Three Important Questions for the Future of Remote Work

Clare Anderson
28th September 2020

As Dame Vivian Hunt, McKinsey’s UK & Ireland Managing Partner, so succinctly puts it, “We remain in an unfamiliar world, navigating the shifts brought on by the global pandemic and re-build of the global economy. As we head into an autumn (or spring) of unprecedented change, there is no better time to think critically about how we want to move forward in a better way. It’s a moment for us to review traditional models of working and find a hybrid solution that is more effective, inclusive, and tailored.” Many people now understand first hand that our hitherto inflexible mode of office working is not the way forward. According to Gartner, 74% of surveyed CFOs plan to keep part of their workforce remote after the COVID-19 crisis. The benefits of remote working to both organizations and staff include flexibility, increased productivity, and employee satisfaction. However, there are also several reasons why working from home 100% of the time is not a sustainable model either. The aim, where possible, should be a hybrid working model enabled by technology and taking into consideration personal circumstances and preferences, as well as different job types.

McKinsey research highlights the key questions companies should be asking as they seek to find a hybrid model that makes sense for all employees and will ensure success:-

1/ ‘What does this individual need?’

Some team members will thrive in an office setting - others are better able to focus in a remote environment. Many will have adjusted to new ways of working and will be resistant to letting these go. Consider all new and existing employee needs and preferences when thinking about a policy of remote and onsite working. As you move to a hybrid model of working, expect further socialization and acclimatization from your team. Don’t forget that new management skills will be needed as some employees return onsite whilst others remain remote. Leaders should be required to manage remote-first and spend a significant amount of time in remote work. Think about solutions to eliminate any possibility of remote workers being disadvantaged or excluded due to less face to face visibility. 

2/ ‘What activities (not what roles) should be remote?’

Think about the fact that not every job can be equally performed in a remote setting - and that remote work may not be sustainable for everyone. The extent of remoteness will differ by role and team. Separating out activities that used to be bundled into one role might better facilitate remote work. How much human and physical interaction is necessary for particular tasks? Does your organization have the proper infrastructure in place to facilitate remote working?

3/ ‘How do I enable this?’ (NOT JUST ‘Where should people be?’)

It’s important to ensure that employees have (and know how to use) the right tools and skills for collaborating. Don’t forget that job functions and activities don’t suddenly operate in silos when they become remote. You also need to think about - and work around - employee’s home ergonomics, internet bandwidth, and private environments. Looking at the whole picture (including opportunities and risks - some of which may not be immediately apparent) will ensure productivity levels are maintained - perhaps even increased. 

In summary, the time to reflect on learnings and consider the role remote working will play in your future operating model is now. If you’re considering making remote teams a long-term part of your strategy and want to know more about tapping into global talent, download our eBook, '30 Essential Questions to Ask a Provider Before You Outsource’. It will ensure you're informed and have the right questions to ask when considering the next step.


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