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Remote work and the evolution of the workplace

Remote work and the evolution of the workplace

Remote work was the original style of work for most people before the advent of the internet. 

A little confused?

When you think about it, people with all sorts of skills have been working from their properties for centuries. A blacksmith would have had his forge and work area in the back of his house, and tailors mended and sewed from a room in their house.

The evolution of remote working 

The Industrial Revolution created a need for factories to be built and filled with new machines, huge, automated assembly lines, and of course teams to manage and run the factory. Another spin-off from this was the need to commute to the new location. 

With the advent of the internet in the 1980s came a new concept – office work. This was likely because employees needed access to computers and this new creation called the internet. At that time there was no WiFi, so it made more sense to have your employees working out of one space where they could access the tools they needed. 

Soon came the birth of the eight hour workday, the office cubicle, and faster internet. Fast forward a few decades and we have the modern workforce as we currently know it. That was not the end though. As with most things, the internet evolved and got better, quicker, and easier to connect to. 

With more money being available to both companies and employees, increased households owned computers and were connected to the internet. This became the turning point for the move to remote working. It was really the advent of WiFi that paved the way for more people to easily work from home while always being contactable if the employer needed something. 

WiFi allowed employees to access shared servers and cloud-based systems to keep on the same page as if they were physically there. At this time though, the majority of employers did not take well to the idea that employees could be productive and efficiently do their work from any other location. 

Of course, the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic forced this outdated mode of thinking to change. 

For many employers it was difficult to embrace this new way of thinking. Many refused and unfortunately got left behind. Those that realised that the work needed to continue at all costs, quickly realised that their employees that worked remotely were far more engaged and almost always more productive than if they had been working from their office. 

Soon it became common to only meet with your employees online via one of the many meeting platforms. No need for stocking up on snacks and pens and notepads for the meeting. People were at the meeting, discussing what needed to be discussed, and then got on with the job at hand. All this at their own pace. Numerous studies have been done that show that the workforce is generally much happier as a result of being able to manage their own lives, work, and households themselves. In fact, the majority of employees would like to continue to work remotely going forward with many saying that working remotely is the only way forward for them and returning to an office is not an option.

The benefits of remote working for businesses

Now, there are definitely a few rewards to having your teams working offsite. Saving on setting up a desk and computer for each employee, arranging and possibly paying for parking, office supplies, electricity, and building rental are just some of the benefits as far as costs go. 

New talent can also be accessed in any country which makes it a no-brainer for your company to be able to employ the staff that they want and need. Onboarding can be done remotely too. No need to take time out of a day walking new employees around the office building. 

Let us talk about meetings while we are discussing the benefits. Gone are those wasteful meetings in big board rooms where the whole executive team sits waiting patiently for their 5 minutes to talk. An employer can be in contact with an employee with the click of a button if they need anything. Employees can also continue to work in the background while waiting for their turn to present. On that note, presentations are all done online these days for remote workforces. So, no hiring an AV team to set up a projector. It is simply a case of sharing your screen with any number of employees. 

Those terrible time-wasting meetings at the smoking area or around the water cooler are outdated too. Employees can score extra time every day by simply avoiding traffic and the commute. Money is saved on transport. Employees are more flexible in their routines, and this gives a massive boost to work-life balance which is a workplace trend for this year too. 

Very little time is wasted by interruptions from co-workers who want to chat. There have been some studies that point to the fact that remote workers have higher productivity rates as well as higher engagement scores. These studies also point to the fact that although remote working makes the talent pool much larger than ever before, the majority of employees are not looking for new employment or greener grass. They value and respect their jobs and will stay longer so remote working has the added benefit of retaining your staff and keeping staff turnover low. It follows that your onboarding costs will be lower as a result of this too. 

The benefits of remote working for employees

Let’s have a look at some of the benefits to your employees when they work remotely. 

Employees will have some extra time on their hands to maybe do something for themselves, something like some exercise or an hour at the gym. Or some extra time to meditate or practise mindfulness. The spin-off of these is healthier employees with less stress and a better mental state. Being able to use the extra time to develop some skills or a hobby will achieve positive results. It is a fact that employees who strive to advance in all aspects of their lives are simply more productive and happier. 

As a good boss, or better, a great boss, you could use some of the money saved on your overheads to promote cohesiveness and a team-centric culture. Some of the savings can be invested in growing the skills basket of your team by arranging some online courses to upskill and reskill employees. Both are proven to benefit the business, so it really is a win for everyone. 

Read more on the benefits of upskilling your workforce

With everything we have just discussed, another space in the market is rapidly being filled. When employers can see for themselves that working remotely does not damage business or reduce productivity, they are more likely to hire freelance staff to access specific skills that were previously permanent appointments. There is more flexibility to hire in the short term to get something specific done. This means that many employees are now offering their services as freelancers rather than full-time employees. 

Access to project management tools like Trello and Slack means that everyone is still under the same roof if that makes sense. It is just virtual. This makes it very easy for management to see in real-time how a project is progressing and adjust as and when they are needed. 

In conclusion, working remotely can be extremely beneficial to both your company and to your employees. The idea that employees need to be in an office to be productive is outdated and a new era of remote working has begun. Embracing this new normal could bring you returns that you never imagined possible.

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