation are the greatest reported concern among remote workers and its effects may extend beyond the individual. Some symptoms of isolation include increased stress levels and poor decision making. For an employer, these are worrying characteristics for someone with critical responsibility. Unfortunately, being isolated also means that these symptoms are difficult for employers to detect.
Rapid changes require rapid responses
Best Buy and Yahoo have both recalled their employees to the office over claims of better “impromptu collaboration” increasing productivity. Each faced criticism, internal and external, for their decision, and were subsequently seen as traitors to the movement and mutineers of the advance.
“At the end of the day, that’s ‘the whole practical bridge’ at Best Buy and that means having as many employees in the office as possible to collaborate and connect on ways to improve our business. ”
However, when a business is making rapid changes, it pays to have its employees physically close to enable instant meetings and communication that would require a quick response. Even with instant messaging services like Slack, communication issues are likely to occur that wouldn’t exist if a team member was sitting nearby.
Unfamiliar working environments increase vulnerability
As businesses grow and expand their customer base, the data employees own becomes increasingly sensitive. As a result, they are becoming increasingly vulnerable to cybercrime. This is a much more difficult threat to defend with a workforce located in networks and spaces they cannot control.
Google believes that putting employees under your own roof limits the possibilities of conspiracy, and they may be right. Facebook and Google are among the largest data collectors in the world, and while the risk of an employee browsing highly confidential data in the middle of a crowded cafe would worry most employers, for Google and Facebook it is catastrophic.
Lack of time to face creates a lack of opportunities
An employee, looking for a promotion, is not judged only on the quality of his work, but also on his leadership qualities, his positive attitude and his ability to collaborate with the team.
Without the right digital tools, employers might have a hard time making this character judge with remote workers, reducing the speed and likelihood of employees being assigned growth opportunities.
In the long run, this can cause significant damage to a company’s hierarchical structure. While the extended period of replacement of senior executives will cause delays in projects, the lack of interim supervision could also lead to a managerial crisis. For someone at the start of their career, this could slow their growth for several years.
The culture of remote work is new and difficult to adapt to
There are a few prerequisites for making remote working easier, such as having the right tools in place for collaboration and workload management, but the successful adoption of these tools across the enterprise is crucial. People used to working in office environments may find it difficult to adapt, making it more difficult to collaborate and work productively in remote environments.
While the points listed above should prompt caution, they shouldn’t put you off completely. All the mentioned disadvantages could be countered by the argument of its relevance to your workforce, your business and your technological capabilities.
If employers are reluctant to give an employee a progression due to a lack of physical presence, then maybe their promotion criteria are slightly superficial. In today’s world, AI and people analytics tools can now detect how people collaborate without needing to be physically present in the office.
Best Buy may have found something by talking about the benefits of spontaneous collaboration with people in the office, because since their remote workers recalled in 2013, they subsequently recovered from reduced sales to significant growth. However, other tech giants like Cisco and Salesforce who adopted the remote work out not only boast of record-breaking exercises, but also rank high in the Best Workplaces in the World 2019.
Remote working may be the future, but it is certainly not a decisive part of our present.
Failures due to lack of awareness or preparation are numerous, while successful implementations tend to be short-lived. Ultimately, the future of work is distributed, flexible and distant. But that future does not come until we resolve these issues that keep us from moving forward.
(Thanks to Dylan Fernando for his help with the content and research of this article)