Remote working is when an employee or contractor does their job without ever visiting company premises. Rather than meeting and collaborating in person, remote staff can keep in touch via phone, email, live chat or video conferencing. Remote workers are typically based at their homes, but they may use shared workspaces, or work anywhere else they wish.
Hybrid working refers to staff dividing their time between remote and office-based working, whether to an agreed schedule or on an ad-hoc basis depending on workloads and requirements.
What are the advantages of remote and hybrid working?
Remote working allows companies to make considerable savings on building space and amenities. A large business can operate from a small office, or even have no regular premises at all.
Employees meanwhile don’t need to spend time and money commuting to their place of work every day – benefiting not only their quality of life, but also the environment. Indeed, it’s not necessary for staff to live anywhere near the company they work for. This gives talented workers many more career opportunities, and allows businesses to recruit from a much wider pool of talent.
With hybrid working, businesses can still save money on office premises and services, as the building only needs to accommodate a fraction of the total workforce at any time. However, unlike fully remote working, hybrid working allows for regular face-to-face contact, which is beneficial for team-building, mentoring and free-flowing communications.
Both remote and hybrid working involve individuals working autonomously, without direct supervision. With fewer interruptions and distractions, workers can be more productive. And the arrangement can be positive for a work/life balance, as employees are appraised on outcomes, rather than how many hours they spend at their desks.
What are the drawbacks?
Remote and hybrid working make it harder for teams to work collaboratively, and for senior staff to supervise and manage them. More limited contact also makes it harder to support, train and develop talent, and gives remote workers fewer opportunities to observe and learn from co-workers. With less social interaction, workers can be left feeling detached and alienated.
IT teams face practical challenges. Desktop support can be problematic when support staff don’t have physical access to a malfunctioning system. Since remote and hybrid work often go hand-in-hand with a BYOD policy, support agents may not even be familiar with the operating system and software stack that needs troubleshooting.
What does the future hold?
During the Covid-19 pandemic many companies and workers found themselves obliged to adopt remote working, whether they wished to or not.
Today, research indicates that both employers and staff are keen to keep the benefits of remote work. However, there’s a strong general preference for hybrid arrangements, rather than full-time remote positions. Future technologies could make remote communication more seamless, but for now the challenge is to find the right balance of worker independence and in-person collaboration.
- Remote workers are based permanently at home (or another location of their choosing), while hybrid workers spend some of their time in the office.
- Remote and hybrid working saves money for both businesses and staff.
- Remote workers can be more productive and have a healthier work/life balance.
- Reduced in-person contact creates challenges for management, career development and technical support.
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