The remote workforce is here to stay.

The remote workforce and flex workforce is not the workforce of the future, but rather the workforce of the now.  For me the question we should be asking ourselves in our own business is more about how we are adapting, rather than whether we will. It’s unlikely this will be a trend or a cyclical fad, as a combination of two factors have launched us into a new way of working:

  • Technology – Which has enabled mobility away from being deskbound to a computer.
  • Flexibility – A requirement for companies to be more flexible in how they set up their operations.

The war for talent has been a challenge for many companies over the last decade.  A remote workforce allows companies to find the best talent, not just the most conveniently located talent, although it does seem very clear from the work summit that remote workers fit a specific profile – they are typically independent, self-starters, senior employees with “rookie smarts”.  The micro interactions of water cooler type conversations are being replaced with interesting tools to encourage communication, relationship building and engagement of the remote workforce, and we’re getting better at building structure to these interactions as we move further and deeper into the remote space.

Companies are adapting their culture, their hiring and onboarding practices, their communication style and their physical space commitments as they recognise and value the offerings of a remote team. Attending the Remote Workforce Summit 2018, it was interesting to see that companies are still choosing to keep a small office for a few people who may use this space a few times a week. Becca Van Nederynen, Head of People at Helpscout , advised that they chose to keep 25% or less of their team working out of the office so as not to have 2 different teams – they have been careful to avoid having a team IN the know; and a team peripheral to this.

Mark Gilbreath, CEO of LiquidSpace, shared similar insights to share around how companies are choosing to sign up for office space – many companies are opting for a ‘core plus flex’ approach which allows for a small core or hub team, and then flex space in other areas which may allow for collaboration on specific projects. There is no rule, but it does seem clear that companies should be choosing to optimise either on a remote workforce, or a co-located workforce.

Doing both is hard to get right as one of the dangers is that you may create 2 different cultures.  To encourage the right culture for their remote workforce, Helpscout have defined their onboarding process which involves in-office training for new hires, allocating work friends to new hires, dedicating time to training on their communication guidelines, and, CEO one-on-ones to discuss company values, structure and strategic vision.  Although most would think collaboration is an issue, the communication platforms (Slack, Zoom, Ring Central, Skype etc.) are not giving us any excuses to avoid contact (remote workers have been stereotyped as introverts), and LiquidSpace are non-negotiable that all calls between their team members must be done as video calls.

The beauty of remote workforces is the ability of companies to source top talent globally, without being limited to a specific location.  This does present some issues culturally and in communications across time zones, but as Helpscout pointed out, if you can manage your incoming messages, and if you are able to use emoji’s when communicating in writing across cultures, sometimes these tricks can help manage the overall communication of a remote team working across cultures and countries.  As Mark noted, communication in remote teams is a muscle you must continually flex to get stronger and better at it.

Until next time,

Caryn is the Global Lead of PeopleOps at VentureWeb. Want to join our marketing agile workforce? Find out more here.

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