Earlier this year, IBM made headlines when it announced it would be ending its decades-long remote work policy, recalling all employees to the office. Following in the footsteps of Yahoo in 2013, some companies are turning their back on remote work. The reason? A belief that next-gen innovation can only be inspired by face-to-face collaboration.
Interestingly, IBM’s decision comes at a time of significant change in employee expectations. More and more workers view remote policies as a major influence in choosing an employer, and according to Fuze’s recent Breaking Barriers 2020 report, 83 percent of workers don’t believe they need to be in the office environment to be productive.
There is, however, some validity in IBM’s move. While remote work is widely believed to help achieve that elusive work-life balance, it’s anything but a catch-all solution to boost productivity and engagement. For every testimonial highlighting the positive impact of remote work, there seems to be a counter story of employees abusing the benefit. As 86 percent of employees view face-to-face interaction as perennially important, decision makers find themselves in a bind. How do you reconcile the growing demand for remote work with the need to foster collaboration?
While there is no one-size-fits-all solution, many organizations are taking a hybrid approach by offering flexible options to meet the needs of individual employees and the business at large.
While each policy should be unique to the organization it supports, there are a few pillars that every company need to consider to find a middle ground.
Prioritize flexibility over set schedules. Many businesses began designating a “remote work day.” This, in reality, runs counter to the purpose of remote work, which is to give employees the flexibility to get work done wherever and whenever they feel they can be most productive. By letting the employee choose when and how they wish to work remotely, should they choose to do so, you can empower teams to take further ownership of their schedule and their work product.
Provide a cohesive communication tool for the entire staff. Critical to any remote work policy is deploying the right communication platform over which teams can seamlessly connect when and how they want. A platform that enables remote work instead of working against it. Think about the days you spend working remotely compared to those you spend in the office. As far as communication goes, the likelihood you’re using voice, video, or messaging in either scenario is high. Remote work may never fully replace the going into the office, and that’s fine. But with the right platform, it can replicate the experience and give teams the peace of mind they can stay connected regardless of where work takes them in a given week.
Don’t be afraid to pivot. When it comes to building a remote work policy, “trial and error” has its place in the process. For small or mid-size organizations, honing in on a remote work strategy can often be relatively painless. For larger organizations with longstanding policies, the process can be more challenging. When designing and rolling out a remote work strategy, take a step back to assess what is working and don’t be afraid to make changes. There is a high probability that you won’t get it right the first time or need to make adjustments due to unforeseen issues. Be honest with your company needs and give your employees the right infrastructure to be successful. Doing so will help you set the foundation for a remote work policy that is right for your business and right-sized for your employees.