Who Moved the Remote?
It’s no secret that telecommuting is a growing trend across most industries. In fact, despite recent decisions by a handful of organizations like IBM to call their remote workforces back to the office, telecommuting, it seems, is here to stay.
Or should I say, it’s elsewhere to stay.
I’m a big believer in the power of remote working. Telecommuting allows organizations to recruit from an almost limitless geographic pool. And it promises job seekers – as well as established employees – the “work life balance” they so crave.
But I also believe that those employers who have turned away from the work-from-home movement have a point. Something seems to have stopped working. But what? Does officing at home reduce team collaboration? It shouldn’t. With the explosion of team-building, project-managing, collaboration-fostering apps these days, there is no shortage of ways for team members to work in lockstep with each other, wherever they are around the globe.) Does the lack of on-site supervision erode accountability? Rarely.
Yet, as many employers and employees have discovered, working from home isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. While I would argue that most telecommuters are initially more productive in the comfortable, less distracting spaces of home, there are often hidden issues that slowly emerge within the confines of the home office. As days stretch into months, many home officing employees suffer from a lack of daily, face-to-face social interaction. After a while, there is a sense of profound disconnectedness, not from the job or the work or even the team but… from humanity.
Most of us, being social creatures, need more than video conferencing to fulfill our daily interactional requirements. We need to breathe the same air as other working, similarly goal-oriented humans. We need impromptu hallways smiles and a little good-natured coffee room snark. These brief, intermittent brushes with humankind, I believe, are key to staying focused and happy at work.
Turns out, many telecommuters – and their employers – believe that, too.
If you thought co-working was just for artists, freelancers, and other loft-loving solo operators, it’s time to take a fresh look. Today’s co-working venues vary broadly by brand and location. And while some still focus primarily on individuals or small businesses, many now cater to the remote employees of distant organizations.
You may be balking at the idea of paying for an outside office space. After all, one of the arguments in favor of telecommuting is all that cost you slashed from your occupancy budget, right? But take a closer look. Many employers are finding that investing in co-working pays in dividends that more than offset the costs of the space. And even in the raw terms of space costs, it’s still likely to be far cheaper than what you would spend to put that employee at one of the desks in your building. Before you pull the plug on telecommuting, consider the benefits of renting a co-working space near your remote employee’s home.
A working, professional environment
Co-working spaces – even those with in-house coffee shops – are not coffee shops. When your remote employee shows up to work at their co-working desk, they’re immersed in the undeniable buzz of professional people focused on the task of pursuing goals. There is a sense of purpose. And there is no blurring of the lines between home and work. No one shuffles into the office wearing their pajamas. Nobody kicks back to watch a movie on Netflix. They’re working.
Ideas flow across a broader range of perspectives
Shared workspaces empower people from various disciplines to spontaneously cross-pollinate approaches to problems. Do not ever underestimate the power of peeking out from your own silo and seeing, hearing and learning how other successful people in other disciplines tackle the same kinds of challenges you face. Most venues even sponsor networking events to help catalyze these informal but highly beneficial connections with each other.
Space to Meet
One of the great complaints of telecommuters is the lack of access to professional meeting space. Let’s face it, it’s not always comfortable, appropriate or even safe to open your home to prospective clients. Yet meeting at the coffee shop or at lunch isn’t the same as rolling up your sleeves and hashing through important questions. Dining tables, after all, aren’t conference tables. Most co-working spaces provide multiple options for hosting meetings, from no-charge gatherings at large meeting tables to conference rooms of varying sizes, available for hourly fees. Bonus: meeting attendees will likely be greeted by a receptionist who is highly trained at the fine art of greeting and shepherding your guests to where they need to be. All of this gives your employee and their meeting the level of credibility and professionalism you want to convey.
Better Focused and Just Plain Happier
You can’t expect great retention numbers if, at the end of the day, your employees are suffering from an ever-decreasing joy factor. Check out the statistics cited in this infographic from officevibe.com. Not only did 71% of respondents report an increase in creativity after joining a coworking space. 64% percent say it’s been easier to meet deadlines, 68% claim they’re better focused and 60% simply feel more relaxed at home after putting in a day at the co-working space. These happy workers are focused, productive workers.