Teleworking is the work model that has come to stay
Since March 2020, after experiencing months of confinement, the term teleworking has become one of the most palpable and unavoidable realities for both employees and employers. It is true that not all industries can benefit from this model, but are businesses prepared for this new reality?
Remote work is nothing new and has originated as far back as the 1970s oil crisis, when the physicist and activist Jack Nilles was looking for a solution to save fuel when commuting to the office. His solution was to “bring the work to the worker and not the worker to the work”. In 1973, Nilles coined the terms telecommuting and teleworking.
Since then, there has been a great evolution regarding teleworking, especially in terms of advancements in technology. It is true that in Spain this system has not been as widely adopted just yet, since employers have a marked preference for face-to-face work environments. According to the study Teleworking in Spain and the EU before COVID-19 published by the INE, in recent years, the percentage of people who work from home has been moderately increasing;
- In 2009, 2.5% of employed persons teleworked
- This work model increased to 3.2% in 2018.
- Well below the European Union average, which has gone from 7.8% to 9.9% in the same period of time; and also, below the eurozone, where the percentage has grown from 5.8% to 8.2%.
But in 2020 these figures increased drastically and immediately. The percentage of employed people who worked more than half of the days from home went from 4.8% in 2019 to 10.8% after the impact of the pandemic.
According to another study by the INE in which more than 3 million workers were interviewed, the average satisfaction rating of working remotely is 8.2 on a scale of 0-10. This proves a high acceptance rate and adaptation to this new working model by employees.
According to an INE publication from November 2021, companies with more than 250 employees are the most likely to facilitate remote work. This same study also illustrates that employees ages 35-44 are the group with the largest number of remote workers, followed by those ages 45-54. This is a substantial change from the previous decade, when the 55-age group up was the most likely to work from home.
Implementation of teleworking
For many companies, this need to adapt was dramatic. The biggest challenge for companies is the contrast of the remote work model with the traditional business philosophy. This is currently a challenge, since implementing telecommuting is not only about providing a laptop to employees. It requires important organizational, technological and possibly the most substantial, cultural changes.
Micromanagement or constant supervision of an employee is the main enemy of telecommuting. In order to effectively implement remote work, whether permanent or hybrid, there must be a high degree of trust between the employer and the employee. To promote such trust, a series of conditions must be established:
- The first condition is to clearly establish expectations and goals. Employees must understand, without having any doubt, what is expected of them when they telework. How they are going to be evaluated, what their objectives are, what the time slots are in which they have to attend video conferences; and which tools can be used to help track time spent on each task like DeskTime, Clockify, HiBob, etc.
- Another highly relevant element is planning. This may also be highly recommended when working in an office, but when working remotely, it is essential. There must be clearly defined action protocols. For example: establishing a remote work policy, establishing communication guidelines (emails must be answered before the end of the day, missed calls must be returned within two hours), how to protect company information, how to manage crises, establish a course of action in case of problems with computers, software, etc.
- Another crucial aspect is the use of collaborative tools, which allow efficient communication and effective project management. To deal with this problem there are a number of asynchronous communication tools, two of the most popular are Slack or Teams. To develop collaboration, it is also critical to train staff in the management of office automation in the cloud, a tool that allows employees to access data, reports, programs, etc., from anywhere with an Internet connection. There are several options such as Office 365 and G-Suit that offer a solution to store and process data.
These tools also decrease employee isolation. Also, regular video calls and events that help to maintain and foster teamwork are essential.
What do companies need to implement telecommuting?
To the initial question, are businesses prepared for the hybrid teleworking system? The answer is that each company must be evaluated individually. The barriers to the implementation of teleworking are no longer technological or economic, but rather cultural and, above all, managerial.
Most companies can finance the technologies needed to enable remote work and work flexibility that workers so much desire. Especially considering the savings in offices leasing and operating expenses, parking, electricity and other services. However, the key to success, both in implementing and long-term success, is positioning team leaders who support this vision. What’s more, these leaders will have to be drivers of change, promoters of communication, champions of teamwork and generators of a collaborative work environment.
This change is inevitable, it is a very real demand of the labour market and will require a joint effort from both companies and employees.