The new remote work reality and the struggle for talents
By Julius — November 11, 2022
The current situation
Almost 3 years after the first Covid-19 case things seem to have mostly normalized. There are still a few countries imposing strict lockdowns, quite a few more are on the brink of a recession and you see much more people wearing masks than before 2020. The news outlets found other topics and big events are happening again. Besides all this, there is something else affecting people's lives: while there is generally a push to reduce work from home back to the office, you can find more and more jobs offering remote work. Fun fact: even before the last global pandemic remote work had increased by a factor of 4 from 2008 to 2018, this definitely didn’t slow down in the last 3 years. Instead, employers are struggling to get people back to their expensive premises and sometimes people would rather leave.
While the possibility to work from home or remotely adds a lot of flexibility to people’s lives, it’s probably not all sunshine and lollypops. Employers argue that spontaneous exchange, group dynamics and team culture suffers with remote work. Even worse for companies, innovation seems to take a hit as Microsoft Research found out. They also found people being fatigued by spending much more time in meetings and coordinating with co-workers. Remote work was and still is a challenge, but the same holds true for offices. During the pandemic, people reported far less work-related distractions. While on average remote workers self-reported similar productivity remotely, it seems to be dependent on their well-being and boundaries set by the employer and on their experience with remote work. For example, Github data shows that workdays suddenly got longer with remote work, which affects employees and their well-being in the long term.
Now, given the facts, the discussion tends to jump to compare office and remote but it ignores the clear trend and wish of employees for more flexibility. No matter the preference, to attract talents in this new post-pandemic work environment, it’s not only helpful but also inevitable to offer options for remote work. Companies and their management have to adapt, which in turn will also help with productivity and well-being of their employees. Internal Microsoft research shows that regular 1:1 check-ins between managers and remote employees increase the work satisfaction and gives employees the feeling their work is being seen. According to Gartner, hybrid work – a mix of office and remote work – increases the engagement and attracts high performers.
The way forward
For companies to be attractive to talents, there is only one way forward: adapt and enable. Employees and businesses, as a whole, have to learn to create environments which would boost productivity, engagement and work-life balance in remote and hybrid teams. While it would be shortsighted to just rely on technology, there are definitely tools to ease the transitioning pain or even help to generate this kind of atmosphere.
Especially creative work needs support when done remotely. Tools like Miro can be used for visual collaboration and as a remote whiteboard. Macarons is a wonderful way to emulate the water-cooler or coffee break moments that lead to team synergies and strengthening weak ties between team members.