Remote work is obviously one of the hottest topics since 2020 and numerous companies have made their statements about it. We’ve seen shoutouts from big players such as Facebook, Google or Apple – brands that have inspired many of us. That’s why we would expect them to serve as a guide to lead the world into the flexible working reality. However, what happens is just great PR and big promises that lead to a massive false start. Let’s find out what is going wrong and how we can benefit from their mistakes rather than remote work leadership.
What’s work from anywhere?
Work from anywhere literally means that team members can decide whether they stay in South America, Europe or Asia. As long as they get things done, rules concerning physical presence are totally irrelevant. Now, such an approach leads to employees’ expectations to be able to travel, plan their own work schedule and permanently move to a distant location of their choice. Well, the sad reality is that such extremely flexible possibilities simply can’t be offered to everybody. We are dealing with various labor laws and tax regulations which don’t follow the rapidly developing digital era. The vast majority of employment contracts don’t enable people to work from different countries. In most cases there’s just the option to “work from home” due to Health and Safety regulations and local labor laws.
You may now think that there are various solutions to the problem such as the Employer of Record. Well, this doesn’t fully tackle the challenge. Imagine an employee from the UK who is a British citizen and is willing to work from anywhere. This person wants to keep all perks and benefits while working from various Asian countries. Converting such a person to a contractor isn’t even an option due to the nature of the work relationship. At the same time, the company where our individual works, claims to offer “work from anywhere”. How can it be?
Despite long months of global education about remote & hybrid work, smart working, work from anywhere and work from home, there’s still confusion. Those words don’t mean the same and therefore shouldn’t be used alternately. Therefore we should always explain what lies beneath these terms. Spotify is a great example of defining the possibilities of flexible work within the organization. The company is very transparent of what exactly they offer.
Spectacular remote false starts
Do you remember Facebook’s shoutout concerning remote work? They were one of the first companies to claim workplace flexibility. As much as this stays in place until now, they have reserved the right to pay-cuts if employees move to lower cost areas. Isn’t this a bittersweet feeling? By all means, I don’t mean that everyone who works remotely should have a SF Bay area salary but such radical steps should always be considered before claiming full workplace flexibility.
Let’s dig deeper into Google and their approach. What I personally find inspiring is the fact the Google campus is not going to be the center of daily work anymore but it will rather focus on teamwork and collaboration. As much as this is definitely great news, Google has recently announced their remote pay-cut policy which is a “take it or leave it” approach.
Have you heard about Credit Suisse and their “maximum flexibility remote work” model? Now in this case we’re dealing with lack of scalability. As they’re fully engaged in creating a flexible working environment for their employees in Switzerland, we can observe their Asian staff being unhappy about the most recent announcement. It states that remote work outside the “contracted employment location” is not possible, except in exceptional situations. So… how is this supposed to be the most flexible remote work model for all employees?
Why are some remote work policies failing?
We can name several reasons. In most cases I’ve observed lack of scalability, reluctant leadership, no internal communication, a blurry company vision or insufficient trainings. The sole idea of writing a remote work playbook, guidebook or policy is only the first step towards change.
Organisations should consider all perspectives that contribute towards a remote-friendly operations matrix.
Leadership and employees should be equally involved in the planning phase to make sure that all needs are considered to the most possible extent. Succeeding in a virtual environment from an organisational perspective is a joint effort.
There are several components of successful remote work or hybrid work implementation. These are:
- Detailed rules concerning the legal aspect and IT security
- Remote-friendly processes
- Remote tools & office attendance (if applicable)
- Virtual trainings for leadership and team members
- Newly designed cultural practices
I have stated this before and I’ll do it once again. There is no one-size-fits-all flexible work policy. Nothing like this exists – trust me on that. We’re all in the middle of change and that’s why evaluating our work environment vs. our mission and vision is absolutely crucial. Only then we can start building strategic solutions that will keep adapting our business to the digital work era and grow with us.