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The Remote Revolution

Can we avoid it? No. It's happening whether we like it, fear it or not. The research is clear, very emphatic in fact on both a local and global level that the remote work revolution is here. It's a work movement and shift that is taking place in our Irish workplace; employers and employees need to get educated on it to survive and compete successfully in a flexible future that is heating up.

So what's the difference between remote, flexible, part time and term time. Hybrid and fully remote teams? Are they not all somewhat the same? Will someone please tell me what is a 'water cooler' and what does a remote policy really look like? These are some of the questions I answer in this short article as a HR leader that now helps business and people prepare for a remote future.

Flexible work means many things. Its not just part time work as we traditionally know it to be, it's that and more. Its also shorter hours, flexible hours, term time that is work hours outside of school holidays and its working from home or a co working office space that is new for a lot of employers who are considering offering remote work to employees in a different location.

It's important to also note the demographic has changed. Flexible employees are today not just one category of employees i.e. working moms in administrative roles. There are more and more men and professional women looking for flexible work options and in particular remote working in today's business world. Highly skilled executives and yes, the C-suite, professionals, technical experts and millennials are seeking out flexible employers offering remote employment.

So what then is a remote working space, who pays for it and who is it suited to? Does everyone work from home? It can be from your home, ideally in a room where you can close the door, that is separate from your bedroom or kitchen. Why? Because otherwise you will find it very hard to switch off in the evening, avoid interruptions from family and achieve that workflow and equilibrium between work and home. Don't underestimate the need for proper technology, high speed broadband, basic remote equipment, software and home office set up support to deliver the results expected of you, within the time necessary. The nitty gritty of set up costs; who pays for what and how, must be agreed from the start without disdain and expectations on this managed clearly from the outset. Some employers pay a set up amount, others pay towards costs. There's no fudging it or hiding from it.

You will need to have healthy boundaries in place too to make it work. You have to be a master communicator comfortable with virtual contact; have an aptitude for curiosity, succinct, clear communication and have a lot of self direction with resourcefulness as a core skill. There must be no room for ambiguity around what hours you need to be available and no feeling of guilt for taking advantage of the new flexibility you have at home, once the contracted hours are agreed and outcomes are clearly defined so you can deliver the results wanted.

Remote workers may also have the option to avail of a co working space outside of the home for example one or two days a week or month to overcome the challenge of team human interaction, loneliness and isolation, which can be one of the most crippling parts of remote working.

This office rental space is always paid for by the employer. In such settings, employees may find themselves working in a dedicated space with a team or hot desking with other like-minded remote workers from different walks of life. The type of co-working space offered depends on the need and budget of the remote employer. People who work in co-working spaces are sometimes solopreneurs or they may be part of a wider team, falling into the start up or scaling category; indigenous Irish business or be an international player breaking into the Irish market. Its how Google and Facebook first set up in Ireland.

There are also many categories of remote teams. What I mean here is that you can have a fully remote team, where every worker is remote or you can have a hybrid team of remote and office employees. You may be coined a distributed remote worker when you are part of a wider team with other remote colleagues in different locations, not near each other. So the definitions are many used to describe remote teams across the globe, depending on the remote needs of the business you are in, the remote working strategy and policy of the business you are working for.

Hiring remote teams has many advantages. Some of these awesome benefits include the savings on the cost of commercial space, a larger pool of talent to choose from and better retention. It allows you to build a virtual highly skilled team that you could not successfully pull together in-person in one location. There are, however, downsides to leading distributed teams. It can be easy to just do your work, and not focus on team-building, when you are not interacting with people on a human level every day. You tend to miss out on the general 'shoot the breeze' chit chat you have at the water cooler when in the traditional office space.

Creating a relaxed, 'water cooler' culture with your remote employees is essential to your remote success and its even more important to know how to put it in place, if you are new to remote working. You need to create an event that fits your team that enables virtual interaction, for example a book club, a movie night using Netflix or, a webcam hangout room like the 'kitchen table' or maybe a Secret Santa at Christmas with a video unveiling or a mix of weekly lunchtime online games. There are so many things you can do to create that 'water cooler' culture. It's remembering that there is no such thing as mandatory fun or forced socialization because everyone is different. Employees drive this remote culture and shape it with their interests, wants and needs. Employers listen to what your employees need and set remote employees up for success.

Finally, no remote strategy in a business is complete or can be successfully implemented in practice without a remote work policy. This is the guideline the employer puts in place for employees suited to working remotely, like any other company policy. It sets out the stall, the rules around who applies to it, how to apply for it and how to manage it. It includes the do's and don'ts of remote working practice in your business. It helps manage the expectations of key stakeholders involved and put some clear boundaries in place for both employees and employers. It must always be a moving feast, open to review and update. Why? Because when starting out, you will need to pilot a remote working practice and learn from the experience. You will need to fail, make mistakes, learn and make changes. Only then can you improve how you do it and get the right fit for your business. One size does not fit all. Employers and employees alike who are new to it, must always have an open mindset and have a willingness to fail to succeed.

I hope you enjoyed my article, its the 'abc' of remote working and a flavour of what more is to come in the remote future we now live in. For more information, please contact me today.