The coronavirus outbreak has forced employers and employees to embrace working from home. As a result, some HR and corporate leaders are planning permanent work arrangements for a post-pandemic world.
In order to conduct this, both recruitment and management teams should expand their flexible work arrangements on a more permanent basis.
The notion of remote offices will probably grow immensely both in scope and popularity, as it is now clear that it’s possible for a lot of businesses to have full-time remote workers organised in teams, the same way as in ‘regular’ offices.
However, this idea is not new — particularly when we speak of the IT industry.
The remote teamwork in pre-pandemic era
Long before the pandemic, there were requirements to build a dedicated remote team that would bring new experience and solve problems that in-house teams could not.
The goal was not to create a group of freelancers, but to make a fully functional team that would have the same rules and obligations as the regular team in the office.
Such remote teams can work from everywhere, even from other countries. In this case, these remote teams are known as ‘offshore’ teams and the business model is called offshore software development.
Although this strategy may look ineffective at first glance, the benefits can be numerous:
- Untapped talent pools
- Highly experienced developers
- Cost-efficient operational activities
- Ability to quickly adjust to new technologies
- A scalable, “hands-off model” for the client
However, the companies that decided to try the offshore development model had problems as they were not experienced in building such remote teams. As such, early on they were not realising these benefits.
This was the birth of offshore development centres. These are companies that help businesses build dedicated software development teams in another country — a remote team thousands of miles from headquarters.
As the time passed, the offshore development centres became more and more experienced in finding experienced teams that were able to meet the expectations of various companies worldwide.
The model of remote offices and remote teams, such as in offshore development, has become a viable option to a lot of industries as it offers flexibility and reduced operational costs.
And now, a lot of companies worldwide are looking to create something similar, but because of different reasons — the COVID-19 pandemic.
The offshoring business model took years to be developed for the specific needs of companies, and it works effectively in crisis situations. However, many businesses struggle with adaptation.
However, the good thing is that this model provides a good case for adjusting the global economy towards new operating models after this crisis passes.
So, how will remote teamwork look in the post-pandemic era?
The COVID-19 situation is showing all the benefits, but also the flaws of the remote working environment.
These are some problems related to remote work:
- Video meetings, sometimes less effective
- Team members are inexperienced with project management software
- Lack of motivation because of distractions at home
This is to be expected since 90% of the companies weren’t prepared for this scenario.
However, remote work will probably become more methodical around the world after the COVID-19 pandemic.
Let’s see what are the key points:
- Operational changes
In order to keep this remote working effective, some things need to change, not only from the organisational aspect, but also from the worker’s point of view.
For example, one needs to separate the workspace from the rest of the house. This was one of the main problems for the freelancers and now it has become a problem for the remote workers as well.
Moving forward, all team members have to be practical and focus on effective communication. This will help reduce the need for video meetings, which are now a necessity in order to share information quickly.
One way of solving this is the use of effective communication tools and project management solutions. The company should support the team with the right tools for staying connected, as this will be a smooth transition from on-site to remote work.
It will take time for the management team to focus on overcoming problems related to equipment and policies, broadband access, missing or inadequate software, cybersecurity measures and other elements, but once this is solved, the remote working model will become sustainable.
In time, the remote, or home-based workers will become well trained and experienced. The risk of miscommunication between employees and companies will be reduced, so there won’t be a drop off on productivity.
The teleconference will become more mainstream than ever after the COVID-19 pandemic. The other significant part of this model is that remote work is often flexible and better for the environment.
- Interactions with clients
As mentioned, effective communication is the key between remote teams and the company, but also between clients and the company.
Adopting the multi channel communication for instant messaging with the clients can boost the sales actually. Most organisations consider this the trickiest aspect of the virtual workplace.
But, the COVID-19 pandemic showed that companies became actually better with online client service than a traditional face-to-face meeting.
The organised set up for a video chat or phone call increased the efficiency of the interaction. This interactive setup and compatible communication system by the workplaces will become appreciated by both parties.
The reality showed that the companies that conduct video conference training sessions for clients, prospects and others got an enhanced benefit.
So, are the companies prepared?
On average, no.
The reason is that the predictions of such a crisis were very low, maybe similar to the catastrophic events such as hurricanes.
While most companies have already formulated continuity plans in case of some types of crisis, most companies were not quite prepared for the challenges set by COVID-19.
The research of such scenarios is not only costly, but also takes time to test the multiple variants of the outcoming scenarios.
This means that all workers should participate in creating such environments, which is not possible.
We saw that even the health systems, such as hospitals, were not prepared to deal with a pandemic, although dealing with a crisis is their daily activity in ‘’normal’’ situations.
The efficiency of a company in conducting remote work will be largely dependent on the technology, the infrastructure, and the IT staff.
The companies that plan to shift their current organisational model should start planning this transformation even now, while they still have the chance to find the best approach and test the environment.
They should build tools, formulate apps, update security policies and stay up to date based on the anti-hacking technology.
Most of them are probably not prepared, but they should start thinking about the challenges of cyber security.
For the offices, the change in the day-to-day lives of the office workers will be significant. Productivity and communication may decline in the short term for employees who are new to working from home.
However, it’s good to remember that experience helps.
Those who’ve been trained for working remotely will surely notice a boost in collaboration and work satisfaction.