Maybe you are still trying to wrap your head around the idea of a decentralised workforce.
Have you ever reflected on the origin of telecommuting or the future of the job market? Let’s examine the evolution of telecommuting from its inception till now.
The Modest Origins
Remote work might appear as a contemporary trend, but upon closer inspection of its roots, it has been in existence for a considerable time.
In the 18th century, Methodist circuit riders were the first trailblazers of travel who propagated their message while travelling on horseback. In the early 19th century, cowboys embraced a way of life that embraced being alone. During the same period, Kodak hired photographers who travelled across the country in wagons that were transformed into studios, capturing photos that encouraged people to take holidays.
It is fascinating to note that telecommuting has a more extended past than cubicles. Before the onset of the Industrial Revolution, several traders and craftsmen utilized their abodes as both work and living spaces. It wasn’t until the Industrial Revolution that we saw the advent of corporate headquarters and other office buildings. However, the workers’ outlook towards the economy did not match their perception of concepts like “9-to-5,” “the commute,” “the grind,” or “cubicles,” which all have pessimistic connotations.
In 1973, Jack M. Nilles, a NASA engineer, popularised the term ‘telecommuting’ and forecasted that it would become the standard within two decades. His groundbreaking research has earned him the title of ‘father of telecommuting’ as he did most of his work outside the conventional office space.
In 1990, the City of Los Angeles initiated a pilot telecommuting project to minimise traffic congestion and air pollution while increasing efficiency. The project allowed more than 400 municipal workers to telecommute from their homes.
What has propelled the sudden shift towards telecommuting?
The Great Recession of 2008 is believed to have contributed to the dramatic rise of digital nomads and remote workers since many Fortune 1000 companies have looked to decrease their expenses by eliminating their office space rentals. This cost-cutting measure has resulted in significant savings, worth tens of millions of dollars for these firms. They can now hire more digital nomads and reduce the number of physical headquarters.
Kate Lister, director of Global Workplace Analytics, has taken a clear stance on the issue: “The evidence is irrefutable; the benefits to employees, the environment, and the business’s financials are so apparent that several of the world’s largest corporations now permit their employees to choose their place of work.
The Internet, now a ubiquitous part of our daily routine, and the remarkable technological advancements have made teleworking more accessible than ever.
What are the criticisms of this trend?
Although remote work is increasingly common, many higher-level managers struggle to grasp the idea of having remote staff that report to them. Therefore, it may be challenging to establish a robust corporate culture when personnel seldom get to interact with each other in person.
However, challenges can always be surmounted.
Making the creation of a corporate culture that is supportive of success in a remote environment a top priority should be the first step.
As an example, providing a pizza to a worker who is not physically present in the office can help maintain their motivation, foster a sense of togetherness, and demonstrate the company’s commitment to its personnel. While remote work can be demanding, it is critical to keep employees engaged and enthusiastic.
It can be challenging for managers to have faith in remote personnel that they are genuinely putting in the necessary effort as the absence of a physical presence in the workplace might create numerous feasible distractions.
However, are these concerns based in reality?
Research conducted by Nicholas Bloom, an Economics Professor at Stanford University, suggests that employees’ ability to choose their own work hours is not adversely affected by the possibility of working part-time or freelance.
A recent study involving Ctrip, one of the participating firms, revealed that allowing employees to work remotely not only saved the company money on office space and furniture but also resulted in a significant improvement in business efficiency. Research has demonstrated that individuals who work from home are more satisfied with their lives, are less likely to quit their jobs, and achieve better productivity. In fact, several cost-saving tips exist when it comes to remote work.
Bloom argues that the assumption that the more automated a task is, the better the results is not reasonable. Attempting to regulate each moment of the workday does not increase productivity. Therefore, it is preferable to establish goals and expectations based on when tasks must be completed rather than the length of time spent working. Ultimately, the quality of the work is more critical than the quantity.
Meghan M. Biro, an authority in talent management and HR technology strategy, has long supported remote work. In 2023, her prediction that telecommuting would become the norm was validated. The management team at Jhana believes that the future is already here.
According to the 2023 Comprehensive Workfront State of Work Report, 61% of office workers believe that video conferencing will play a significant role in effectively transitioning personnel to a remote work setting. This viewpoint is further supported by financial data that indicates a majority of employees deem video conferencing crucial to the transition.
Firms that are willing to invest the time and energy required to cope with the difficulties involved in managing teams of remote personnel will have a significant edge over their rivals as remote work becomes the standard.
So, what measures can they take to stay on course?
Shahan Mohideen, a member of Jhana’s Expert Manager panel, underlines the significance of demonstrating the same level of care towards remote staff as any other team member, but by using different methods to make them feel integrated.
It’s crucial to recognize the value that remote personnel can bring to the workplace, and Mohideen offers additional insight into their distinct skill set: “Remote employees are generally more resilient because they are not subjected to the commotion of an office setting.” They may exhibit higher levels of self-discipline and greater proficiency in managing their time effectively.
The success of any remotely-based team largely depends on the relationships between its members and their collective understanding of the company’s goals. Firms with a strong set of values and a distinctive corporate culture can overcome the limitations of a physical office space.
At Works, we have unparalleled proficiency in finding remote talent that is aligned with your company’s principles and beliefs. If you’re prepared to begin constructing your remote team, don’t hesitate to contact us, and we’ll be delighted to assist you.