The pandemic changed when, where, and how people work. But now that life is slowly returning to normal, many businesses are debating what their future office environment looks like.
Is it fully remote? Is it co-located? Or is it a hybrid?
Recently on the Forge Ahead podcast, we spoke with Greg Caplan, CEO and co-founder of Spot Meetings, a virtual platform that facilitates walking meetings. He strongly believes in remote work and urges companies to adapt if they want to stay ahead.
Why Remote Work Is the Future
Many companies and employees see the benefits of distributed work after adapting it in 2020. The idea of going back to a physical office space seems outdated, particularly for knowledge-based companies.
Here’s why Greg believes remote work is the future.
1. Employee Empowerment
Greg says people’s responsibilities, including caring for their children, elderly family members, or loved ones that are ill, require a more flexible work environment.
The flexibility to be present for those you care for makes working from home very appealing for so many; according to Greg: “The most challenging vector there is actually not the distance that people are away from each other, but what they’re leaving behind.”
Remote work gives employees unprecedented freedom to choose where they live, what their office space looks like, and sometimes what hours they work. Now that businesses and employees have experienced the distributed work model, many aren’t willing to give up the flexibility and freedom that comes with it. If companies don’t provide the work culture employees are looking for, they run the risk of losing great people.
2. The Rise of Independent Professionals
With specialized talent, independent professionals can charge more per hour for providing an expert, niche service to a company. This allows them to maximize their income while working autonomously and offers companies the flexibility to hire independent professionals for a specific need or job, as opposed to hiring someone full-time when it’s not in the best interest of the business.
Remote freelance work is on the rise and unlikely to slow down, according to Greg: “I think we’re going to continue to see more and more specialized talent interact with these organizations in a very high impact way that helps people earn more.”
3. An Equitable Employee Experience
Some companies have introduced a hybrid workweek, where employees split their time between home and the office. This might seem like the next logical step for many businesses, but the reality is, hybrid environments may not be sustainable long-term.
First, in some office settings, employees rarely work in the office on the same days, which can make the office feel empty and unwelcoming. Greg says, “It’ll actually diminish the value for them making the commute to get in there, and it’ll make them recursively come less and less frequently.”
Second, it prevents those working remotely from having an equitable voice in hybrid meetings. Greg proposes companies implement the “all or nothing” rule:
“The key to success here is not a set of etiquette, but it’s a very simple rule that we created, which we call the ‘all or nothing’ rule. Either everyone’s all together, physically in the same room, or no one’s together in the same room, and everyone has to dial in. Because if everyone’s on the same platform, then you could have an equitable conversation across the board but having that hybrid environment, specifically for meetings, is a really challenging place for anyone to be successful in.”
Hybrid work environments have the potential to fizzle out as they lack consistency and don’t provide employees with the same benefits as co-located or remote workspaces.
4. Tap into Global Talent
In general, a company’s two most expensive assets are its people and its real estate. By eliminating the need for real estate, not only do you instantly put yourself in a better financial position, but you also get ahead of the competition.
Remote work also allows you to hire from a much larger pool of qualified candidates rather than limiting yourself to those who live within commuting distance of your company’s workplace.
A distributed work model is a win-win for most companies, Greg says, “If you can get better people . . . and you don’t pay for real estate, it seems inevitable that you’re going to win unless there’s such a strong benefit to being co-located versus remote.”
How to Create a Thriving Remote Work Environment
If you believe remote work is the way of the future, you need to adapt your practices to fit the new model. The basics, Greg says, are the same: “Good remote infrastructure is actually very similar to a good co-located infrastructure.”
These three tips from Greg will help you create a successful remote work environment for your employees:
1. Set Clear Goals and Expectations
Good communication is vital for any company, but it’s especially important when you work remotely. It goes beyond the tools and systems you have in place. Greg says: “The tools are important to get right, but it’s much more important that you build the right alignment with the right folks on the team to set them up to be successful. ”Communicate your goals and expectations clearly to your team so they know how to measure success.
2. Trust Your Team and They Will Deliver Results
Remote work shines a light on bad management while elevating great management. Complete oversight and micromanagement are things of the past, and as a leader, you must fully trust your employees’ capabilities and motivate them to new levels.
Greg says in a traditional office, an employee’s efficiency is often measured by their “input,” i.e. how many hours they spend in the office. With remote work, you measure efficiency by the “outputs,” or the quality of work your employees produce.
If you give employees clear goals and place your trust in them, they are intrinsically motivated to get the job done. Greg says, “Without the foundation of trust and holding people accountable to them, it creates this dissonance where it actually encourages people to actively waste as much time as possible.”
When you trust your employees, you heighten productivity and the quality of output.
3. Build a Culture that Supports Distributed Workforces
Some leaders fear remote work dampens strong interpersonal work relationships. However, they fail to see that a remote environment allows you to create intentional experiences that bring people together in non-work-related ways.
Host fun, experiential gatherings a few times a year to help your team cement real-world relationships, Greg says:
Experiences shared together builds community within your organization, regardless of where your home base may be.
Remote Work is Here to Stay
More and more, the benefits of remote work outweigh those of an in-person setup.
If you want to stay ahead of the curve, cut overhead costs, and hire talent from anywhere in the world, adapt your business to remote work.