Mar 9, 2021

The unexpected impacts of remote working

Remote working is the new trendy topic and insights from Silicon Valley suggests that it might even be the future of office management. However, even if remote working has been highly popularized due to its benefits, new research suggests that remote working may have some other unexpected impacts on your career that you should keep in mind.

The interpretation of “Presence”

The gap between remote workers and “on-site” workers regarding promotion is well documented, even before the pandemic, physical presence was considered a high predictor of promotion. Now when we are starting to enter into a post-covid period, this discrepancy between on-site workers and remote workers is expected to increase. In an article published by BBC and written by Kate Morgan (2021), it was stated that remote working has the potential to effect employees’ promotion opportunities negatively – something that is often overlooked in the current discussions.

According to the article, this phenomena seems to be connected to our unconscious biases. People we see in real life are believed to do more work and being more engaged, even if remote workers perform better and are equally as engaged. One theory is that our minds cannot connect the encounter from a colleague via a screen as actual presence and perceptible work. In some peculiar sense, just being there can sometimes do more than working effectively for hours straight. This consequently makes us interpret the colleagues in close proximity as “being at work and doing work”. This in spite of the fact that remote workers actually perform better than onsite workers. This goes to show that physical presence has an effect on how our work is perceived, and our career opportunities in the future.

How we interpret “presence” also has other consequences. Morgan (2021) writes that the problem with selective promotion does not affect everyone equally; women with children, disabled employees and introverted workers tend to gravitate towards remote working more than others, which in effect can create lack of diversity in leadership positions.

Remote Working – Now and forward

It seems like our offices are more important to us than we might think. Even when we have seen the positive effects of remote working in many different areas, the regular meetings face-too-face within company parameters is still considered relevant. The question posed is therefore one of combination and balance - how do we give employees flexibility and control, but at the same time ensure willingness to visit the office to ensure equal promotion abilities and connection to the company?

One thing to keep in mind is that remote working does not only affect employee’s connection to managers, but the company’s connection to their employees. At the end of the day, the relationship is two-sided, and it is expected that employee’s perceived loyalty towards their employer will change when remote working becomes increasingly more common. As a company, it is now important to think about how the plans of re-opening the office will be handled – and how the return can be effectively combined with remote working.

Design your office after your employees

The question of how well an office space fits the needs of the employees is not posed often enough. Office design and layout can have great impact on our well-being and health, spending time and effort to optimize both design, flow of movement resource placement and size can give profitable returns on investment.  

Make sure that your office is a place where people want to work. For example, by measuring utilization of your office resources, it can be easily determined how the office space should be designed based on how employees move through the area during a day.  The way forward is to design our offices to be inspiring co-working spaces where activities are not only promoted, but mandatory.

Colleague Finding

Colleague finding will be a key feature when creating real life presence in combination with remote working. Colleague finding will allow both employees and their managers to plan, find and meet their colleagues even when presence at the office is not guaranteed. Adapt systems that makes it possible to see colleagues and managers future desk bookings and plan for collaborations or meeting. This can greatly enhance the equal opportunity of being real life present and at the same time enable flexibility.

Teamwork 2.0

Together with effective communication tools, modern smart office solutions are an integrate part in enhancing overall teamwork capabilities in your office. Make it easy to book office resources for your teams, let team members now where they should be and when, and let them access office maps to easily find to the locations. This saves valuable time and makes the experience of being in an office more enjoyable.

Summary

Remote working will however we look at it be an intrinsic part of the future of office work. But there are still some hurdles that needs to be managed to make sure that growth and promotion opportunities will be equally as available whoever your employee might be.

Firstly, it is important to create boundaries and directives within the provided flexibility, and create a working space that employees are happy to visit. Smart Office solutions are a natural tool to maximize presence, whether it is booking of desks and meeting rooms, colleague coordination or workplace analytics that can let you know how office resources are utilized. With the right tools, the effects of remote working can be minimized, and the way forward can become one of flexibility, security and prosperous opportunities.