The Rise and Rise of Remote Work
Or how to get more cost savings and take advantage of external global talent
If we can talk about anything “positive” in the Covid-19 pandemic – it has altered the entire concept of “work”. Almost all businesses, which do not absolutely require physical presence were forced to discover the remote work (from home or from anywhere outside the office).
With the progress of the vaccination there are voices for returning employees back to offices as some managers see the forthcoming end of the pandemic. But is this really the case?
For Bloomberg if anyone is hoping to see light at the end of the Covid-19 tunnel over the next three to six months, scientists have some bad news – expect more of what we’ve already been through. The vaccination success in some regions, such as the European Union, North America, and China, masks the failure in others like Africa, India, etc. The “experts” agree that almost everyone will be either infected or vaccinated before the pandemic ends or maybe both..
Office vs. Home
In this situation the world techno giants reacted differently.
For example, Apple proposed to its employees a hybrid working model. It consists of certain days in which they obliged to be in the office and days in which they can work from home or anywhere else. This company decision has already caused great discontent.
In his article for Forbes Dan Pontefract, a leadership strategist explains that the curious decision to mandate employees to be in the office on set days smashed employee (and team lead) autonomy in favour of a dictatorial mandate. In retrospect it will kill not only autonomy but trust. And when trust is broken, an organization can welcome its employee disengagement, concludes Pontefract.
On the other pole is the Japanese IT giant Fujitsu. BBC reported that between now and 2022, the company will halve its total office space and allow 80,000 employees to work from home as much as possible. Only by exception some colleagues still must come to the office.
Among the advantages of the remote work Fujitsu states ones like – less commute for the employees, better productivity, the plan saves money and so on. Of course, they see also disadvantages – less contact with colleagues, being available day and night, etc. But the company admits those ultimately do not outweigh the benefits.
The remote work tendencies in EU
Let’s return to EU. Here there are companies in both camps – work at the office and remote (hybrid of fully remote). Regardless which camp a company belongs to, there is a visible tendency across West Europe and the E.U as a whole. More and more companies are welcoming remote work in the form of outsourcing more of their activities to external (remote) vendors.
Since 2013 Whitelane Research is conducting huge research in 12 main West European countries to detect the tendencies in IT Outsourcing.
Their 2021 survey for BeLux (Belgium and Luxemburg) done with 300 participants shows that 83% of organisations in the region are planning to outsource at the same rate or more in the next two years.
Number one outsourcing reason for 57% of the respondents this year is “Focus on core business” (57%). The second place goes to “Cost reduction” (45%), followed by “Access to resources/talent” (43%).
The research also shows that according to Belgian business – quality did not suffer from Covid-19 in a year in which vendors also in a mass worked from home. 67% of the customers saw no difference in the delivered quality. 16% even speak of a (slight) improvement.
The figures in Netherlands respectively are: 80% of all respondents confirm they will outsource at the same rate or more, with 48% citing that they are planning to outsource more in the next two years (currently the highest level in Europe).
Most important outsourcing drivers for the Dutch companies are: “More scalability to business needs” (61%), second is “Focus on core business” (48%) and almost with a tie, but a percent less is “Cost reduction” (47%).
Jef Loos, Head Sourcing Europe at Whitelane Research quoted by DataNews Belgium, makes the conclusion for this year’s survey, that “The corona crisis has proven that offshore can indeed work, even in a global pandemic. So, we expect that it will certainly not disappear. Offshore will mainly remain in demand as a cost saving, especially among those companies that have had to deal with turnover losses of more than 50% in the past year and now.”
So, do the CEOs and any other company decision makers already understand the benefits of remote work?
Let’s quickly remind you of them:
- More and better availability. The employers (external consultants) decide when to do their tasks.
- Ecological impact. Less commute (less time in cars, etc.). Less building costs when no-one is in the office. Big electricity savings, especially the last few months when the prices of the electricity in EU are plummeting.
- Bigger access to talent. If you cannot find resources you can always hire external force – from a consultant to a whole team, who can work remote within the boundaries of EU.
- Data protection. After the GDPR if you hire remote force nearshore, the data will never leave EU. Under GDPR it is allowed to share data with third countries but under quite strict rules and only when it is necessary.
- Tax advantage. When working remote, if an individual is a company employee, he/she is taxed in the home country. Remote companies (providing teams of individual consultants) are taxed at the supplier’s place of establishment, which in most cases is at EU country with lower taxes.
- Social savings. Through a remote consulting company, a customer can save up to 40% of the social expenses for remote consultants.
- 24/7 availability. Remote consultants can cover business tasks around the clock during the whole week, so the client does not need to hire more staff for uncovered shifts.
- Covered employees paid vacations. As a remote company works according to the client’s schedule and needs, it can provide service coverage when internal employees are in a paid vacation.
Think Bridges, Not Destination
It is normal to doubt the remote working model (hybrid or fully remote) and have fears it can worsen the communication, the coordination, and the cooperation between its employees, which at the end of the line can lead to less engagement and business deterioration.
We can lend a hand on how to overcome these apprehensions by introducing the research of Mark Kilby – Agile coach and writer, who over two decades has cultivated more distributed and dispersed teams than collocated teams.
Mark shared this experience in his book with Johanna Rothman – From Chaos to Successful Distributed Agile Teams: Collaborate to Deliver”:
The three types of remote teams:
They consist of most of the team in one location and a few members working in locations without other team members co-located. The satellite team emerges when all team members cannot easily be brought into the office. One reason such a team forms is when a team member with unique expertise has been hired or relocated to another geography. The other reason is when a valued team member cannot be in the office for personal reasons.
They form when you have clusters of people in different locations, or the organisation brings in a group of consultants specialising in functions, for which the company have no resources.
Hybrid remote teams.
Mix of the satellite and cluster team types.
Strong affinity vs Weak affinity
Before the pandemic, hybrid remote teams were challenging because most of their members balanced between two very different collaboration styles: a strong affinity style and a weak affinity style.
Strong affinity typically exists between co-located team members. They often see and hear each other in the same office space. This allows more rich and natural communication.
Weak affinity typically arises between co-located and remote team members. The best way to think of this is with the phrase “out of sight, out of mind”.
But it comes out that the distance has never been the biggest problem for the remote teams. In research that spans 1400 studies from more than 55 countries and 36 organisational sectors for more than 15 years, Drs. Karen Lojeski and Richard Reilly describes the problem – virtual distance.
They define it as: as “a felt sense of distance that grows unconsciously when we rely heavily on mediated communication through smart devices”. Since we all use smart devices these days, this leads to their main principle that “everyone is a virtual worker; therefore, virtual distance impacts everyone, everywhere”.
Components of virtual distance with the greatest impact.
- Physical distance – includes geographical distance and time zones and has the least impact on the feeling of virtual distance.
- Operational distance – provides twice the impact of virtual distance, and includes things like communications networks, online collaboration tools, technology infrastructure.
- Affinity distance – has the greatest impact which reflects social connections, cultural differences, and any interdependence between people for the work. It has twice the impact of operational distance and four times the impact of physical distance.
The bridges between virtual distance components.
A hybrid remote team can overcome the virtual distance components if it accepts them as bridges that the team needs to cross to work together successfully.
- Physical distance bridge – can be easily crossed with flexible schedules and a combination of synchronous and asynchronous collaboration (to collaborate with team members, without having to be working on the same problem at the same time).
- Operational distance bridge – requires more investment of time and money, but with a solid infrastructure and training it can also be quickly crossed.
- Affinity distance bridge – is a longer journey and it’s often hard for people to even find if they are prepared for it. If a team and organisation are prepared, crossing the affinity distance bridge, and effectively reducing the affinity distance between team members, this means this team can work as effectively as any co-located team.
Choice is the master key!
The pandemic forced many teams into going remote when they were not prepared. For Mark Kilby choice is a key element of successful remote work and a lack of choice can place a team in dissatisfactory conditions that increase operational and affinity distance.
Already some employees do want to go back to the office, but not every day. Why? Because they’ve discovered that remote work gives them more focus and control over how and when to work and provides better balance between their own life and work.
To avoid a loss of talent, many companies see hybrid remote work as the next destination. Employees, especially in areas like IT, see remote work as a new perk. If employees feel they have a choice in how to optimise their work, they feel trusted.
How to overcome the virtual distance (proposed by Mark Kilby in his article Hybrid Remote Work – Think Bridges, Not Destination):
- Use a buddy system. Pair up one person in the office with one remote one, or by rotating “buddies” in the office with different remote individuals can help the team reduce affinity distance.
- Assign co-pilots. They should act as co-facilitators of interactions across the team. The co-pilot system tends to work well with cluster teams and consists of a co-pilot in each location who coordinates with co-pilots in other locations.
- Ask team members to change their location at different times. For satellite teams, this means those typically in the office might work remote at times to better empathise with their remote colleagues.
Of course, this method can work only if has the support of the C-team members. Any change in the company culture starts at the top. If office and remote team members are encouraged to build bridges between them it may lead to better commitment and productivity.
The times call for New Ways to motivate home office workers, improve the hybrid work productivity and lead the newly formed virtual, remote and hybrid teams. Quite a few names have made great strides in preparing virtual teams to handle current challenges.
Peter Ivanov’s Virtual Power teams programs for instance have incredibly helped remote teams and their leadership across well over 20 different European countries. In order to reach to everyone that has to work in or lead a virtual team he summarizes 28 years of international experience managing and coaching 200+ teams in the Online Master Class “Leading Virtual and Hybrid Teams”.
B.A.A.E.R Database solutions has been on the forefront of remote work and models with hybrid work models ( onsite and remote) for consultants over the last five years and more.
A straighthforward breakdown of the ROI for Oracle, SQL Server, PostgreSQL and cloud native environments will give you a clear view of the abilities of the 21st century remote database management service. Our Oracle specialists, MSSQL specialists, PostgreSQL specialists and all teams for SQL and NonSQL onprem or cloud database management systems naturally engage these work trends to provide value for our growing customer base.
Whatever model or methodology you choose, the fact remains that remote work must be well-integrated and seamlessly adopted for the successful teams of the future.
Article by Assen Natchev