There’s a corporate change in the air, can you sense it? A new approach to working is revolutionising the world of work like the internet did back in the 1990s. It’s always been there, but it just took a long time for us to take any notice. A bit like Susan Boyle. We’re on the brink of entering the era of remote working.
According to a new survey by The International Workplace Group, a colossal 74% of respondents believed that ‘flexible working has become the new norm.’ Add to this that 80% of remote workers experience less job-related stress when working from home. And you can see why it’s the popular choice for employees and modern-thinking businesses alike!
But how easy is it to lead a team of remote workers? Can you still train your staff sufficiently? Can you still monitor individual performances? Remote working comes with some challenges.
Whether you’re in an office as you read this, or sitting in a unicorn onesie whilst working from your bed, join us as we answer these questions and more…
The History of Remote Working
Remote working has snuck up on us like a long lost Aunty at a wedding – a charming and cool Aunty, not a grumpy, inebriated one. It’s not anything new, however. It’s just grown in popularity due to modern technology making it more plausible. So what’s the history of remote working? Here’s a brief overview:
IBM allows their employees to work from home purely as an experiment. By 1983, around 2,000 IBM employees were home-workers. We can only conclude that the experiment went well.
The American department store JC Penney allows call-centre employees to work from home for the first time.
The US Congress authorises permanent funding for work-related equipment to be installed in the home of federal employees.
Berlin based hackerspace C-Base is found. A hackerspace is a tech workshop where coworkers can meet and work on projects either together or singularly.
By 2004, federal employees can telecommunicate remotely, provided they do so ‘without diminished employee performance.’
Forget hackerspaces! By 2005, the first official coworking space was opened by software engineer Brad Neuberg in San Francisco. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it was called The San Francisco Coworking Space.
President Barack Obama signs the Telework Enhancement Act, which calls for all federal agencies to create policies for eligible staff members to work from home.
The team collaboration tool Slack certainly doesn’t reflect its name. It grew from having zero users in 2013, to 4 million users in 2016!*
*12 million as from October 2019
The number of registered fully remote US companies jumped from just 26 in 2014, to 170 fully remote companies in 2018.
Skip to 2020, and in the U.S, 4.7 million employees (3.4% of the workforce) work from home at least half the week.
As you can see from our dazzling timeline, working from home is nothing new. The concept was put into practice on a large scale in 1979. So what’s pushed the demand for remote work? Why has it taken the best part of 40 years for home-working to become the norm? The truth is there’s no simple answer. Here are just a few explanations as to why people are now loving their homework:
1. Carbon Footprint
There’s been a growing concern regarding our environment over the past decade.
David Attenbrough’s coverage of the plastic waste in our oceans has encouraged thousands of us to diminish our plastic waste. The Global Web Index has found that the Attenborough Effect has led to a 53% reduction in single use plastics.
Add into the mix the young environmental activist Greta Thunburg and the pressure she’s put on politicians to change their environmental policies, and it’s easy to see why we’re on the brink of an ecological revolution.
So what’s this all got to do with remote working? This global awakening has seen companies wanting to meet the eco-aspirations of their staff. One way to do this is to introduce home-working, as it reduces the following:
This one doesn’t need much of an explanation. The less people gather together, the less germs will spread. It’s that simple! You have probably experienced the office flu going round and round from person to person? Now you only have to worry about the colds your family has!
Since the global Coronavirus pandemic, people have been more aware of personal hygiene. In fact, it was COVID-19 that really shone a light on remote working.
Ah, the big one. Technology is at the heart of remote working because it makes it so much easier to manage. WIthout the introduction of the internet, mobile devices, team collaboration tools such as Slack, Zoom and Trello and video conferencing, remote work would be nigh-enough impossible (or very slow and boring).
4. Mental Wellbeing
Recent figures show that companies in the UK lose roughly 100 million annually due to work-related stress. It seems that more and more companies are awakening to the mental well-being of their staff.
Homeworkers are free to work in a safer and happier environment. They can work in their PJ’s without dealing with gossip, office politics and who’s stolen who’s cup! A 2019 study found that remote workers are generally happier than their counterparts. As a result, they stay at companies longer.
Another study found that for every £1 spent on mental health programmes, businesses see a return of £10. It goes without saying that investment in well-being is the positivity loop that keeps on giving!
Tips for Training Remote Workers
So how do you train a completely remote company? Yes, you could email through units to be completed like a trendy uni teacher from 1996 would do. Maybe you could Skype each trainee individually? But it’s not cost-effective, and it doesn’t help keep tabs on the effectiveness of the training.
Here’s four ways in which you can train learners from home without trading in your office culture.
1. Create Clubs for Learning
‘But surely social learning and remote working don’t go together?!’ I hear your inner dialogue saying, but you’d be wrong. As highlighted by the 70/20/10 Model, social learning contributes to 20% of all learning, but don’t miss out when you go remote. Use social learning tools to plug the gaps!
With our Academy LMS and The Knowledge Arcade, admins can set up social hubs such as clubs. A club is an area where (much like a real-life club) people can discuss certain topics. You can create a club for the latest industry news or the latest company news, for example. You can also create training-specific clubs such as a club for on-boarders, a club for problem solving, or clubs for particular departments.
2. Introduce Expert Areas
Sometimes Google doesn’t have all the answers. Sometimes only cultivated, experienced minds will do. With The Expert Area on our Academy LMS, admins can seek out Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) to helm certain topics. This works via instant messenger, so remote workers should get their responses straight away.
3. Send Out Push Notifications
Do you require a certain training module to be completed by the end of the week? Then introducing push notifications can be a fantastic way to motivate learning, and also a great reminder to staff that a training deadline is approaching.
WIth our mobile learning app, The Knowledge Arcade, you can create what’s known as a Battle. Battles give learning a competitive edge by introducing gamification. Players are pitched against each other, each answering a range of multiple-choice questions related to a topic. The winner gets points and the loser…well, doesn’t!
Introduce gamified features such as leaderboards and you will see how training suddenly becomes a competitive challenge. Battles are mobile-friendly. They can be played on a bus, in a cafe, or even in a hackerspace!
So remote working is here to stay, and whilst certain careers such as plumbing and life-guarding won’t ever experience the benefits, office workers certainly can. Not only does it save on pricey office rent, but companies can also enjoy more productivity. How? According to a recent survey, remote workers are more productive, as they average an extra 1.4 days a month in comparison to on-site staff (that’s 16.8 days extra every year!).
With COVID-19 currently ongoing we know lots of businesses need support going remote. So, we used our Genie Authoring Tool to create some content we think you’ll find helpful. It’s completely free and will help your learners ease into remote work.