Since the pandemic, trying to work without talking about whether it is done 100% remotely, hybrid or completely on-site is almost impossible. The conversation about these different modes of working regularly revolves around which is the best in terms of productivity, worker happiness, visibility and cost-effectiveness. One of the more interesting effects, however, has been not only how we conduct the work, but how we procure it, build contracts, and keep up with legal compliance. Often, these processes and practices can be centralised through one online system, such as Outvise’s FMS.
But we digress; the question we’ll look at in this article is whether or not the debate between remote vs on-site is really one that has to come down on one side over the other. Embracing flexibility has become essential for businesses fighting to keep up from anywhere around the globe. In our recent Outvise webinar, we discovered that the answer is less clear cut, and instead, should be analysed on a case-by-case basis.
When the pandemic hit, companies, like people, were hit with a seismic shock and left to pick up the pieces. The concept of working from home was new to many and a lot of managers had a sink-or-swim approach to moving online. Many sank. Some 31% of businesses have failed to innovate during the COVID-19 crisis which has led to a slowdown in sales across many areas, particularly the automotive, biotech and industrial sectors.
Suddenly, conducting our business became about how to manage projects, expectations and people, rather than actually managing those projects themselves. Would the work itself be able to be translated into another context, another reality? Would managers be able to continue monitoring and guiding their teams without their watchful eye?
Many teams were used to working from abroad, connecting with clients in other countries. The importance of this practice was still felt, but it quickly became meaningless when contractors were unable to leave their hotel rooms.
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Is it better to work on-site or remotely?
There are different schools of thought on whether working on-site or remotely gets better results. Essentially, though, the question should be about what kind of work is being conducted and is one style more suitable than the other for that particular job.
There are many benefits to doing some work on-site, particularly when a project is new. On these occasions, it can be important to meet the client and the team, collaborate and feed ideas off each other as a project begins to get off the ground. Furthermore, some tasks require you to be in person, for instance managing the onboarding, when signing contracts or conducting project deliverables and audits. However, persuading the client of the importance of on-site meetings with the costs involved can be tricky.
For short-term contracts of a few months or less, it may make sense to keep communication and collaboration online. This is purely because the opposite can represent higher costs and that time spent travelling to the site could well be better spent. Communication in the short term can be conducted via video conferencing and email, this is again case by case and depends on the nature of having any stakeholder involvement. However, we know there is some consensus that for long-term projects it is important, psychologically speaking, to be around people.
What are the benefits of on-site work?
It may be paradoxical to extol the virtues of on-site work. In this age of high-speed communication, contact with our teams is right at our fingertips. There are benefits to going into the office in person, though, particularly when working on a longer and high value project outcome.
One reason for needing to be present at the beginning of a long-term project is to build trust from the outset. Making your presence known as a collaborator or project manager instils the other team members with a sense of trust. It can be harder for people to trust a leader that only appears in front of a webcam because, as humans, we miss many aural and visual cues about body language that hints towards a person’s real intentions.
From this point of trust building at the kickoff of the project, it may then be advisable to transition employees into a hybrid model. After a period of understanding who the people in the team are, what makes them tick and how to motivate them as a leader, letting them work remotely has some positive outcomes.
As a leader, this shows trust in the workforce, trust in yourself to have been able to communicate aims and demonstrates trust in their abilities to carry out your instructions.
If you principally work on-site for easier collaboration and control of the team, you may have to accept that there could be some work that needs to be completed from home. Furthermore, there are greater costs involved that in the end, will have to be borne by the client. The customer will have to sign off on any expenditure so persuading them of the advantages of meetings in the office will be essential.
Fading out from working on-site towards a greater emphasis on hybrid or remote can be helpful because the focus always needs to be on the result. The result is what the client wants, regardless of whether it was delivered from the employee’s home or from an office space. There is a bottom line to what customers require. If expectations and deadlines are airtight, then showing trust in a team to complete tasks in their own time and fashion is one way that employing a smart working philosophy can work for you.
Are there any technological limitations to work, remote or otherwise?
Five years ago, things were much more difficult. One benefit that the pandemic brought was the way it changed the pace of technological improvements. It has allowed us to utilise technologies such as 5G and edge computing (networks of devices in closer proximity to the user, reducing transfer speeds), which have made connectivity much more reliable. In addition, adaptive security has engendered a rethink in the way we approach cybersecurity, furthering the potential of what workers can achieve from home.
No longer do employees need to be connected to the office network to gain access to critical systems: remote means connection is constantly productive from wherever. Thankfully, the only true limits to remote work today are the development of soft skills within a team. The work can be completed but there can be deeper issues of community that only group work on site can provide.
If we think of the office space as more of an area where people can meet, collaborate and bounce ideas off each other then we remove the need for worrying about the technological limitations. With the possibility of working from anywhere with any device, being connected securely from your home, on-the-move or the office, today there are potential multiple approaches delivering projects.
How can we plan projects to better align with clients?
In a world that is mostly remote or hybrid, being able to align the project with the client’s needs is now of greater importance than ever. Many clients expect to be able to operate with a more hands-off approach, trusting the contractors to manage pre-established deliverables. However, to ensure precise outcomes, being proactive and organising feedback sessions with the client is imperative.
The challenge can often be ensuring that the client is happy to take part. On occasion, customers have their own work to finish and find themselves too busy to take part in feedback sessions, particularly when there is an expectation it is delivered completed according to specification, as with any other type of outsourced work.
Knowing this, if feedback sessions are organised it is essential that they are taken advantage of properly. That means the team of experts need to possess the ability to listen to and interpret what the client says in the right context. Personal, political and contextual issues all come into play when talking with clients, so it is important to be aware that these issues might come up before starting. This is particularly important when working with teams or clients across countries and cultures, where different approaches to business might be in the mix.
Further to feedback sessions, establish a policy of communication with the team throughout the progression of the work. On-site can be more adapted to this but in order to work, remote sessions may need to be taken into account.
How can you stay focused on the task when working remotely?
At home there can be many distractions; daily household tasks, being with the family, and attending health visits are all vital to a healthy work-life balance. When working from home it is easy to knock off the equilibrium. Ensuring proper planning for breaks to disconnect can be very helpful. Exercises and mindfulness resting are among other activities that allow for greater opportunities to disconnect from the stress that conference calls and constant online access can create.
Adapt to new ways of working to survive
The IMF has noted that by 2030 there will be a tech skills shortage of some 85 million people. This means that quality workers are in demand. In response, workers now have the upper hand and can demand more favourable working conditions than were previously expected.
Businesses need to ensure that they can offer the best possible conditions for working in order to attract the best talent. If that means allowing workers to spend their working day at home, then it is probably for the best. The onus is on businesses to ease the transition from traditional working practices to more modern, adaptive hybrid working.
To source these quality workers, adept at both on-site and remote working, look to Outvise. We can connect you to high-calibre Business Tech freelancers based all over the world, ready to work with you on your premises or from afar. Click here to see what profiles you can find.
Industry professional and transformer in the Media & Entertainment sector. With international experience as a Department Head, General Manager, and CTO, he is supporting startups by providing valuable guidance on technology blueprints, developing business cases, and facilitating investor onboarding.