Redefining Work Part 1: The Impacts Of Remote Working And Globally Dispersed Teams

The way we work has changed forever. Let’s take a look back to 2019, a pre-pandemic, lockdown-free world. You’d probably pull a confused face if you were asked “What is your preferred way of working – remote or hybrid?” The idea of working anywhere other than the office was not unheard of, but it wasn’t the norm and it certainly wasn’t a default option for employees. In fact, only 27% of the UK population worked occasionally from home during February 2020. Fast forward to the present day, this figure is at 44%.     Drilling down deeper, it’s clear that some sectors have taken to remote and hybrid working models more than others. In the banking and finance sector, for example, 61% of employees have a hybrid working model. As for the software and services sector, over a third of employees work entirely remotely. What’s more, this trend doesn’t look like it’s going to change anytime soon, with the majority of employees reporting that they are satisfied with their current organisation’s working model.   But why has this change in workplace environments and working models stuck? We can understand the reasons for this change during the pandemic, but why are workers not running back to the office every day as predicted? Well, this shift to new ways of working appears to bring benefits to many workers that they just aren’t willing to give up. Not least due to the time and cost savings by not having to commute to the office, but also due to improved work-life balance and enhanced productivity from working at home. What initially arose as an obligatory adjustment amidst the pandemic has now evolved into a profound cultural shift, reflective of employees’ evolving preferences.     As a result of this increase in the number of hybrid and remote jobs now accessible in the market, another trend is on the rise; globally dispersed teams. Workers are no longer required to reside within travelling distance from the office, instead they can benefit from remote work and access a larger pool of jobs in the global market. Countries are even leveraging these remote working models to attract young professionals to relocate, offering incentives through ‘Digital Nomad Visas’. This is a program that allows working individuals to live and work remotely in a country different to that of their permanent residence. The benefit to the professional is that they get to live in a foreign country without the stress of finding local work and obtaining a work visa. The benefit to the country is that the working individual contributes to their economy and in some cases pays tax. It is evident that remote work and globally dispersed teams are not just a hangover from the pandemic, but are now strategic initiatives offered by employers and actively promoted foreign policies.      But let’s talk logistics. How do you go from working in the office one day, to working remotely in a different country the next? Undeniably, the enabler of this transition, is technology. Without the right tech and infrastructure, an employee wouldn’t be able to achieve the same level of work as their counterpart in an office. In fact, workforces are becoming more reliant on technology to get work done than before pre-pandemic times. While we can’t deny that technological innovation has accelerated our ability to work from home and has even improved work outcomes for some, organisations still experience major challenges when it comes to adopting hybrid and remote working options.   One way to understand these challenges is to look at Digital Employee Experience (DEX). DEX is how employees respond with their organisation’s digital environment, including hardware, software and infrastructure, as well as the IT support received. Employees are expecting more from their employers when it comes to DEX with 71% of knowledge workers, such as lawyers, engineers and academics, believing that they would be more productive if they had better technology at their disposal.   Common issues faced by employees when working remotely include a reduction of collaboration and communication with colleagues, slow IT resolution time, non-functioning software and network connection issues. Understandably these problems have an impact on engagement, productivity and user morale. A scary 25% of knowledge workers consider a lack of suitable tech to be a contributing factor for quitting their jobs, while 42% of end-users have personally invested in better tech to increase their own productivity. Yet very few decision-makers even consider the end user experience when they select a new tech tool. Many organisations don’t have a process or metric in place to measure DEX. Of those that do, they typically consist of employee engagement surveys carried out by Human Resources on an ad-hoc basis. It is important to note however, that these challenges are felt by everyone in an organisation, from the end user to the IT team, to the C-suite. Bad tech doesn’t discriminate.     Employees are increasingly wanting their employers to invest in sustainability initiatives such as using renewable energy and reducing waste to reduce carbon consumption. This trend is more pronounced amongst younger generations entering the workforce. These individuals actively seek an employer that aligns with their own sustainability values. Given the rise in globally dispersed teams, there is a real challenge for employers to balance sustainability with the increased expectations for top-quality DEX. Equipping employees with the best, most up-to-date devices in a sustainable manner may feel impossible for many. What’s more, 60% of carbon emissions in IT come from end user devices. If remote work really is here to stay, organisations are going to have to re-think the process for procurement and delivery of devices to their employees wherever they are.   Alongside these challenges, organisations and IT leaders are facing increased complexities when it comes to security and organisational compliance. The use of personal devices, unsecured home wifi networks and differences in employee behaviour when working remotely, all contribute to heightened security risks. While working in the office provides secure on-site infrastructure