Learning & Development, Q&A

Why Companies Should Keep Remote Work – and Not Follow Disney’s RTO Plans

Disney, Amazon, Goldman Sachs, and JPMorgan are just a few of the companies calling their employees back to the office. For some it’s about productivity and collaboration while others believe that “nothing can replace” in-person work. But is there really an advantage to in-office time for every company? 

In 2021, 70 percent of those who worked from home during the pandemic reported virtual meetings are less stressful, and 64 percent now prefer hybrid meetings according to a report by Owl Labs. Additionally, recent studies are finding that productivity is up while working from home. New research from Stanford found that productivity increases by 13% when working remote. Even if it’s just a few times per month, 77% of those working remotely show increased productivity, notes ConnectSolutions.

If you’re on the fence about remote work and are unsure about the benefits, look no further, as we here at HR Daily Advisor have you covered. We recently connected with Aleksandra Sulimko, Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) at TheSoul Publishing about why she believes fully remote or remote-first work is beneficial.

Here’s what she had to say.

Why shouldn’t companies rush back to requiring office time?

AS: The key reason to avoid rushing back to in-office requirements, whether that be a few days a week or five days a week, is that you don’t want to alienate or frustrate employees who prefer remote, hybrid, or asynchronous working models. Employees have been enjoying flexibility over the last few years, and may need to alter their schedules, commutes, or even their locations to accommodate stringent office policies. This can have a direct impact on productivity, wellbeing and burnout, and has been seen as a major impetus for “quiet quitting.” 

Synchronous communication was always the norm with in-person office modules, yet the outlook for asynchronous communication is being called into question with the push to return to the office. Businesses with asynchronous workflows tend to have higher employee morale due to the increased communication and documentation practices that are encouraged with remote work.  

What are some proof points for how productivity has increased with flexible work?

AS: Flexible work has allowed employees to deviate from the traditional nine to five, Monday to Friday work schedule, affording freedom and optionality of making their own schedule. This greater work/life balance is in response to their individual work habits and overall well-being needs. People are productive at different times throughout the day and are opting for models that best suit their needs. For example, some prefer moments of early morning tactical focus followed by evening creativity. By scheduling their work around the hours they’re most productive, employees can execute tasks more effectively, and produce higher quality results. Additionally, with less pressure to work at specific hours, flexible working leads to lower levels of absenteeism and greater efficiency during working hours. 

What are the benefits of asynchronous communication/working to companies? 

AS: At TheSoul Publishing, we have been following an asynchronous communication policy for years, and it has become an extension of our company’s values. With 70% of our global team working remotely, we rely on asynchronous communications – including a no meetings/no internal email policy – to allow our team to get their work done and meet deadlines around their personal schedules. This has allowed our employees the freedom to manage their own time, which means something different to everyone. Whether that’s fitting in a workout, picking the kids up from school, or taking time to make a home cooked meal, asynchronous communication is a unified effort with a variety of benefits. Further, employees who feel seen, heard, and “in charge” will be more engaged, and a no meetings policy with asynchronous communication directly fuels this. 

How can remote work truly work for businesses?

AS: Eight out of 10 workers have said they are comfortable working remotely, occasionally or regularly, after experiencing the benefits of remote work. TheSoul Publishing was a pioneer for the remote worker, being a fully remote company before the pandemic began. Operating under these conditions, TheSoul Publishing has found a number of key benefits:

Having a remote team is the ultimate way to build trust between employee and employer. Here at TheSoul Publishing, we allow employees to work when/how they need to, and we don’t expect our people to be glued to their screens throughout the entirety of traditional working hours. When companies allow this, employers are essentially putting full trust and confidence in their teams to accomplish their goals, which actually transfers into higher engagement and quality work. People tend to try harder when they know their time is being respected. 

Do not send mixed signals about remote work. When a company exudes ambiguous or conflicting thoughts around remote work, it tends to alienate remote employees, or make them feel like they’re “lazy” or less appreciated as employees. This may lead to remote employees “quiet quitting” or putting in minimal effort. 

Leverage technology. Tools like Slack, Zoom, and Asana make remote work seamless, which the corporate ecosystem has learned over the last few years. These tools are particularly important for global remote teams, where employees in different regions can collaborate more effectively with systems that calibrate to the right time zone/language/calendar for each employee. 

What HR trends do see you picking up steam in 2023?

AS: Employee visibility, a.k.a. being recognized for your hard work and contributions, will be a major trend in 2023. With the stresses of the economy and the continuance of remote/hybrid work, there is this misconception that employees receive less visibility, which in turn results in fewer promotions. HR leaders will be making more of an effort to make employees feel included and a part of the organization, as well as in the loop with their peers, seniors, and executives. 

Emotionally distant management is becoming a thing of the past. Employees now want and need managers who are authentic and reciprocate the desire for communication and feedback.  

Firms will be favoring simplicity. Whether it be managing hybrid/remote teams, or handling leaner groups, companies will be increasingly keen on maximizing “heads down” time. Over-complicated organizational processes inevitably kill productivity.

Reskilling and upskilling are on the rise. During a recession, training current employees with new skills is always a trend, especially when hiring is stalled and restructurings happen as a result of layoffs. This can be a great chance to improve robust L&D initiatives. 

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