Remote work has been the words on the streets for quite a while. The interest for the term has doubled in the past 5 years and seen a massive spike during when the COVID-19 pandemic originated.
After the forced trials of the new settings by many companies, now some of the very well-known ones such as Twitter and Shopify have made the remote work policy a permanent one.
Bonanza Design is a creative agency based in Berlin, yet since its inception in 2018, we decided to set the organizational structures in a way that gives full freedom to employees to work from anywhere in the world at their own pace.
Of course, a fully remote operation comes with its shortcomings and in this article, we decided to break down our experiences. We hope that you could inspire from our experience and design an organizational structure that would work best for your teams.
OFFICE FIRST ORGANIZATIONAL STRUCTURE
Offices are the result of a one-fits-all mentality and lack to acknowledge that each person might have totally different needs, desires, and goals than the others. That’s where office settings come short.
Customizing the office environment to fit the needs of everyone is possible but might end up very expensive and time-consuming. And you need a big space to even begin thinking about such an endeavor.
And consider that the daily commute of each person in your organization. If you’re leading an organization of 100 people, we’d be talking about 35000 hours wasted on commuting if the total commuting time per person is 1.5 hours per day. That’s a lot.
Another disadvantage of the office setting is that given the proximity, there are more meetings than not. According to a study by Bain & Company, organizations spend about 15% of their time in meetings. That’s a lot.
REMOTE FIRST ORGANIZATIONAL STRUCTURE
Remote work comes with advantages. An employee would have much more control over their time and they can set their work environment themselves. As an employer, your operational costs would be lower when it comes to renting office spaces.
But, the time spent managing your teams might skyrocket if your team members are not proactive and over-communicating. This is core. Transparency, over-communication, and trust play a huge role in making remote work a success.
Don’t get us wrong with over-communication. It doesn’t mean to bother each other with lots of notifications. It means when it comes to reporting, each team member goes the extra mile to elaborate on their responsibilities and work settings.
It’d often be the case that your team would work on different time zones. What would you do when a project is dependent on people in the team who work on opposite time zones? But, if it’s done right, many timezone work environments can become a unique asset of your organization i.e. an operating machine that never sleeps.
Also, team bonding and human interaction matters in the long term. If you set up a remote-first organization, you must make sure to bring the entire team together on different occasions throughout the year. Otherwise, your team perception of each other might stay on the surface and each thinks of others as talking avatars.
A HYBRID FORM OF ORGANIZATION
A hybrid form of an organization is about allowing team members to choose for themselves. Offering both onsite and offsite settings according to what best suits them. This is seemingly what everyone would think as the future path of the work minus the Avant Garde's and conservatives.
On paper, a hybrid form is ideal. But has that in mind that none of the formats are ideal in themselves. Meaning your operational and managerial costs might increase because you are to integrate and maintain two forms of operations.
We’d like to be cautious with this format and we’d think it requires more experimentation and research to make sure that it's a practical form of operation.
How about us? Well, Bonanza Design is a remote-first organization that has a permanent base in Berlin. Any team member can always pop into our Berlin office and work from there. It’s crucial to call somewhere home and have roots.
WILL REMOTE WORK BECOME PERMANENT?
Well, it has been a love-hate discussion on this. Some still prefer to go back to the office despite the threat of CoVid-19 while others wished it would be permanent.
Gartner, Inc initiated a survey last March 30, 2020, with 317 CFOs and Finance leaders to see whether they are making remote work permanent. The result showed 74% will adapt to the new normal work set up going remote work even post CoVid. As organizations continue to grapple with the ongoing business disruptions from COVID-19. Companies have been forced to embrace remote working amid stay-at-home orders for all nonessential positions and businesses. In the process, there may be proof that productivity does not suffer, and employees may not need to return to offices to be productive and do their tasks. It also may be part of the required cost-cutting as companies plan for what could be a prolonged global economic slump.
But there will be companies that will continue to stick with traditional offices due to the nature of their business. Some companies can easily transition to working at home like call centers for airlines or computer support. Many back-office functions such as bookkeeping and admin support can be done remotely. For others, it's too risky and a great move to make.
HERE ARE A FEW PEOPLE WHO SHARED THEIR THOUGHT ABOUT PERMANENT REMOTE WORK
Reginald Jones, Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation
The shift to employees working away from offices ushered by COVID-19 has accelerated an already emerging trend. Measuring outcomes, companies are likely to cite operating savings, reduced employee commuting (helping the environment, too), and more time on tasks that yield increased productivity. Companies probably will not have 100 percent away from the office policy, but some periodic teaming in the workplace. Employers must be conscious to maintain innovative thinking with the increased use of virtual platforms.
Phil Blair, Manpower
It has been quite an eye-opener to most employers how quickly and successfully their entire staff have transitioned to working remotely. And now that the technology is in place it is very easy to reinvent what their workforce should look like. But there is a broad range of working remote options. From jobs where eye contact with the client is essential to workers, to staff being based anywhere in the world, and everything in-between. What combination is right for what businesses will be finessed over the next several years.
Gary London, London Moeder Advisors
At least not over the long term. Until a vaccine is applied, certainly liberal work-at-home options will be all the rage. Post vaccine, I expect that much of the workforce will return to their office, albeit in different ways. I think we will see a great prevalence of flex hours, shared or ‘hoteling’ space, and other innovations in our workspace and time. This will translate into somewhat lower levels of demand for office space. but I do not expect that most companies will abandon the office, where ideas and networks are hatched and enhanced, for the isolation of the home, Zoom, or no Zoom.
With or without CoVid-19 we are already living in a fast-paced innovative world, remote work will still take its place sooner or later. Many employers are seeing work from home as a viable option. There’s a cost-saving to reduced office space. There are many tools and applications to be able to foster virtual collaboration and innovation without going to the office. This pandemic proves that we may still be productive and do our task without going to the office. Businesses can still operate and grow even better with the help of technology.
Are you ready for the new normal?