Five years ago, how often did you hear people say, “I work from home?” Odds are it wasn’t more than one or two times a year and probably from someone with a specific health condition or young family. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, however, that phrase is everywhere, among people from all generations, roles, and industries.
Many organizations have found that technology improvements around video conferencing, instant messaging, and email have made managing a productive remote workforce easier than they ever thought possible. For instance, Airtasker performed a survey of around 1,000 employees across the U.S. and found that remote employees take longer breaks than their in-office counterparts (22 vs. 18 minutes). Still, spend less time being unproductive (27 vs. 37 minutes) and more time working overall each month (21.9 work days vs. 20.5).
With this in mind, along with the potential savings of no longer paying for and maintaining office space, many organizations are likely to maintain some kind of remote work options for their employees. While this is a welcome evolution to many, (a Buffer survey found that, of their 2,500 respondents, 99% would like to continue working remotely in some capacity for the rest of their careers), the transition poses some challenges to both organizations and employees. In this article, we’ll discuss the future of remote work and some of the obstacles that brands and individuals will need to overcome as the workplace changes forever.
The Challenges of Transitioning to Remote Work
Challenges for Organizations
According to both the Airtasker and Buffer surveys, 91% of organizations intend to continue to support some form of remote work (mostly in hybrid or fully-remote setups). While this is what many employees want, organizations need to know what decisions they can make now to ensure their team stays satisfied, productive, and responsible going forward.
Costs Associated with Supporting a Remote Team
At the moment, being able to work from home feels like a gift in and of itself. The ability to exercise, spend time with family, go outside and travel is generating huge amounts of employee satisfaction that didn’t exist before. Many organizations may think they can now recoup all the money poured into office spaces and technology for their in-office employees. However, there are other costs associated with a remote workforce that need to be considered.
In 2019, only 18% of organizations surveyed paid for their remote employees' internet costs. 23% paid for some kind of co-working space for their teams and 13% covered some portion of the food and drinks at the coffee shops and restaurants their employees went to in order to work. It’s highly likely that employees will demand these kinds of benefits in return for their not coming into an office.
Changing Workflows and Security Concerns
We all know that working with others on a task is often the best way to get it done. However, supporting collaboration in a remote work environment is difficult, especially when security concerns such as public Wi-Fi connections make old-school workflows nearly impossible. Organizations will have to overhaul their current information security standards and many of their workflows and procedures to make them more amenable to remote teams.
Take the example of a remote marketing team. All the digital assets they used for their content marketing campaigns were housed on servers at the office. There, every employee was securely connected and could share and access assets easily. To make the shift to remote work, their organization will need to make these assets available either through a cloud-based digital asset management (DAM) system or by implementing VPN access to their on-premise server (only if they’re in a highly-regulated industry). This requires significant planning and discovery, as well as the development and documentation of new standards and workflows the team will need to be trained on.
Challenges for Teams and Individuals
Maintaining Work-Life Balance
Many people surveyed by Airtasker said their favorite thing about working remotely is the flexibility it provides. Remote workers spend more time exercising than in-office workers (2.75 hours/week vs. 2.3 hours/week)and are able to spend meaningful time with their families, run errands, and enjoy nature, all of which contribute to improvements in their mental health and productivity. At the same time, however, remote workers have a harder time finding a good balance between work and the rest of their lives (29% noted this difficulty vs. 23% of in-office workers).
Remote workers are more stressed during the workday than in-office workers (54% vs. 49%) and experience more anxiety (45% vs. 42%). This is likely due to job-related information being readily available all the time on phones and computers. Remote employees, according to Buffer, only take 2-3 weeks of vacation time on average each year even though many of their employers offer unlimited or double the amount of vacation time.
Finding ways to re-build the boundary between work and the other essential parts of life in a remote setting will be the core challenge for individuals and organizations as the workplace changes.
A Lack of Human Interaction and Relationships
An interesting statistic: more than one in ten millennials surveyed by Airtasker said they prioritize relationships with co-workers over the work itself. 70% of respondents said they prioritize relationships and work equally. While remote workers spend far less time talking with co-workers about nonwork-related topics than those in the office (29 vs. 66 minutes/day), these relationships are critical to long-term employee satisfaction, healthy collaboration, and building a corporate culture that encourages employee retention.
Stacks is a completely remote business, with employees across the country and the world working together to make digital asset management (DAM) easy and approachable for creatives in all industries. Every year, we invest time and company resources to gather in person and work together for at least a week. Every organization and employee should take the time to develop ways to build relationships among teams and co-workers.
At Stacks, we understand both the benefits and challenges of remote work. We experience them every day ourselves. If you and your organization need help with changing workflows and processes around digital asset management, contact us! We’d be happy to help you and your team make the shift to remote work in a healthy way, whether it’s by finding the proper system, training employees, or building buy-in for new ways of working together.