Does Remote Work Help Or Hinder Employee Happiness?

remote work employee happiness

The question of whether or not to allow employees to work remotely is heavily debated from one organization to another. While many startups and consultancies like ours have had success giving their team members flexible work hours, other organizations are hesitant to adopt a new policy of remote work. If you are looking for remote work, you may want to check out jobs at a company like software developers Clevertech.

For some organizations, the concept of letting people work from home means letting go of control over their employee’s activity, which may—in their mind—hinder productivity. For others, the decision to keep people in the office is more about creating a vibrant and active office culture. More and more people are starting to work from home though because it’s just more convenient for them, others like the fact that they can save on their energy bills as it’s technically business energy. If you would like to learn more then you can read this website here.

Very few companies attempt to find a solution somewhere in the middle.

MIT’s Sloan School of Management on the other hand, is testing an innovative way to bridge the gap between the physical office culture and the flexibility of remote work: robots.

A recent article from Business Insider about their approach reads: “On the days when employees aren’t in the office, they have the option of using a robot — essentially an iPad and stick on wheels — to make them feel like they’re physically present among their coworkers.”

Of course, this immediately caught our attention. We asked our team to weigh in on their experiment, and their thoughts about remote work in general. Here’s what they had to say:

Does Remote Work Help Or Hinder Employee Happiness?

cary-paulCary Paul, Senior Associate

Absence makes the heart grow fonder. True not only personally, but also for business relationships. While remote work can foster a sense of trust between companies and their employees, many teams miss out on the benefits of face-to-face interaction with the rest of their teammates.

That said, there are some real benefits to allowing people to work remotely. Remote work allows team members to be at their best, in their ideal life situation. It makes us think harder about whether that monthly management meeting is really necessary. And in some studies, it’s been shown to actually increase productivity and reduce overhead.

In an organization like ours, remote teamwork is actually good practice for the many times we need to engage in remote client work. People need to intentionally work on the skills required to hear and be heard, and remote collaboration is an excellent way to flex those active listening muscles.

claire taylorClaire Taylor, Associate

As far as making a remote team more of a team, establishing a connection in-person is super helpful. I’ve had past experiences where I was onsite with my team for a period of time while getting spun up on the job before I began working remotely. It gave me the opportunity to interact with my coworkers in both formal and informal contexts (e.g., meetings and lunches) and provided a base for our relationships. It made future phone calls and other remote interactions feel more comfortable and personal since I knew my coworkers. I went back onsite about once a month, and those visits were a great opportunity to build relationships with the team I only saw occasionally. My coworkers were usually excited to see me and have an opportunity to further build out relationships.

However, this is not representative of all remote teams.

Many remote teams don’t have the luxury of being collocated any of the time because they don’t have a central location or headquarters. In these instances, it might make sense to plan an in-person meeting or event, if feasible, so team members have an opportunity to meet in person. A meeting of the team via video conference might also be viable, with the team engaging in introductory or team building activities.

I think the biggest challenge with remote teams is that all communication and socialization must be intentional. There is no opportunity to run into someone at the water cooler or to go for lunch or happy hour together. However, since time together must be planned, this is a great opportunity for scheduled checkins and activities for the team. Just like teams that sit in the same location, an open door policy for virtual communication can help facilitate teamwork and crosstalk. Keeping an open dialogue, especially about challenges and questions, can help prevent the isolation that accompanies remote work. While much of work can be focused and accomplished by a single individual, much of what is done in the workplace is better done collaboratively and interactively, and the effort to make those interactions occur is the major hangup; not the technology.

Advancements simply enable interaction. Team members still must make the effort to make use of these resources.

pamela-faragoPamela Farago, OD Intern

Even though the idea of robots standing in for remote employees seems more like the plot line of a slower-paced Terminator movie than standard workplace practice, it highlights how the new age of remote work is an important opportunity for both leaders and their employees to grow together.

Many leaders say that they find it difficult to delegate tasks to their employees and to trust their employees to get that work done on time. Working remotely adds an additional wrinkle to that scenario: employers can no longer check up on their workers in the ways they would have in the past. Leaders must therefore trust their employees more, and this increased level of trust may reciprocally spark augmented autonomy and a sense of ownership from workers.

In addition to employees gaining a sense of autonomy from their leader, remote work may also increase productivity by allowing them to work from their own comfortable spaces. Each employee has a different type of environment that puts him or her in the productive zone. Allowing remote work lets employees find their own happy space to efficiently get their tasks done.

While these are the positives behind remote work, the camaraderie that comes from sharing an office environment can be lost if the proper precautions are not taken. Nothing can truly replace in-person communication and interaction; not even robotic employees.

Leaders should make other attempts to foster camaraderie when employees do physically come into the office. For example, having an all-staff catered lunch once a month where employees can mingle in real-time. Or, having a meeting once a quarter where all project workers must be physically present.

While remote work fosters trust, autonomy, and productivity, camaraderie can suffer as a result. Having just a few reasons to go back to the office can help stymie this potential teamwork decline.

Remote teams will be back in the office. Even the Terminator agrees.

chelsea-weberChelsea Weber, OD Intern

I love the flexibility of working remotely when I need to.

I can work during hours when I feel most productive, set up in a coffee shop and do some work while I travel, or jump into a meeting from virtually anywhere. As a student balancing work, school, and life responsibilities, this level of flexibility is perfect. When I need to do some intense solo work, the remote/virtual model is great.

And yet, even in our digital age, even as a proud member of the Millennial Generation, I think there’s still a lot to be said for in-person collaboration.

The other day, I walked into the office and got into a conversation with a colleague about a sticky piece of a client project. In thirty minutes, we were able to dialogue and come up with solutions in a quick, organic way; feeding off of each other’s energy and separate expertise.

That kind of organic problem solving is nearly impossible to replicate in the virtual, remote work world. It’s hard to learn a person’s communication style through a screen. It’s even harder for us to work together efficiently if we don’t know how the other one works and communicates.

There’s a lot of research showing that the development of innovative teams requires high levels of trust and empathy–two things that are very quickly established in person. Virtually, that trust and empathy requires more deliberate steps to develop.

So approach remote and virtual work with caution. If your team is working largely independently, fine. If what you need are high levels of trust, collaboration, and innovative problem solving, consider finding ways to get people in the same room together.

anton-riusAnton Rius, Digital Marketing Manager

As a former member of cubicle city and an introvert by nature, I thrive in a remote work environment. But, I understand that there are a few things that are unique to our organization and my role that make it possible.

First, I’m not client facing. Most of my work can be done from anywhere with wifi and a laptop, and when I need to interface with my teammates, Google Hangouts works wonderfully.

Second, gothamCulture does an excellent job of giving employees complete ownership over their roles. We are all focused on our goals and the greater good of the business, and regardless of where we are in the world or what we’re doing, we all collectively know that there is a common goal among the entire team.

That said, there is something about the one day in the office a week that I wouldn’t trade for anything. It’s not about productivity or my ability to work, though. It’s about camaraderie.

Once a week I am able to chat with my west coast colleagues in person, learn about their lives, and get to know them on a much deeper level than might be possible over a virtual meeting. I’m not as productive on those days, but we spend more time building a strong bond over random ideas and stories that simply wouldn’t be possible through Skype, Slack, or even remote controlled iPads on sticks.