02 Dec What does a Harvard Remote Work Expert have to say on Work-From-Anywhere? – Part 2
Working from home is great. It frees you from boring meetings, meme interruptions from your colleagues, singing happy birthday to your boss, and the crowded commute. The recent pandemic has forced everyone to work from home regardless of where you are. And we’ve all started to realise, that remote working is not all fun and games.
In our previous editions, we discussed how Prof. Prithwiraj Chaudhury’s research outlines the benefits of work-from-anywhere. In this edition, we talk about the challenges to enable efficient work-from-anywhere, as per Prof. Raj’s research.
Of course, the major challenge was seen in Communication, brainstorming, and problem-solving. Since teams in organisations work collaboratively, synchronous communication becomes more difficult while remote. WFA organizations must get comfortable with asynchronous communication through online channels. This approach is also beneficial because employees are more likely to share early-stage ideas, plans, or documents, welcome early feedback; the pressure to present polished work is less than it would be in more formal, synchronous team meetings.
Knowledge sharing is another challenge where Colleagues cannot tap one another on the shoulder to ask questions or get help. Companies (Ex: GitLab) have started to solve it with transparent and easily accessible documentation. Senior managers must set an example by freely sharing knowledge. Another way would be to create transcripts, record video seminars, presentations, and meetings to create a repositor that individuals can view at their convenience.
Another major issue would be the lack of socialization, camaraderie, and mentoring. Employees may feel disconnected, isolated socially and professionally. Without in-person check-ins, managers may miss signs of team dysfunction. Virtual colleagues are less likely to become close friends because their face-to-face interactions are less frequent. Many WFA organizations rely on technology to help facilitate virtual planned randomized interactions like Chai pe charcha sessions, Friday happy hours, festival gaming, virtual get-togethers over meals, random pairing of colleagues through AI are all ways in organisations are compensating for the lack of face-to-face interactions.
How can you rate and review employees you’re never physically with? Performance evaluation and compensation is another pressing challenge. All-remote companies evaluate remote workers according to the quality of their work output, the quality of virtual interactions, and feedback from clients and colleagues. Setting compensation for workers who work from anywhere is another interesting debate. Companies do have different pay for different geographies, taking into account the experience of the worker, the contract type, and the task being performed.
Cybersecurity is also a big area of focus for WFA organizations. All-remote companies have to work harder to protect employee, corporate, and customer data. Transitioning a remote organization requires jumping regulatory hurdles as well, for example in India, companies have laws specific for special economic zones, IT and ITes organisations based on their physical office presence. Any all-remote organization has to consider local labour laws while thinking about hiring talent globally.
The remote experiment that came with COVID-19 has taught organizations and their employees that it comes with its own challenges, and even that these concerns can be addressed, and several best practices are emerging.