8 months ago, we were told to absorb what we would typically do in a communal office space into our comfortable homes. I think most of us can say that, we don’t REALLY need to be together in the same space to be doing our work. We can perform well under a dispersed arrangement.
Now, how about taking it a notch up? Have you thought about working from anywhere? Can we actually work from ANYWHERE?
Why should we be thinking about working from anywhere?
Well there are many reasons.
First, because the norm is to work in a dispersed environment.
Now, answer this. How often do you work with someone who is living timezones away?
The Xrosswork team and I work very closely with our international clients, who also work with offshore teams themselves. You get the point.
Increasingly, companies are relying on a geographically dispersed workforce to succeed in the global economy.
Organisations bring people from many cultures and disciplines together. Along with their varied work experiences and fresh perspectives to bring out the best solutions. That’s how companies, and especially, multinational businesses thrive by combining the best of “both” or more worlds.
Of course, that’s all thanks to the advent of the internet, connectivity, and other communication tools for allowing us to stay connected.
It is now the norm to work APART.
Second, 'work from home' is here to stay and 'work from anywhere' is on its way.
As well, McKinsey researched how people feel about working from home and it has been largely positive.
With 80% reported that they enjoy working from home, and are likely to continue working remotely even after the pandemic. As a result, leaders can face consequences if they don’t have a long-term WFH strategy in place.
On top of that, many companies are already making a move on their work-from-home situation after adjusting to remote work this year.
For instance, Tata Consultancy Services has announced a plan to be 75% remote by 2025. In the process, it will adopt a 25/25 model. That is, its employees will spend only 25% of their working hours in the office, and no more than 25% of workers colocated.
As well, GitHub embraces similar practices. With remote workers across functions such as sales, engineering, marketing, and HR. They are coping 1300 people across 60 countries. That’s a lot of time zones to cope with if you ask me.
In addition, companies such as Facebook, Twitter, Siemens, and the State Bank of India have announced that they will make remote work permanent even after the availability of a vaccine.
Undoubtedly, the pandemic has opened senior leaders’ minds to the idea of adopting working from anywhere for all or part of their workforces.
Third, it carries many benefits.
WFA can reverse the brain drain issue!
The brain drain phenomenon describes where human capital moves from a less developed country to a more developed country, leaving a global talent shortage.
However, the work-from-home program allows borderless workspaces to emerge, where talents can save the disposition. Imagine what a work-from-anywhere program can do!
Every project is staffed by employees with the right skills, no matter where they are. This actually allow the organization to expand a potential talent pool to include workers previously tied to their location within the company!
A workplace where opportunities are distributed based on meritocracy. That’s the kind of workplace that we are aiming to create at Xrosswork.
WFA boosts performance, too.
A 2015 study found that when call-center employees were shifted to work-from-home, their productivity increased by an average of 13%! Plus, productivity data from a WFA program at the U.S. Patent & Trade Office also shows a 4.4% increased output.
Without deterioration in their quality of work, WFA can do wonder to independent work.
It helps attract new blood to the organisation & lower one’s cost of living.
Particularly, millennials are captivated by how WFA would allow them to become “digital nomads”. That is, they are location-independent and are empowered by technology, so that they can travel the world while still being employed.
Better yet, you can save just as much. Imagine, being able to pay less rent, but still able to work in a top-notch firm in the middle of the city. The best part? No lengthy commute just to make it back to the office and home each day.
You can focus on both your family-life and work-life.
With higher geographic flexibility, a WFA employee can choose to pick the kids up or to take care of older parents to suit their needs.
For example, for some of the female employees that Choudhury interviewed, remote working actually helped them to delegate housework. As one explained, “Working remotely has allowed me to spread out the household work, get extra sleep, and be more productive.”
The list goes on and on and on. That’s why you and leaders should start thinking about it, if not preparing the organisation for WFA, now.
So, what is needed for WFA?
You see. Before you curate strategies for the organisation’s prolonged remote work, you have to put it in perspective, and think about what you are looking to achieve.
That is, you need to envision the “workforce system” before turning working from home a reality. It is not simply a switch. Rather, it is a lengthy process to balance the interdependencies before implementing the working from anywhere arrangement.
We have to prepare the people-side of things with the tech-side of things.
You must have the technologies to facilitate collaboration, high productivity, engagement, the ease to find each other when everyone is scattered across the state/country/world.
Remember, distributed colleagues cannot tap one another on the shoulder to ask questions or to get help.
So the tech-side of things must be capable to connect people to where they are meant to be, and where they can help.
Rethink how we are bringing people together.
Leaders will also need to have the resources to enable a truly WFA culture, policies, and practices. For instance, things like office design (especially post-pandemic), hot-desking, talent development, and engagement, compensation should be top on your list.
Also, you should be questioning the leaders this:
How can you continuously build and enhance the culture and values across the dispersed and remote teams?
And we are leaving no one behind.
Yet, we must not forget about the potential downsides of isolation – both social and professional.
Without the in-person check-ins, managers may miss signs of burnout or team dysfunctions – especially for introverts – who may find zoom calls overwhelming. Therefore, just before you get too excited and push for WFA in your organisation, all leaders must be aligned and are capacitated to provide that support too.
Okay, now we are back to reality land. WFA – yay or nay?
Of course, for all of this to be developed and managed in the right way, this must be an organisational effort and not rushed in any way.
Leaders must lead by example.
Professor of Business Administration at the HBS, Prithwiraj Choudhury says that management is key.
You need more than ONE C-suite executive to be onboard. Efforts must be aligned across HR, Digital Transformation, Culture, Productivity, Innovation, and Operations.
As we close for 2020, reflect on your learnings from WFH.
Make the necessary pivots for a better start to 2021.
Start preparing for the ‘working from anywhere’ norm before it gets too late.
Is your organisation up for working from anywhere?
If you enjoyed what you read, here are more tips on workforce management and how to engage employees! You can also subscribe for updates.