There was a time when the most ambitious people had to demonstrate their talent and ambition not just by being great at what they do, but by being in the office for 50+ hours every week. The advent of social distancing alongside the rapid growth of the tech industry and remote working capabilities have seen the traditional 9-5 (8-8, or even 7-10) working model give way to something infinitely more flexible.
The rise of remote working
According to leading tech recruiter, Motion Recruitment “Remote work is a trend that isn’t going away. No longer bound by geography, IT [specialists] can work from anywhere in the world as long as they have access to the necessary technology and communication tools…” This means that the opportunities are almost limitless, not just for tech talent, but for organisations looking to fill tech jobs with skilled specialists from around the world.
Although remote working and flexible working models have been around for decades, the concept became mainstream when it was enforced in 2020; and it worked. Typically, remote working allows staff to work to a schedule that suits them and in an environment outside of a traditional setting; usually a home office or similar, provided that they have a secure internet connection and the tools that they need to do the job properly.
Improvements in technology, online workspaces and meeting facilities have evolved as hybrid and remote working have soared in popularity; this improvement as a result of rising demand has made remote working even more viable and attractive to employers and employees alike.
The benefits of remote working
The benefits of developing distributed teams are wide and varied. On a practical level, distributed teams can give organizations with a global reach the capacity to be operational and available 24/7, reaching global clients without expecting staff to work through the night, and achieving seamless handovers between time zones.
Remote working offers considerable savings in costs, too; employees don’t need to worry about expensive and stressful commutes, while employers can downsize their office space, in some cases halving capacity and overheads, while retaining an area that will accommodate the entire team if and when the need arises for department-wide office days.
The flexibility of remote working means that people for whom regular office working hours are not viable can now access the workspace. The benefit of this goes both ways, as highly sought-after talent outside of a commutable distance to the office become accessible to employers without having to offer additional benefits or a relocation package.
Perhaps the most significant benefit of remote working is the increased productivity of team members who thrive in a home working environment. Without hours spend by the water cooler discussing holiday plans, or the general distractions of office chitchat, malfunctioning printers or the informal investigation into who is using all of the milk (or who is leaving their milk in the fridge for weeks), many employees are infinitely more productive.
And it’s not just the lack of distractions that improve output; improved work-life balance and the elimination of spirit-breaking commuting hours means that employees are more motivated and less likely to burn out.
The downside of a distributed workforce
Although advancements in technology make it increasingly easier to manage a remote team, there are some disadvantages.
Different people thrive and survive in different environments, and for some, working from home involves a relentless cycle of trying to find motivation, procrastinating, doing the housework, staring at a screen, panicking, and trying again. Some people simply don’t know how to function in a home working environment, for a range of reasons. Some people are simply extroverts who gain their energy from outside sources; for some, home is not a happy or relaxed place; and for others, a complete change in environment including donning office wear and travelling to a different location are necessary in order for them to get into their “work persona”.
These issues are not insurmountable but in some cases they may be, so it is important that for valued staff members who want to work in the office, concessions are made to enable them to do so.
Another area that can be hard for organizations transitioning into hybrid or remote working is the team building aspect. Whilst it is true that the lack of office banter saves time and improves productivity, that same banter could be key to the development of trust and rapport between team members. Regular office days, online meetings and team building events can help to gain that relationship without a 9-5 office presence.
Tracking work and monitoring when a person is working is cited as one of the biggest challenges for many organizations considering (or resisting) remote or hybrid working. In a time when we assume that time in the office = time working, the expectation is often that a person should be physically at their desk for the equivalent length of time. This issue is easily surmountable with clear targets and expectations so that goals are met and quality work achieved.
Distributed workforces – the future?
There are clearly advantages and disadvantages for both office and home working, but on balance most organizations would agree that the advantages of a remote or hybrid working model far exceed the disadvantages. The opportunity to engage talent based on their experience and skills, unlimited by borders and location allows ambitious, forward-thinking organizations to build strong, agile teams for the future.