Remote Work: The Workforce Is Ready, the Workplace Isn’t

Lo Kidd

March 13, 2020

COVID-19 is causing an epicly unplanned global work-from-home experiment. Here’s how to make it work for your business!

With the Amazons and Googles of the world encouraging most of their employees to work from home in the face of COVID-19, it seems like only a matter of time before the rest of the business world follows suit.

Sure, these big-name companies had a reputation for building some of the most flexible work cultures even before this health crisis. But they’re also proof that businesses will survive, maybe even thrive, without gathering in an office daily. 

After all, there is overwhelming evidence that employees not only want more work flexibility but that businesses benefit from encouraging their employees to work out-of-office. Organizations that allow remote work have 13% less turnover and are more productive than those that don’t. 

So, with everything going on, could this be the perfect time for businesses of all sizes to test their own remote work policy in an epicly unplanned global work-from-home experiment? 

Workers want more flexibility

To be completely transparent, Trainual not only allows but even encourages our employees to work remotely from time to time. (I mean, I’m currently writing this blog from Honduras). But empowering remote work is one of the ways that we secure the best talents for our team. And we recognize that working from home is sometimes more productive.  Seriously, it might just be the best thing for your business! 

Let’s put aside the fact that when employees commute to work three days a week, they save 11 days a year on average! (Encouraging your team members to reinvest that time in the things that matter most to them, might just make you the best boss in the world… just saying.)

In a recent study, an overwhelming 99% of workers said that they would like to work remotely (at least some of the time) for the rest of their careers. Myself included. 

Before settling down with Trainual, I was a freelancer. And just last year, I worked remotely in 9 different countries. So consider me spoiled, but when I decided to transition into a full-time position, the freedom for me to call somewhere like the Caribbean my office from time to time was a must. (Seriously, I would take a few days remote over any amount of benefits and perks.) 

But that doesn’t mean I always want to be out of the office or working at odd hours. Now that I have an office and team available to me, I love going into the office. In fact, when I’m at home, I almost always prefer to do this. (Which is something I never thought I’d say).

But that’s because what most people really want when they say they want more work flexibility isn’t to run away indefinitely and pretend their working. It’s for their companies to show that they trust their people so much that they grant them the autonomy to choose when and how they work.

It’s time the workplace got ready

Throughout most of the 20th-century, the thought of having a remote or even semi-remote workforce was incomprehensible. Many companies believed that efficient work could only be accomplished in the office. So, the American workplace opted for rows of assigned desks and strictly enforced nine-to-fives to maximize its productivity and profits.   

I’m sure this was great back then. But it’s 2020! And the workforce doesn’t need these conditions anymore to ensure productivity or profitability. (From my experience, when I work remotely, I actually get more done in less time because I have fewer distractions.) 

With technology and a working Wi-Fi connection, most positions can work from anywhere in the world. And the need for companies to continue implementing 20th-century policies isn’t necessary. 

Yet, for many of today’s companies, getting rid of their physical office still feels unthinkable. Even when maintaining a remote workforce might be the most affordable option. Not only will these businesses save on office costs by going remote, but location no longer restricts where their employees need to live. This means that if your business embraces remote work, you have access to better talent. 

Why then do half of all companies (even the 63% with remote workers) not have a remote work policy?

If that’s you, get a free remote work policy here >

Yes, we’ve heard the objections

A lot of companies that had cutting-edge remote policies in the mid-2000s have since gone away with them, claiming that remote work was a “failed experiment.” 

But surprising as it might be, all they proved was that work flexibility is not as simple as telling your team to stop showing up one day. It has to be implemented correctly with transparent policies and processes in place to make sure your remote workforce is set up for success. That’s why the most common objections that businesses offer for why they don’t go remote are actually just excuses.

Can’t replace face-to-face

No, face-to-face does not inherently translate to clarification, collaboration, or even success. I mean, be honest, how many meetings have you left, thinking to yourself what a waste of time?

So yes, we encourage that everyone comes into the office as much as possible to foster collaboration. But even when everyone is in the office, we avoid falling into the excessive meeting trap. Because while we love spending time together, we hate wasting each other’s time. 

To keep meetings to a minimum, we leverage cloud-based tools like Zoom, Slack, and Trainual to maintain a constant line of communication. That way, whether everyone is in-office or no one is, every work interaction feels face-to-face. 

This meeting could have been an email

Lose the ability to audit productivity

We know! It’s hard to check whether your team is actually working if you aren’t watching them at all times. But think about it this way, just because you keep everyone in the office, doesn’t mean they are all on task. 

Sure, there are apps that you can install on all your company computers to track every keystroke and moment. But we strongly recommend against these methods! I mean, seriously, micromanagement (from any distance) is never the solution. 

At Trainual, we believe that trust is the default! Not something that needs to be earned. And that starts with how we approach our workflow. 

Every project becomes an Asana task assigned to a member of our team with a due date and the expectation that they will get it done. After that, they are responsible for doing the work. This allows us to measure individual outcomes and successes, rather than track what everyone seems to be contributing (which is often subjective and unreliable). 

But we have an office

It’s easy to get stuck in the mentality that just because you have an office, you might as well use it. 

But that’s like saying you need to print everything out on paper because you have a printer. (Yes, I know that a printer is much cheaper than renting an office, but you get the idea.) You don’t need to! And most likely, you don’t think about your printer this way. But your office, like your printer, should be a resource available to your employees, whether they choose to use it or not.

In practice, this looks different for every business. For example, we decided to keep our physical office. (We are actually in the process of finding a bigger one to accommodate our recent growth.) 

But for your business, this might not mean another long-term office rental. It might be better for your team to downsize to a smaller space, set a few remote check-in spots, or even get a drop-in membership at your local coworking space. 

It’s almost inevitable that when this health crisis is over, and most workers have tested remote work, the workforce will demand that the policies remain in place. Sure, this will take some adjusting. But if your business is not agile and willing to adapt in unexpected circumstances, it likely will not survive.

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