We recently commissioned a global survey that looked at the working habits of 24,000+ workers worldwide, and as seen in USA Today, it found that 62% of workers surveyed internationally worry that they will be perceived as not working hard enough by their peers if they work remotely.
That’s going to be a hurdle that we are all going to need to clear, because our survey unequivocally pointed to remote working as a key piece of the workplace of the future. It’s already starting to change the way we work, all around the world. But to embrace this trend and the many positives it brings to employees and employers alike is going to take some adjustment.
So back to my original question – are remote workers: slackers or workaholics?
Our survey found that 2/3 of millennials worried about being judged by their colleagues – being seen as the textbook “slacker” – when they work anywhere. But their older colleagues feel differently. Baby Boomers are much more concerned about putting in longer hours – working too hard – when they work flexibly.
In truth, remote workers can be either slackers or workaholics, just as their in-office brethren are, but our survey pointed out a key underlying theme: trust.
It’s trust, or rather a lack thereof in workplace culture.
If you are managing teams with individuals from different generations – and most managers in the workplace today are – then you need to be attuned to the different expectations and responses from your employees about remote work policies, and you need to focus on building the trust that is necessary for all sides to benefit.
I’m lucky that I work in a company where working anywhere has, for years, been not only supported but actively encouraged. It means that trust is intrinsic; we all know our boundaries, that we are being measured on output and results, not how much face-time we put in at the office. What’s more, we know how to work and be efficient wherever we are.
Looking at this research, though, I realize that I’ve been taking my situation for granted. Working anywhere is hugely beneficial, but only if you know how to do it. This is harder for companies where flexible working is a newer concept or more uncommon and, consequently, there’s little guidance and understanding about how to do it.
That’s where we all need to step in. It’s the job of leaders, HR and ultimately team members to prevent these worries about working anywhere from becoming obstacles to greater happiness for our people and higher productivity for our companies. To do this, we need to instil a culture of trust.
So how do we build trust?
62 percent of workers said that, to dissipate their fears around anywhere working, companies should prioritise equipping the team with technology that’s easy to use. With the right technology, all workers can be part of the team wherever, whenever.
Another popular suggestion was to provide guidelines on managing anywhere working. If the whole team has the same understanding of what’s expected when they work anywhere, and how to do it, the fear of misunderstanding is removed. And interestingly, there’s a consensus across all levels of seniority that this should be a blanket policy. If everyone has the same access to anywhere working, it removes the feeling of being judged or segregated by title – and it makes flexible working more acceptable.
There’s no ‘one-size-fits-all’ perfect combination of hours, places, positions to work in to be your most productive. Even so, listening to what teams and individuals need to strike the right work-life balance, and taking responsibility to accommodate them is crucial for a healthy, happy workforce – which can only mean a healthy, happy business.
And it’s better for teamwork…
Working anywhere can build team relationships – if technology is involved. Nine out of ten workers said technology is a key factor in improving teamwork when working anywhere, and 64 per cent said video specifically improves relationships across remote based teams.
One of my favourite findings: nearly half of us worldwide (me included) consider the tone of our emails more carefully if we’ve also spoken with the recipient on video.
Speaking with someone face-to-face (whether that’s in person or over video) means we pick up on body language as well as what people are saying; we get to know the person and their reactions quicker, which helps us anticipate their responses. I often encourage my team to use video to add a ‘human’ touch to any collaboration. (Side note, there are a few key tips for maximizing the value of video in our series on vidiquette.)
Ultimately, working anywhere can be as productive for teamwork as being in the same place.
Slackers…? Not likely, it’s just a shift in mindset for all!