While COVID-19 may have forced a lot of people to become comfortable with working remotely, the truth is that remote work has been on the rise for quite some time now. Unlike your coolness that peaked in high school and has been in decline since, Google trends data shows that searches for the term ‘remote work’ have shown a steady increase throughout.
This data tells us something very important. “WFH” is not some flash-in-the-pan trend that will come and go. It’s here to stay. The pandemic will definitely go down in history as the single largest remote working experiment conducted on the planet. McKinsey estimates that in China alone, nearly 200 million people found themselves working remotely by the end of the Chinese New Year holiday.
In complete contrast to your whirlwind teenage romances, this whole remote work experiment seems to be going pretty well nearly 10 months in. But it’s not without its fair share of problems.
Employees have complained about having to remain connected around the clock, while on the personal front, people (especially parents) have sometimes found it difficult to manage kids’ home-schooling via video conference while coordinating with remote colleagues.
Once you weigh up the pros and cons though, the scales remain tilted in favour of remote work. No over-zealous managers peering over your shoulder, and no more growing old in traffic. Isn’t that great? And let’s face it. Every new phenomenon, technology or invention is bound to run into problems in its early days. Even to this day, doesn’t that apple pie your family has perfected for generations sometimes come out of the oven with a burnt crust?
We think this accelerated trend of remote work is going to pave the way for the rise of the fully remote company. While companies who’ve worked out of physical offices for years will struggle to adapt, they can always borrow from the playbook followed by ‘fully remote’ companies such as Zapier, Automattic, and Buffer. Their guides on acing remote work can be found here, here, here and here.
From what we know and understand, the trick to building a successful fully-remote company is to envision and design a fully-remote company and culture from the ground up. Naturally, this is where lots of companies struggle because they simply cannot shed the culture, processes, and practices they’ve developed around the office. Take away the office, and morale comes crashing down like a tower of Jenga blocks.
A good culture of remote work must start with having the right technology. Other soft elements such as processes and structures can then be layered on top to build a ‘remote work stack’.
Of all the elements in the stack, the people factor is the hardest to get right. Companies will have to do a lot of soul searching, and show tremendous commitment towards making sure that a remote workforce is carefully nurtured with kindness and compassion, so that it can deliver outstanding results. This is where Learning & Development teams will have to step up their game, like Michael Jordan did during the infamous ‘flu game’.
Even before the pandemic, there was enough evidence that new technologies and new ways of working were disrupting jobs and the skills employees need to do them. By 2030, it is estimated that as many as 375 million workers globally would have to switch occupations or acquire new skills. As workers across industries figure out how to adapt to rapidly changing conditions, companies have to learn how to match those workers to new roles and activities. Skill gaps are going to appear left right and center, and if they don’t have the foresight to anticipate these developments, talent managers will find themselves in a weird game of Whack-A-Mole.
This is where e-learning platforms can be to companies what a cast iron skillet is to a student living on campus. Smartly curated courses delivered in an engaging format can help up skill and re-skill a distributed, remote workforce with minimal overheads, meaning companies can become more agile and respond faster to changes in their operating environment.
And the employees?
Well, if the hundreds of thousands of employees working for our own clients are to be believed, they LOVE being able to learn on their own time rather than sitting in a room listening to a boring trainer read off some poorly designed PowerPoint slides with garish ClipArt graphics. If you fancy joining their ranks, why not talk to us?