‘I’m working from home today.’ Does that statement fill you with excitement or dread?
Are you relieved to get on with those tasks you keep putting off in the comfort of a familiar environment, or would you rather be in the thick of it alongside your colleagues at the office?
The question, rather than hone in on preference, should actually focus on where productivity is higher. Everybody is different and every organisation is unique. So there is no universal answer, but remote working has never been easier - meaning practicality is making the need for a conscious decision increasingly important.
A Modern Tradition
Despite the perception that office space can be old-hat, many have undergone a number of modern evolutions. The development from compartmentalised, individual pods to open-plan spaces complete with hot-desk policies is now commonplace. Driving this trend are the likes of Google, Dropbox, Airbnb and Facebook; creating a new wave of next-generation office spaces filled with chic, silicon-valley inspired designs to better engage a Millennial workforce.
|"Offices have developed significantly over the past few decades; from cubicles to collaborative spaces."|
While very stylish, easy on the eye and great for branding, these grand designs can often be unrealistic for many SME’s. Even though evidence suggests that introducing greenery or improving scenic quality can boost productivity in the long-run, the cost is still too high.
Physical designs aside, the argument for office working over a remote workforce remains strong. Working alongside colleagues allows decisions to be made instantly, management escalations are easier, team-building happens more naturally. If operating in a specialist industry, task specific workstations can be created, allowing staff to carry out complex tasks as efficiently as possible, with minimal setup.
Of course, there are drawbacks to consider. As great as it is to work within a team, the office can be a distracting place. Far too often people can end up being drawn into discussions and tasks that sit outside of their remit. Plus ad-hoc requests from senior management invariably happen, causing delays to the completion of people’s own responsibilities.
And don’t forget, offices aren’t cheap. Between the cost of rent, power, phone lines, internet, on-premise servers, cleaning costs, furniture, insurance and everything else - businesses should really be asking themselves whether the modern physical office justifies its cost, or whether it should be virtualised.
Virtual Offices: Gimmick or Game Changer?
For right or wrong, there is a cultural stigma associated to the notion of working from home. Some hold the perception that remote employees are not team players or are not working as hard as others. Employees can become begrudging, resentful even, of those who work remotely, especially on a Friday!
But this negative perception doesn’t help anybody. A 2015 Gallup poll highlighted that 37% of American workers have worked remotely during their career, a four-fold increase since 1995. Advancements in technology allow remote staff to remain connected and in constant communication with teams regardless of location.
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|"A staggering 37% of working Americans have worked remotely at least once during their career."|
Smartphones and tablets have arguably replaced the laptop now too, allowing staff to access emails, documents and contacts almost anywhere. Combine cloud technology and there is no reason why collaboration can’t work across different physical spaces.
However, that’s not to say there aren’t drawbacks to remote working. Personal internet connections can be unreliable, signal dark spots restrict mobile calls and required equipment/ resources will not always be readily available. Remote staff also have to consider interactions with other employees. In fluid situations, critical snap decisions often need to be made - but if you aren’t able to reliably reach people about what these decisions are, problems can ensue.
Finding the Balance
There is no right or wrong answer (yet) to whether working remotely or in an office environment is more productive. It depends heavily on the individual and the organisation. What we do know for sure is that the ability to work remotely is becoming more accessible all the time. An off-site meeting is no longer the problem it once was and collaboration is increasingly fluid.
As working patterns and trends evolve further, (for example the rise of the ‘Gig Economy’) and the success of companies that employ new working definitions such as Uber and Deliveroo we can expect to see even more changes to the way we work.
At CommonTime we specialise in the provision of critical communication systems across the public and provide sector, working with a wide breadth of companies to power intelligent communications across their workforce.