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15 Feb 2021 // by Dave Hickey

What have we learned over the last year about remote or distributed working? What works and what needs working on?

Many of Ireland’s office-based multi-national businesses are reducing their property portfolios or not proceeding with previously announced expansions. Others have advised staff that they’re not expected back to their offices before the final quarter of this year, if at all.

I know one Galway-based international business that has given up all its office space in the city and others who have revised their expansion plans downwards.

I have three adult children who have been working from home since March 2020 none of whom have definite dates for a return to their offices – two in Dublin and one locally.

In my previous piece Trust Is A Must For Successful Distributed Working I wrote about the need for businesses to build a culture of trust throughout their organisations if they want remote working to work for them.

Will History Be Repeated?

A major challenge for businesses of all sizes will be to embed these processes within the organisation so that when COVID-19 restrictions are eased people don’t revert to old habits.

I have experienced several international travel bans in various businesses, when costs needed tighter control, when remote working and video conferencing was the new future. As soon as revenue returned, so did the international travel. That can’t be allowed to happen again.

What else have we learned?

Today we’ll look at some of the positives and next time examine the work-ons or challenges.

  • Access to Talent

Workers have adapted to decentralisation quickly and many have said they are happier working this way.

For business this increases the potential talent pool greatly. Rather than hiring the best person in a 50-kilometre radius of the office they can hire the best people in the world for every role.

  • Reduce Costs

Rather than spend €20k per person per year on office space and related facilities, they can spend one tenth on the best possible remote set-up for staff.

  • Quality of Life

Companies, and their staff, realise that you don’t need to waste one to two hours per day in order to spend eight hours sitting at a desk. This allows workers have more time for themselves.

  • Real Measures of Performance

Measures of performance are moving away from ‘time spent at the desk’ to outputs. Tools that measure this more effectively are in demand.

  • Flatter Organisations

With more communications happening asynchronously vi email, managers’ spans of control can increase. This means fewer middle-level managers and reduced decision-making bottlenecks.

  • Meeting Death

Wasting time travelling to meetings can be almost eliminated.

Working from home or a convenient location can be a huge benefit to organisations and their people if managed well. Next time I’ll examine some of the emerging issues.

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