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Remote working has become a major trend in recent years, with, 56% of companies allowing remote work globally. The advantages of this approach to work are numerous, from greater flexibility and a better work/life balance to spending less time commuting. But for companies, a perceived decline in productivity can sometimes put the brakes on introducing new remote working policies altogether.
However, many studies show that remote working doesn’t hurt productivity - quite the opposite, in fact! A study led by Nicholas Bloom, professor at Stanford University, in 2015 showed that employees who work from home have up to 13.5% higher weekly productivity rates than their colleagues back in the office. That’s almost an entire extra day of work!
But despite this reassuring figure, remote working is far from a miracle cure. Introduced the wrong way, it can lead to significant problems for any organisation. So, what are the basics of a successful remote working policy and what are the potential pitfalls to avoid? Mathilde Le Coz (Director of Talent and HR Transformation at Mazars), Valérie Goutard (Société Générale), Marjolaine Grondin (CEO of Jam) and Laura Lesueur (Learning Director at 360Learning) recently sat down with us to share their advice at our Empowering the New Gen conference.
✨Individual wellbeing is the key to organisational productivity
From an employee point of view, being able to work remotely gives them more flexibility, which can help them achieve a better balance in their professional and personal lives.
But a change of location can also lead to greater productivity. Encouraging employees to think about their needs in terms of their daily working environments is precisely what Mathilde Le Coz suggests. In her opinion, remote working shouldn’t be limited to simply working from home, but can be part of a much more global approach to flexibility. Whether in the office, at home or even in a co-working space, employees should be able to choose their workspaces freely, depending on the tasks they need to perform. This rotation between time spent at work and outside of it allows for greater productivity within organisations. And new kinds of flexibility can be found in office management, too. Organisations may no longer need to have one workstation for each employee, which can help save space.
Laura Lesueur also makes an interesting observation. Employees who work remotely perform even better because they feel somewhat indebted to the trust their company has shown them. As a result, they’re sometimes even more productive than usual!
According to Valérie Goutard, at Société Générale, the results following the introduction of remote working are more measured. Managers have seen neither an increase nor decrease in their teams’ productivity. Conclusion: even in the worst-case scenario, we have employees who are equally as productive, but also happier.
By focussing on individual flexibility and well-being, remote working increases a company’s overall productivity rates.
🖼️ Rule-setting can be a challenge
The challenge of remote working for companies, however, lies in being able to practically maintain this balance between personal time and work time. An employee who works from home 5 days a week may start to feel isolated, out of step with office life within the organisation. In the same study led by Nicholas Bloom, after 2 years, half the employees who worked from home wanted to reduce their remote working time to a few days a week.
It therefore appears that a framework is key to limiting the isolation remote workers may feel. At Jam, CEO Marjolaine Grondin tells us of the pitfalls of a remote working policy introduced without structure. Initially, Marjolaine imposed very few rules and regulations, which led to a lack of cohesiveness and direction in the team! Today, all Jam’s employees spend a week working remotely once every two months, all at the same time. Outside this period, remote working is not the norm.
At Mazars and Société Générale, remote working is limited to 2 days a week. By setting this framework, companies can ensure they benefit from all the advantages of remote working while enhancing their strengths: social bonds and the strength of a collective group.
It’s also very important to think about remote working at key moments in an employee’s life - for example, when taking on a new role. To ensure employees are onboarded properly, Société Générale only offers access to remote working once people are 6 months into the job. However, this may be somewhat divisive for today’s generation, who say they want to access remote working as soon as they start with a company.
👩💼 The keyword: trust!
Having the opportunity to work remotely is a sign to the new generation that their managers trust them.
At 360Learning, remote working is based on the idea of employee empowerment. They don’t have any specific structures in place for remote working, but rather rely on the strength of teams acting collectively so that employees self-regulate. Someone who never comes into the office would quickly be penalised by the group. From that point onwards, either the individual adapts their behaviour, or it turns out they’re not quite the right fit with the company culture.
At Jam, trust is also given from the outset. If a new employee arrives during their remote-work week, they’ll take up their position remotely. Newly-hired employees are shown total confidence and this will only be taken away if they damage that trust.
Finally, although the new generation demands flexibility, they also attach great importance to physical interaction. Young people today recognise they need human contact and therefore enjoy working fact-to-face with the rest of their teams.
🎬Ready to take the plunge?
Are you thinking about introducing a remote working scheme within your organisation? Here are a few practical tips taken from the companies mentioned in this article.
· Think needs. Depending on their positions and personalities, all your employees have different needs. Remote working can respond to some of them (better work/life balance, more flexibility), but this isn’t a silver bullet. Taking the time to outline your workers’ various needs will help you find the right formula that works for you.
· Set some common ground rules (or not...). Implementing basic rules that limit remote working may be appropriate, depending on your organisation. For example, no remote working on Mondays (the day of your weekly team meeting), or no more than 2 days a week. Or perhaps you’d prefer to rely on collective self-regulation - avoiding the need to establish formal rules altogether. Your organisation, your choice. The most important thing is to communicate your policy very clearly so that it’s understood by everyone.
· Value social bonds. In teams that work remotely, it’s generally more difficult to find time to get together and build relationships. No more chats around the coffee machine or on the way out of meetings... These informal moments, however, are absolutely essential and must be at the heart of your concerns. Team building activities, informal conversational channels... social bonds must be protected, even manufactured, in order to maintain team spirit over time.
· Trust people. Key for any organisation, trust is also the cornerstone of remote working. In face-to-face, as well as remote relationships, it can be dangerous to try to micromanage your teams. On the contrary, by giving them their freedom, you’ll be empowering them. In return, they’ll see you’re right!
“Remote working is a wave that’s not stopping any time soon”, says Valérie Goutard, Head of Recruitment, Campus Management and HR Innovation at Société Générale. This is a trend that's firmly here to stay, and a sign that companies are becoming more and more flexible.
More than just a change in process, a company’s very culture must evolve and adapt to the future of work, which remote working will certainly be part of. This profound and global change in organisational methods must be underpinned on a daily basis, considered at different levels and, of course, adapted to your individual organisation.
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