Most of us can wholeheartedly say we witnessed the tremendous shifts occurring in the organizational environment in these past decades.
Not too long ago, the market was shaped by a handful of large enterprises which had such strong sets of values that they could easily instill them in their employees. Since people have a natural thirst for meaning, these employees would gladly align themselves to the company goals, thus allowing them to fulfill their need to fight for a cause they truly believe in.
This happened naturally, enabling companies to thrive and build their multi-billion businesses on the loyalty of their dutiful and devoted employees.
However this landscape has changed dramatically over the years and now poses completely different challenges. What happened was that many of the companies which set up shop during the incredible boom from several decades ago eventually crumbled to pieces, taking down their employees with them.
As high as they’ve soared together with the company in its heyday, that’s how low these employees sunk when the same company eventually needed to file for bankruptcy or was absorbed by a larger, more successful one. It only makes sense that the disappointed employees’ trust inevitably eroded, making them less willing to embark on a similar journey ever again.
If that wasn’t enough, the ever-changing economy also has an important role to play in the way the workforce environment is shaped, making it now more fluid than ever. This means that changing your job every other year is no longer as frowned upon as it once used to be – on the contrary, it actually seems to be the norm for an overwhelming percentage of employees.
If people would once move together with their entire family to a different city in order to keep their job, the flow nowadays is actually reversed. A great number of people will give up their job for a myriad of reasons: they may want better pay, greater opportunities for professional development or even less commuting distance.
Another reason that makes employees leave their job without even flinching and that is perhaps the most influential of today’s workforce environment is the lack of flexibility in the workspace.
The traditional 9-to-5 model is losing more and more ground in favor of more flexible work hours and the possibility to work remotely. Employees now expect to be given a relative freedom when it comes to the way they carry out their assigned tasks – be it less rigidity concerning work hours or working from home altogether, according to their own schedule.
This is why it’s safe to say the tables have turned – companies are basically coerced into offering what the employee needs. Otherwise they risk losing them to another company that can offer these coveted perks.
As with any other radical shift in the way things are carried out, this transition is both cumbersome and delicate. In order for both companies and employees to better adapt to this new environment, they need to redirect their resources and skills in a manner that makes the most out of this novel work arrangement type.
In other words, in 2018 the key focus should be placed on finding ways to boost productivity and collaboration.
To this end, this article will address the subject of freelancing and working remotely together with its challenges and perks. We will also provide tips and guidelines that you can follow, regardless if you are an employee or a company looking to improve collaboration in the coming years.
As we mentioned before, today’s work culture revolves more around the employee than ever. It’s not that companies need to groom their employees, but when it comes down to it, they do need to be responsive to their demands in order to make sure they retain the most valuable talents on the market. It’s true that millennials were the ones who started asking for more than was offered by default, but it is also true that this phenomenon has now extended to people of all ages and backgrounds. Flexibility is so sought after that some employees would actually rather give up better paid jobs in return for the possibility to coordinate their own work schedules.
However it’s not all about the flexibility to work at odd hours and from the comfort of your own home. Studies on remote employees also show that the financial factor tends to heavily weigh in. For example, an employee that no longer has to come to the office day in, day out will most likely save money on things like eating out and even expensive office attire. To top this off, a survey shows that a lack of work flexibility have determined 62% employees to leave or to consider leaving their jobs. This clearly proves that companies can actually count on employees sticking around for longer if they provide them with the space and freedom they need.
This is a subject that has long been debated by many: is it better for an employee to work from home or, on the contrary, does it stifle their productivity by introducing more distractions?
Although the issue raises valid concerns, it’s best to look at it from a different perspective. Today’s employees place such great emphasis on the possibility of working remotely that they will pay you back by putting in the hours and doing everything they can to stay on top of the game and make this arrangement work.
Besides remote employees also value not having their boss constantly hovering the premises, which can often put a damper on productivity. When at home, there is no such pressure and work can flow more smoothly. Let’s not forget that stay-at-home employees also get the benefit of taking as much breaks as they need to, doing the things that actually help them clear their mind and get back in the game. At home they can always pet their dog or break for 20 minutes to watch that comedy skit they’ve been meaning to without having a co-worker look suspiciously at them.
By having more remote employees, companies can definitely expand their business without breaking the bank. There are so many costs associated with accommodating employees, that most companies are better off granting them the liberty they need.
Take for example the costs associated with renting or buying an office. The higher the number of on-premise employees you have, the greater the office area needs to be and together with it, the greater the costs to get it and actually maintain it. Think about it. Offices need plenty of furniture and amenities such as top-notch lighting and heating or ventilation systems. Top that off with powerful computer systems, office supplies and utility bills and you find yourself hemorrhaging money that could otherwise be spent on business development.
No matter how many ping pong tables an office has, it still remains an office and a work space where people are forced to interact with other people they almost hardly know in order to create a relatively pleasant work atmosphere.
Employees tend to invest a lot of energy and resources by focusing on their work environments and making this office arrangement work. If not for the relationships that need to be groomed to a decent level of human interaction, there will always be the pressure of having to seem like you’re working. More often than not, faking work can be more exhaustive than actually doing the work itself. When at home, employees can work precisely when their juices are flowing and they’re feeling at their most productive, leaving for the uninspired moments to be filled with pleasant and constructive breaks.
Remote workers, otherwise known as telecommuters, have a handful of qualities that set them apart from regular office workers. Those who willingly choose to work remotely have a greater degree of discipline and have more varied communication methods. To top it off, they probably already have or will probably acquire terrific time management skills by working remotely and having to set their own schedule.
But perhaps the most valuable of their attributes is that remote employees are always more willing to learn and better themselves, eventually gaining more skills than employees who come to the office every day. Collected data on freelancers also show that they typically invest more in training sessions and skill-enhancement classes than your usual office worker.
As the above-mentioned observations point out, it’s safe to say that remote working is not just a fad that the world is going through. On the contrary, it’s a shift in mentality that holds great potential both for companies to save more money and work with better-prepared and more motivated employees, as well as for workers to have the flexibility of schedule they need to work more efficiently and achieve greater satisfaction.
However, as any other great transition does, moving from a preponderantly office-based workforce to a more fluid and remote one comes with a great deal of challenges that were never before encountered. Below we will look at what these obstacles are and we will go through some ways on how to overcome them, regardless if you are looking to establish a team of remote workers or are part of one yourself. More importantly of all, both parties need to focus on boosting productivity through this type of collaboration.
It is precisely the rapid evolution of technology that leads to such great transformations in the way businesses operate and people work. Companies nowadays have a myriad of technological tools they can rely on in order to facilitate communication with their remote teams.
Take for example, those necessary weekly meetings or those impromptu round ups that you used to organize in your conference room. Thankfully now there are powerful video conferencing tools that can get your ideas across even to members from international locations. This also works vice versa, enabling your employees to ask for additional information on any projects they’ve hit a wall with or suggest new approaches. Video conferencing is as efficient as traditional conferencing, if you leverage it right.
Apart from video-conferencing tools, there are also other online collaboration tools that can help you stay engaged and informed. Take for example Slack and Chanty, where members can both have private conversations or part-take in public ones.
On this note, another struggle for those working with remote teams is related to project management itself. But once more, technology saves the day with special tools, such as Basecamp and Asana, that are specifically made so that companies can successfully run their business from anywhere across the globe. They can monitor all work in progress, delegate new tasks and set deadlines. There are also real-time notifications for both you and your employees so you can make sure that everything is up-to-date and is not lagging behind.
Last, but not least, let’s not forget about the ubiquitous file-sharing tools like Dropbox, Google Drive or OneDrive which help you share files with your teams and store them for the long-haul.
When operating as part of a remote team, employees are at risk of feeling a bit disconnected from the company or lack the affinity towards the group that is so necessary for great communication. This is where you need to intervene, by striving to build and maintain a sturdy company culture that everyone can feel they are a part of.
In order to do this, you need to ensure that you have established a clear set of goals for each employee, while also offering them access to the right tools to help them better tackle their problems. Also, by using the platforms we mentioned before, your employees will benefit a direct line of communication that will make them feel more like they belong to the group.
On top of that, there is also the emotional support factor to consider. Since remote workers are physically detached from their peers and managers, communication tends to primarily rely on emails and other written means of relating. This can all too often feel cold and impersonal, but if you balance it with regular video calls and telephone calls, you can surely count on more satisfied and fulfilled employees.
It’s been said and proven time and time again – employees don’t need you to be a boss, they ultimately need you to be a leader they can follow. That means that you shouldn’t get caught up in work-related activities and talks only, but that you should also remember to have a more personal approach when interacting with your employees.
Leaders will always remember that the people working in their company are so much more than simple employees. At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that your employees are not only there to mindlessly carry out the tasks you give them, but on the contrary they have their own interests and aspirations, as well as their own career paths to focus on. The job that brought them to you may be one of the many on their way to their dream career.
This is why you need to make a mental note that reminds you to build a rapport with each and every one of your employees. Take the opportunity to get to know more about them, what they like doing in their free time and what they are striving for. After all, you never know when you’re going to discover any hidden strengths that can be incorporated into the job, both to your satisfaction and the employees as well.
If are interested in boosting your productivity when managing remote teams, this is definitely one of the most important steps you need to take in order to hold it all together.
The tendency is usually to communicate solely through emails, regardless if you are looking to set out new tasks and deadlines, make annotations and so on. A management system clears up the mess and helps you reach the information you need fast and hassle-free.
On the other hand, as a remote employee you’ll also face your own roadblocks that threaten to put a damper on productivity. Working remotely, without having any external pressure and guidance, means that you can always get easily distracted and sidetracked from what you need to do.
Below are some tips on how to make the best of this work arrangement and be at your most productive levels.
Even though you’ve probably chosen this path precisely for its flexibility option, this may be the very thing that prevents you from achieving maximum productivity.
They say that building a new habit only takes 21 days of repeating the action you want to turn into a steadfast element of your life. To this end, make sure that you start work each day at about the same time, break for lunch with no considerable hour variations in between work days and ultimately, try to contain your work within the timeframe you assigned for yourself. Knowing when to stop working is one of the most important lessons a freelancer or remote worker needs to learn.
When working remotely your boundaries are all out of whack. You won’t know when to stop working, when to close that Youtube window and when to really put in the extra hours. It’s a fine balancing act that you need to get accustomed to and this only happens in time, after you get the hang of it.
This is why it’s important to be patient with yourself as you practice this new lifestyle. It’s also advisable that you give yourself the time you need to unwind, to go out for a walk and read a book even if it’s in the middle of the day. Procrastination has always had a bad reputation, but if you are balanced about your intermissions, it can actually be the right ingredient to put you back on the creative track.
You may not find this suggestion so delightful, but it has proved to be the more beneficial option for many remote workers – get up early. Try to adjust to this new self-imposed schedule and you might just notice that your headspace is clearer in the early a.m..
What’s more, there are fewer distractions in the morning and you’ll feel the general work atmosphere in the air, even though you are physically detached from a work environment. Before you know it, you’ll have done most of the work you intended to and there’s still time to go out to catch a movie or meet up with friends.
As difficult as it may be, you will need to be firm with your loved ones whenever they ask you to go out or chat during your golden work hours. This does tend to happen since those looking in from the outside at your remote job have the feeling it’s nothing too serious.
These are boundaries that you need to set both with yourself and your loved ones. Regardless if it’s your friends or family who keeps wanting to have you available at any time, it’s vital to remind them that you also have a time frame during which you are off-limits. After all, being your own boss means setting the rules according to your personal needs and preferences.
At the end of the day, what’s certain is that times are changing and they are changing fast. In order to not lag behind, you need to find ways to quickly adapt, regardless if you are a company and have employees who are working remotely or if you are one of these employees trying to make it on their own terms. Whatever it is, these are some tips and best practices that have already been successfully tried by others in similar positions.
About the Author:
Philip Piletic focuses primarily on the fusion of technology, small business, and marketing. He is an editor, writer, marketing consultant and guest author at several authority websites. In love with startups, latest tech trends and helping others get their ideas off the ground. Philip would like to thank Stripo for helping with this article.