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Although many companies were exploring remote work long before Covid-19 hit, the pandemic threw roughly 200 years of office tradition right out the window. Suddenly, everybody had to make remote work possible. As we all start to recover, the big question is, what do we do now? Go back to everybody being on-site? Go full force into remote? Meet somewhere in the middle? As a leader, you have to make a choice, and it has to benefit your company for the long haul.
There are pros and cons to going remote
From a productivity standpoint, people often do better at home because there are fewer interruptions. Also, time that would be spent commuting can now go toward work. On the other hand, there really is a synergy that happens when people are in the same room. People often get their best work done through innovation and problem-solving in teams. You can lose that sense of togetherness while working at home, and being isolated can increase your risk of burnout.
Your middle ground is uniquely yours
If you acknowledge both the upsides and downsides to remote work, the ultimate answer is that there is no “right” answer. It just depends on the circumstances specific to your organization. For example, some businesses have been remote for years already. If you’re in that position, then you’ve probably already got a company culture in place to support that approach. Another example could be a business where employees need to be undisturbed for most of their production time. In that case, too, remote work makes a lot of sense.
Is staying completely remote a productive long-term solution? Maybe for some parts of your company, but probably not for all. For most businesses, moving forward will likely mean finding a middle ground that balances preference with functionality.
If you decide on a hybrid solution, one of the biggest advantages is this: Even as you get time to work undisturbed, you don’t lose the chance to talk to your peeps. There’s water cooler time and a high level of mutual team spirit. That’s great protection against having people poached away into other businesses that can offer more cash, because remember, people don’t leave just for money. They are more likely to leave if they have a bad manager or toxic environment.
Just be flexible. Your setup might not look anything like what you see somewhere else, because you have to accommodate the unique here-and-now needs of your own organization. Within that, give every sector head autonomy about how their team works best, even if that means every department is different. Leave the door open for people to change their situation later, too.
Stay aware of the communication bandwidth hierarchy
No matter what your setup might be, good communication is going to make a difference in how successful you are. Be aware that there’s a hierarchy here. Communicating through email is like communicating through a straw. Your bandwidth is really limited and it’s easy to misunderstand. The next level up is phone communication — you can tell a lot from someone’s voice. Another level up is video conferencing because you can hear and see people physically. Nothing compares, though, to sitting in a room with someone and just talking.
The smaller the bandwidth, the less productive you usually are. Go as high as you can in the hierarchy. Prioritize in-person interaction if it’s an option.
With good communication, respect and flexibility, you can find the setup that fits best
There’s really no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to whether people should work on-site, remotely, or hybrid. You have to look at what your own business is facing. Most companies will probably benefit from a customized mix of on-site and remote work. To be the most effective in that space, just stay as flexible as you can and be mindful of how you choose to communicate. If you do that while respecting the autonomy and preferences of others, you’ll be in great shape.