It’s more than a location decision: being remote, in-office, or hybrid can significantly impact a company's culture, productivity, and overall chance of success.
The world of work is evolving at a rapid pace, and companies are grappling with critical decisions. In the face of this new paradigm of work, old theories, and practices simply won't cut it. But what does it mean to embrace the future of work?
Should all companies mandate remote work for all employees? Probably not. Should then companies bring everyone back to the office? Also, no. The answer lies somewhere in the middle, and it's different for every company.
To navigate this complex landscape, we've turned to Eva Spexard, Head of People at Passion.io, who has extensive experience in solving the complexities of the modern workplace.
Choosing the Right Operating Model
Interestingly, we’ve seen a rising in companies mandating a return to the office. The reasons for this vary, but a common thread seems to be a desire to improve communication and collaboration. Some executives and leaders believe that in-person interaction fosters a more productive and innovative work environment.
However, this has sparked a debate, with critics arguing that such mandates overlook the benefits of remote work and the preferences of employees, and are only a patch to poor culture.
Every business decision, including the operating model, should be rooted in the company's core values and strategic objectives. It's not a one-size-fits-all approach but a tailored strategy that aligns with your unique business needs and culture.
According to Eva, the decision between remote, in-office, or hybrid work should be based on careful research, data, and alignment with the company's values.
"The operating model of your company is a decision about the business you want to create," she says. "Just like any other decision, you should base it on research, data, and the values of your organization and team. Do your due diligence, look into pros and cons, and choose the right business model for your company."
While remote work offers many benefits, it's not always the best option.
"Besides all the jobs that cannot be done remotely and the many people that do not want to work remotely, if you don't trust your team without monitoring them all day, it's probably better to stay in an in-office environment and work on that first," Eva cautions.
Building a Successful Remote Culture
We’ve also read about companies trying out remote work, only to realize that it doesn’t achieve the results they wanted, and revert back.
One common mistake that companies make when transitioning to remote work is not fully committing to the change.
"Sometimes companies end up in a hybrid back and forth with everyone being unhappy with the situation because not coming to the office means you're excluded from things and you can't fully experience the benefits of remote work," Eva warns. "If you want to go remote, you should plan properly, create the processes and policies needed, and then execute and learn along the way."
It takes planning, effort, and a redesign of your ways of working for remote work, but in the end, the preparation pays off with a higher likelihood of success and a greater percentage of an engaged workforce.
Essential Collaboration Structures for Remote Teams
Remote teams collaborate in a fundamentally different way with respect to in-person, and it’s important to make space and arrangements to support connection and collaboration.
When it comes to remote work, Eva emphasizes the importance of several key collaboration structures. These include a focus on results rather than hours, intentional personal touchpoints, thorough documentation, asynchronous work, and a diverse range of Slack channels for both work and leisure. Eva also highlights the importance of rituals in maintaining a strong remote culture.
"At least one off-site per year where you can meet in person or other opportunities for different teams to meet in person is crucial," she advises. "And a great meeting culture is key. Use face time for personal connection, brainstorming, creativity, and important decisions, not to go through things that could be an email or Slack message."
Stay true to your unique culture
Eva emphasizes that a strong culture can be built regardless of the company's operating model:
"It's important to understand that culture is not a building - no matter how you operate as a business you can create a strong culture. You have to do it with intention though, especially when working remotely, but it pays off."
As with other policies, procedures, and rituals, what’s most important is finding a way to live your company culture in a truthful and transparent way. Giving in to trends might be a temping short-term solution but without intentionality, you run a higher risk of failure.
In other words, your Why should be strong enough to convince your audience without doubt, and understand your policies even when these are different from personal preferences. Once you align your policies with the company’s ethos, you’ll also reap the benefits of positive collaborations that come with it.