‘Work from Anywhere’ (WfA) is becoming increasingly popular, as more organisations move towards more flexible work practices, giving their employees greater opportunity to perform their jobs from any location. Some businesses have seen enthusiastic employee uptake of this new way of working, while some have experienced strong opposition.
Regardless of the increasing number of workspace options – home, kitchen, conference centre, airport lounge, cafe or even an Uber – the question remains, is WfA an effective method of work?
Employees have more reason than ever to WfA, coupled with huge growth in the number of work-style options available. It can enhance employee satisfaction, productivity and flexibility, and even lower operational costs. Employees can work faster and with more efficient collaboration, making organisations more agile owing to there being less need for collaborators to coordinate their schedules or physically meet. So why does WfA still get bad press?
One argument suggests that the work-style can blur work and personal lives, with the concerns of the workday spilling over into your personal time. It’s also been said that WfA workers tend to work longer than their office-dwelling counterparts, although this largely depends on the type of work and the company’s expectations.
Here’s to your health
While critiques can be made, WfA offers more flexibility and choice than the standard nine-to-five office regimen. To get the most out of WfA, businesses and individuals alike must overcome the technological and cultural threats to productivity. In working from home, employees can gain much needed flexibility in their jobs through their working hours and location, encouraging them to establish a more robust work-life balance.
While the compartmentalising around this may take some practise, ultimately employees can experience greater empowerment and trust from their employer, leading to stronger engagement and dedication to their roles. Through this, companies are able to reap the rewards of increased employee satisfaction and productivity. Further, encouraging a majority WfA workforce can significantly reduce infrastructure and overhead costs. Of course, organisations must be able to ensure they have the technological and cultural infrastructures in place to support this new, flexible way of working.
Costs vs benefits
To ensure employees are able to perform from anywhere, it is important to establish and maintain an effective technological foundation. To allow the smooth sharing of information, businesses should have the latest cloud-based and mobile software technologies available to employees. It’s also essential to have technical infrastructure in place that ensures clear connectivity, with audio and video capabilities. Technologies with unified communication system integrations make this smooth sailing for any organisation.
Culturally, there are a number of factors that are required to support an effective WfA environment. Both trust and autonomy are crucial in encouraging a WfA workforce, and managers must be confident that their employees have both the dedication and professionalism to perform their roles autonomously. Moreover, managers must work closely with staff to be sure that only those with the desire and appropriate skills to work autonomously adopt the WfA practice. In the initial launch phase of WfA practice, businesses should regularly check in with their employees, either in a morning work-in-progress call or at a designated weekly time.
There are certain trade-offs that need to be managed by autonomous WfA employees to ensure a smooth transition from a work-life balance to a work-life integration. Effective WfA employees understand that having the ability to run errands or attend appointments during the day, and taking personal calls during what was once deemed ‘work time’, can affect their schedule. This may require reviewing reports after dinner, or responding to the occasional email after putting the kids to bed during ‘family time’.
Though there are certain compromises that must be understood for effective WfA practice, the benefits far outweigh the costs. Better employee satisfaction and productivity can lower the costs involved in managing an organisation. In allowing employees to work in the environment most conducive to their work style, companies are becoming more agile and effective overall. Though the headlines capture the doom and gloom of this practice, through blurring the lines of one’s work and personal life, I truly believe the ‘dark side’ of WfA isn’t all that dark.