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The future of work doesn’t depend on location

What was once a sci-fi scenario is fastly becoming reality: one thing most of us were already talking about before Covid-19 was the future of our work and work culture. While some of us were suspicious about the potential shortcomings of remote team collaboration and remote communication, others thought it could be an even better way to work.

Although it is hard to believe that location-free options for working and sustaining a remote work culture became relevant so fast, it is easy to foresee that in the upcoming years remote work or telecommuting, as it was once called, is likely to gain popularity among professionals working in various sectors.

So what does remote work mean? More importantly, how can one build a strong team at work when everybody is at home? If you are curious about the answers to these questions, we strongly suggest that you keep reading!

The history of remote work

Remote work actually goes way back as a concept. The idea of it was coined as telecommuting (sometimes also called teleworking or e-working) back in 1973, by Jack Nilles, a former NASA engineer. While the term seems self-explanatory for us today, it is still a good idea to take a better look at it and clarify the definition of telecommuting.

The definition of telecommuting

Telecommuting means organizing a job, a set of tasks or any other professional operation in such a way that the professionals don’t need to be present at an office. We can hear you saying ‘But wait a second–where is the ‘commuting’ part?’ In this context, what is meant by commuting is utilizing digital means such as emails, video calls and chatting in order to facilitate the entire operation from afar.

We can easily say that for thousands of employees in multiple sectors, the essence of telecommuting still is the backbone of both remote work and building a team culture while the employees are not gathered in a single space. Additionally, both for employees and for employers, location independence can actually be much more budget-friendly than we think.

Working remotely could save the US over $700 billion a year and much more

We all know multiple colleagues, friends or business contacts who started opting for a coworking space over a conventional office space. The reality is that turning to options, more viable and feasible than traditional offices, such as coworking spaces is a growing trend.

A recent study conducted in the US predicted that $700 billion can be saved nationwide in case professionals whose jobs are transferable to telecommuting methods actually switch their mode of work. Under the conditions of such an arrangement, savings are predicted to be made in all types of fields: transportation, energy, real estate, healthcare, and many more.

The state of work today: advantages and challenges of the remote reality

The same study that we talked about above also makes us realize a crucial fact. Over 50% of the workforce in the US alone already holds a job in which it is possible to switch to remote working.

What this means is that telecommuting is very likely to become the primary way of working for millions of people all around the world. But what are the advantages and challenges of working remotely? What does remote work mean in terms of building a team culture and maintaining a positive workplace?

Greater flexibility

We all recall the things that stressed us about our past or present nine to five office jobs. For some of us, it is the traffic jam or the office hours, for others such as parents, it is the hustle and bustle between home, work, and daycare center.

Being more flexible and not having to worry about things such as office hours, commuting, school schedule of children and a dress code are probably among the first things that come to our mind as positive aspects of working remotely. After all, it is quite true that some factors that we need to take into consideration while working at an office become no longer relevant when we work remotely.

Less human touch

Just like everything in life, telecommuting comes with some downturns. One of the most formidable challenges of working in a location-independent manner is probably the emotional one. At the end of the day, as social beings, the vast majority of us feel the necessity to be in close proximity to others. Having to deal with stress and workload alone with no opportunity to chit-chat with someone physically on a coffee break can reasonably be hard for some.  This can easily be managed by organizing regular virtual coffee breaks or icebreaker activities for team members to just come together to chat and connect outside work-related agendas.

Multiple cost savings

Before, there were all these expensive bills to pay: bills of water, gas, internet and electricity, expenditures of personal or collective transportation, childcare, costs of food and clothing. The list goes on and on, but is it possible that the situation is slowly changing and improving due to working remotely?

Whether we are talking about transportation costs, costs of energy or any other type of costs, it is legitimate to say that working remotely can help you save money in ways you couldn’t do before. The most important expense items that companies as well as employees get to save up on are commuting, clothes, costs of food, and energy costs.

New approaches to employee loyalty and engagement

Remember we talked about the emotional challenges employees face as they needed the company of other humans? A similar topic, concerning working with people with whom you have daily, face-to-face contact comes up when we also talk about employee loyalty and engagement.

Intuitively, we can say that working remotely poses a challenge in creating an ideal work culture and environment. It is only natural that telecommuting for a considerable period of time may give us the wrong impression that we are working on our own, for ourselves. But this does not necessarily have to be true. With small adjustments and arrangements, a strong remote work culture can be built, and the social and emotional needs of employees can be accommodated.

How to create a remote work culture

Some major aspects being discussed, we can now dive into the subject of creating and sustaining a remote work culture that will not only help everyone in the long run, but also provide the necessary motivation and drive to go on working remotely for extended periods of time.

Bringing teams together in new ways

One way to create a healthy atmosphere and a positive workplace is to find new and creative ways to bring the members of the same team or different teams together. Bringing teams together is a great way to prevent employees from feeling isolated and forgotten. But what are the ways to forge such connections?

Movie nights, informal online meetings, networking events or other activities–you name it! Responding to global challenges, casual meetings (both for fun and professional reasons) can be online or hybrid. Some of the prior methods of socializing in offices can easily be adapted to the context of remote work.

Driving connection

Ensuring a permanent and continuous pattern of connection among the members of a remote team will prevent many problems arising out of miscommunication.

Thanks to the perks of the digital age, being connected (and remaining connected) doesn’t take too much effort. It is possible to say that employees feel much more included and more of a team when effective communication is sustained.

Emphasizing purpose

What are the goals of your company or startup–what are its short, mid and long term goals? What do you expect from your remote team? First of all these questions, and many others of a similar kind need to be answered in order to have a clear set of purposes.

Whether you are an employer, supervisor, investor or manager, once you have a clear purpose you can transmit and emphasize it effectively to your remote team. Emphasizing your mission is especially helpful when team members show tendencies to lose their interest and need guidance in order to reorient themselves.

Helping to refocus on collective goals

Collective goals and purposes go hand in hand in a successful enterprise. In addition to the cons of working remotely, the absence of collective goals will possibly cause your team members to be less motivated and less productive.

Setting the collective goals of the team clearly and helping team members to refocus their attention and energy to these aims increases productivity, improves the online workplace and boosts the well-being of your team members for extended periods.

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Arno Yeramyan
Arno Yeramyan is a polyglot who’s a fan of constantly learning new languages.

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