The battle against remote work reveals the insecurities of managers and companies

The battle against remote work reveals the insecurities of managers and companies
There are various factors and opinions that impact why companies are not embracing remote work.

When the dam broke

With the arrival of the pandemic, the number of people who work remotely reached a critical mass, providing a window into this mode of living and working. But the after effects have left an imbalance with some companies and employees who are at odds when it comes to working remotely.

Some managers and companies feel that by working remotely people are less productive and interact less with their coworkers, as opposed to an office setting where they would be more efficient and engaging with their team.

Employees on the other hand that were able to work remotely saw it as a life changing experience and a window into a better way of living. Less time commuting in a filthy train or stuck in the morning jam to get to work. They can now have more time and a stress free mindset to focus on their projects, finish them and have time for themselves. The possibilities to live somewhere desirable and not have to compromise living in sub par areas so they are near their urban office.

Needless to say remote work was trendy during the pandemic as companies highlighted how it would change how they function and the potential benefits like low office overhead, better talent retention etc. But currently that opinion has changed as companies want people to be back in the office or lure them closer to that with their ‘hybrid’ model (which seems to be an attempt to avoid confronting the full remote work issue).

We will explore this epic battle and why there is a drive to push people back into the office, and if there is a better way for companies and managers to look at this new way of working. Bear in mind these thoughts are generalised as there are various industries and ways in which companies operate. Not all companies can take advantage of remote work so it depends on the industry and the style in which that organisation operates.

Different takes

The first instance is to look at some of the noticeable benefits for companies that have a remote team:

  1. Less overhead
  2. More diverse talent pool that does not need to be based in one location
  3. Potentially fulfilled employees

So with these benefits for both companies and employees, why the change in direction as companies want people back?

They say that:

  1. There is less productivity and oversight on what employees are doing
  2. More isolation and more difficult to connect with each other on a personal level
  3. Having more than one job and not prioritizing the company's work.

Although there are studies to the contrary, it begs the question: could it be that this exposes managers and companies insecurities? Is it all about control and peaking over your shoulder? Or weirdly trying to force everyone in the office to be friends with cringy parties, socials and team building events?

Mindset shift for businesses and leaders

I feel there is one mindset that companies and business leaders may need to wrap their head around, and that is looking at things from a project, task based approach rather than time based. The time based mindset seems to be one of the factors that adversely affects a companies or leaders outlook on remote work.

“The team gets into the office at this time and leaves by this time, so we have to maximise the employees time with us to ensure we get as much done as efficiently as possible.”

This is a factor that pushes companies to feel that by allowing someone to work from home you can't be a big brother to them and you feel that they are goofing off on your time.

A rebuttal to this is to change your modus operandi if possible, from a time based mindset to a project based one. You can measure projects much easier irrespective of whether people are working remotely, and there are fantastic project management software tools that can help you. One can have productive communication with your team online and can have chats on video calls, you also have to know that people are adults and I am sure one is hiring good talent that is responsible.

In addition, this distrust towards employees seems to insinuate that when given the opportunity they will slack off, or are pursuing their own projects or leisure. If one feels that one's goals are not being met then you may need to hire differently. But in general it looks like working from home does boost productivity and even if they finish their tasks early and have time to pursue their leisure or are working on other projects, so what?

Is it not better if they are happy? Do amazing work, are getting things done and if they do leave have nothing but great things to say about your organisation, maybe even recommend new talent? You might even find a positive feedback loop where top talent is looking to work for you because you can adjust your ways of operating that fits a new world scenario. As a company you may automatically become more appealing as you remove the office cubicle stigma that drives the corporate culture; top talent will see this!

Another potential insecurity that companies and business leaders may have is their obsession with office culture, having to have people around ‘intermingling’, either because they think it is good for the team or for themselves, as they personally may not like working from home and want to be out of the house.

The solution to this is to understand that people are there to do a great job for you and enjoy the process as well (at least we hope that is the idea). There are enough hit TV series around, that mock the drama and boredom of office culture.

You can counter this narrative by using video and chat communications that can create a unique and different type of culture. Different forms of banter and communication may evolve that are enjoyable, gelling but also measured; as at the end they are there to fulfil a role and enhance their career and your company goals.

Granted there is nothing like human connection and leaders may want to ensure they are not isolating people too much. But this can be looked at another way, where remote work gives time and opportunity to people to engage in social circles and activities they actually want to.

Managers should be empathetic as well. It is not like before where jobs were long term careers that people could rely on. Especially in these turbulent times with job cuts, it is obvious that people don't want to be at risk. If you are not genuinely structured to keep your employees long term with succession plans, pension schemes etc. Is it not understandable that they may be trying to have some options in case of anything as long as they are not compromising the quality of your work?

This is generalised and depends on the industry and what the job roles are. But for companies who have these possibilities, it is noted that they should be empathetic and realistically weigh all aspects when making these decisions as it can impact your employee recruitment, employee retention, brand image, finances and general company direction in a moving world. One can’t have a discussion about employee wellness and productivity without having a well rounded view point on this important developing aspect of work culture, and then the only way is to really look at the real reason you are doing something and what you want to achieve.

Sources:

‌Kaplan, J. (n.d.). A baby boomer who quit his 6-figure job rather than return to the office says managers are threatened by remote work and just want people back so they can see them working. [online] Business Insider. Available at: https://www.businessinsider.com/retire-return-to-office-baby-boomer-never-wants-go-back-2023-4 [Accessed 24 Apr. 2023].

Lund, S., Madgavkar, A., Manyika, J. and Smit, S. (2020). What’s next for Remote work: an Analysis of 2,000 tasks, 800 jobs, and Nine Countries. [online] McKinsey. Available at: https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/future-of-work/whats-next-for-remote-work-an-analysis-of-2000-tasks-800-jobs-and-nine-countries.

‌Tsipursky, D.G. (n.d.). Workers Are Less Productive Working Remotely (At Least That’s What Their Bosses Think). [online] Forbes. Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/glebtsipursky/2022/11/03/workers-are-less-productive-working-remotely-at-least-thats-what-their-bosses-think/?sh=4df1d3b8286a [Accessed 24 Apr. 2023].‌


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