Employee engagement in the time of Work From Anywhere
Photo by Štefan Štefančík on Unsplash.
According to a recent study, if organizations would let their employees work from anywhere instead of working strictly at the office or close to the office, it would create benefits such as increased employee productivity, reduced workforce turnover, and decreased organizational costs. However, majority of the organizations are yet very slow in allowing employees to work from home regularly, let alone working from anywhere at any time.
What does Work From Anywhere (WFA) mean? It is a flexible work trend where organizations offer employees the choice to work where, how and when they want. Whereas some organizations are being skeptical about letting their employees to work away from the offices thinking the productivity or time management would suffer, the others are trusting the employees to be more productive while having more flexibility into their work, no matter which time zone they live and understanding that the place where they are play a crucial role in their well-being. Remote work can consist of working part-time in an office setting, working completely remotely, or a combination of the two (hybrid). The benefits of fast developing digital technology is that it enables us to be connected and accessible all the time.
This is our empirical research on working in an all-remote setup where all our team members execute their work from wherever they are at the given moment. With an experience of exactly one year, I can honestly say that this working style fits the best to our Tech startup. Here are some food for thought to managing WFA.
Is our office a stranded asset?
Besides the pandemic had its role to play in accelerating the transition to remote work culture in many organizations, giving employees the freedom to choose the location where they work. Companies are increasingly changing the policies on remote work, choosing either, a hybrid model where one half of the employees work from home and the other half at the office, then taking turns, or all employees work from home or from the location they have chosen, an all-remote model. For example, due to the lower cost of living, being closer to the family and friends and reducing commuting times. Consequently, employees are cleaning their desks to permanently work from somewhere else than in the office. Very quickly companies need to ask themselves; is our office a stranded asset?
Looking at the environmental impact of offices that are left empty and quiet of employees, the costs of the rent, furniture, IT equipment, cleaning service, guarding service, heating and electricity bills will form the total impact. Forerunners have already done this calculation that compares fixed office costs with work from anywhere culture or the combination of the two (hybrid). Reducing their office costs by making realistic assessments of the needed desk spaces, and optimizing the number of employees at the same time in the office using the remote work days as a unit of measure.
The same thing goes with the office furniture and IT equipment (PCs, laptops, screens, keyboards, mice, cables, servers, printers). Is there a need to switch from owning them to leasing them, for example, using e-leasing services. If the number of employees working from home is bigger that the optimized number of employees at the office, for reducing office costs would be to move to a smaller office space or start to work in a co-working space. But if all employees are happily working from anywhere, the organization might end up giving up the physical office space completely.
Companies moving to WFA
Tech companies, such as Spotify, have recently publicly announced that they allow their employees to work from anywhere. The WFA Program will make it possible for the company to recruit new talents around the world while giving them the flexibility to stay where they are, making savings in costs that would normally have come of relocation, showing trust and building collaboration skills. At the moment, Information Technology and Cloud solution industries are the biggest industries that have moved into the WFA and who recruits new talents to all-remote jobs.
At SDG Monitor, our goal is to take into account the saved office costs and embed them as employee benefits to our team. Working from anywhere is an opportunity that creates savings, builds employer brand and attracts new talents. We will start by paying the monthly WIFI bills for all employees wherever their home offices are located. In addition, when the end of life of our current laptops and screens approaches, we donate them and we will lease our new laptops and screens using e-leasing services. By doing that we reduce the e-waste that would otherwise accumulate to the drawers at home, and take action in reusing or recycling the equipment.
Presenting our virtual office and booking a co-working space for Ad Hoc get-togethers
How does this virtual office thing work? Well, there are no secrets or best principles for all to manage work in a fully virtual setting but in our team, we create this space together “in” Zoom though 1) being fully present, 2) coming prepared as we use it as our office to really work together (like we would in a physical office), and 3) having fun when we meet.
Almost without an exception we start every morning with an online coffee and set the tone for the day asking from each other; how is it going today? An online meeting setup is probably one million times more challenging when it comes to reading the energy and vibes of others. As a consequence, asking about it directly is the only way to know how the other person is feeling on that day. This is a small but impactful action that increases trust. The reason why we do this is that we want to bring good energy to our business every single day. Its proved that employees who are feeling good, perform better and are more productive.
Good energy leads to great results and our sense of humor really puts the cherry on the top. Starting the day with a real life story or a joke never killed anybody and that small action can change someone’s energy completely! We don’t take everything so seriously and we don’t experience Zoom fatigue. The well-being of our team is integrated into our core values and we aim at scoring no less than 10/10 as a place to work. Every time.
Our core team meets four times a year face-to-face. Two times in the Spring and two times in the Autumn. Having no physical office, for the team get-togethers we book a co-working space in the location where we have decided to meet. The most important rule is that the organization providing the co-working space must have a sustainability plan.
But is the need for face-to-face meetings losing its importance? We think that even if work form anywhere provides benefits for people, company and environment, there is no doubt that meeting people physically in the work surroundings would become less significant. We are all in the people business. More important is to create a real WFA culture and do it together as a team.
Prithwiraj, C. (Nov-Dec 2020), Our Work From Anywhere Future, Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2020/11/our-work-from-anywhere-future
Senz, K. (22nd August 2019) A new study shows just how beneficial remote working can be, World Economic Forum. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/08/companies-benefit-when-employees-work-remotely/
Spotify WFA culture Blog post (12th February 2021). https://hrblog.spotify.com/2021/02/12/introducing-working-from-anywhere/
Hyder, B. (19th January 2021) 5 ways the future of work make our lives better, World Economic Forum. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2021/01/5-ways-the-future-of-work-will-about-the-employee/
Nhuyen, S. (11th May 2020) 3 reasons physical offices & face-to-face meetings are not going away. Workplace Psychology. https://workplacepsychology.net/2020/05/11/3-reasons-physical-offices-and-face-to-face-meetings-are-not-going-away/