Remote work is not a luxury. It’s a necessity.
The coronavirus outbreak has brought working from home into the mainstream. However, many remote work software solutions including Xtensio, have been running remotely for years. Explore the challenges and perks of remote work: Here is Xtensio’s unique perspective on effective virtual productivity.
Table of Contents
Working remotely has transformed from an occasional luxury to a necessary practice. The emergence of technology and recent global events have pushed companies to adopt remote work as a fundamental part of their operations. In this article, we will explore the rise of remote work, the challenges it brings, the role of technology, the key features of effective remote work tools, its long-term benefits, and how businesses can adapt to the future of work.
Overnight, remote work is no longer a luxury, but a necessity.
The Rise of Remote Work
Working remotely has been on the rise over the past decade. Companies small and large have begun to offer flexible schedules and telecommuting options to their employees. According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, between 2019 and 2021, the number of people primarily working from home tripled from 5.7% (roughly 9 million people) to 17.9% (27.6 million people). What was once considered a perk has now become a necessity, especially in the face of global events like the COVID-19 pandemic. Companies, both small and large, have recognized the importance of flexible work arrangements to maintain productivity and protect their employees’ well-being. Business Insider reports that 21 major US-based companies like Apple, Google, and Amazon, have announced that employees can work remotely long-term.
Remote Work Challenges and Solutions
While remote work offers numerous advantages, it comes with its set of challenges. Distributed teams face hurdles such as communication barriers, time zone differences, and feelings of isolation.
However, technology has provided solutions to these challenges. Cloud-based tools like Slack, Trello, and Xtensio facilitate seamless communication, collaboration, and information sharing, ensuring that team members stay connected and productive regardless of their location.
Getting work done while apart requires a different way of using office tools.
Our platform, Xtensio, has been built from the ground up by an all-remote team and is currently running with team members collaborating across the globe over 8 time zones. This might sound like a dream come true for the introvert genies and free-spirited talent who want to see the world while they work. But before we’ve reaped the benefits, we have experienced all the challenges that come with a distributed team.
The idealistic benefits of remote work are promising. Yet, like in any business structure, there are logistics to refine, policies to amend, and new hurdles to overcome when thinking about implementing a virtual workplace. Virtual teams are distributed across different departments, time zones, and even national borders. Physical and cultural differences can make employees feel social and professional isolation. Collaboration and getting things done together while apart is the biggest hurdle of a virtual team.
Technology’s Role in Remote Work
With remote work came tools and software built to empower and inform employees; to make them feel connected in the virtual workplace. Technology like Google and Microsoft suites and other cloud-based tools were created so employees could collaborate in real time from wherever they happened to be.
Technology itself isn’t what makes remote work successful. Rather, it’s the optimization of workflows to support and empower both the employee and the organization. By using the right tools and implementing the appropriate culture and workflows, organizations can provide their employees with transparency, and the motivation needed to empower remote work.
At Xtensio, we’ve been through the ups and downs, the excitement, and boredom that comes with making your own schedule and setting your own priorities while also focusing on larger, common team goals. We’ve implemented different tools and technology into our small but global workforce to empower our team members individually and as a whole.
We use cloud-based tools to address the challenges that come with collaborating across locations and time zones – Slack, Trello, Dropbox, Zoom, Calendly, Google Drive, and, of course, Xtensio. These tools don’t make our culture, but they do help us adapt workflows to ensure that everyone on the team has access to the information they need, when they need it. The challenges of working remotely have also given us the opportunity to design and build Xtensio with virtual teamwork and global collaboration in mind.
Features of Effective Remote Work Tools
The success of remote work hinges on the right tools. These tools must prioritize privacy, security, simplicity, and transparency, and enable instant access to information. Platforms like Xtensio not only meet these criteria but also provide brand consistency through shared templates, style guides, and collaboration features. By ensuring these features, remote teams can work cohesively and efficiently, irrespective of their geographic dispersion.
From our experience, tools that reduce friction in the way we communicate and the way we share information, whether it’s ideas, deliverables, or optimizations, are ideal for increasing our team’s efficiency, productivity, and performance. Here are some of the main features we look for in tools to help refine our remote work processes:
- Privacy and security are the main priority. If a tool doesn’t promise complete privacy and security, we can’t risk using that software to store important data and information that comes with daily business. And your organization most likely can’t either. We use tools that are trusted, safe, and secure. And we’ve built Xtensio’s cloud-based solution with that in mind. Xtensio is cloud-based and hosted on Microsoft Azure – one of the most secure and reliable cloud servers out there.
- Simplicity and transparency in communication and real-time collaboration are key. When you are working with people you may never see in real life, across time zones and distances, it’s important to keep things as simple as possible when it comes to communication. We look for tools that provide seamless communication across these borders. Slack allows us to message each other whenever and wherever we are. Trello keeps projects organized and on track. Dropbox houses all of our design graphics. Xtensio is where we create and host all of our basic mock-ups, living docs/presentations, reports, marketing, and sales material. Because these are cloud-based tools, we know that everyone can easily collaborate from wherever they are by simply logging in or accessing a link.
- Enabling employees with instant access to the information they need is a priority in getting the work done. By using cloud-based tools, we’re able to ensure that everyone on our team has access to everything they need to get their job done. This requires reliability and flexibility in organizing the information we need to share with the team. Slack, Trello, and Xtensio are great tools for organizing our projects and workflow. We’re able to create, share, and manage important business information and trust that everyone’s changes automatically save and everything is instantly in sync across all devices. The importance of controlling access levels to information is also important as projects move between different phases.
- Tools that enable brand consistency make remote work WAY easier. When everyone is spread out, it can be super easy to get lost in the details. We like to use tools that promote brand consistency to make things as easy as possible. With Trello, we know we can easily duplicate, copy, or merge cards so everything is in one place. Dropbox makes it easy to keep all of our branding assets in one place and ensures that everyone has access to the correct versions. Xtensio makes it easy to create internal documents, specs, and wikis as well as professionally branded marketing and sales collateral with the help of the shared team style guide, custom templates, and the ability to reuse information.
Benefits of Remote Work Beyond the Pandemic
While preventing the spread of a new virus is a major benefit, there are many other benefits of remote work.
Research from publications like Fortune, Gallup, and the American Psychological Association, shows that, overall, remote work increases job satisfaction, performance, and loyalty among employees, along with less work stress or burnout. We have experienced these benefits firsthand at Xtensio:
- Remote work is healthier for the whole team. Working remotely reduces the risk of employees catching and spreading any infectious disease when they’re feeling the symptoms, from the common cold and flu to the novel COVID-19.
- Mental and emotional health are seldom mentioned next to physical health, even though their impact on employee performance is just the same. Remote work takes away the stress of office life. It cuts the commute time in big cities. It gives a chance for people to work from rural areas, close to nature, or while traveling. Or it simply provides the ability to be closer to family or pets. Most virtual teams, Xtensio employees included, are happier working from home.
- Remote work increases team efficiency. With fewer interruptions and more time to focus on significant problem-solving or creative work, it’s not surprising that, according to Gallup, employees who spend 60 to 80 percent of their time working remotely complete more tasks in a workday. Even more so, remote work increases team efficiency and fosters collaboration and communication between colleagues who normally couldn’t work together. The distance encourages more focused collaboration, leading to more targeted productivity and team results.
- It’s cost-effective for both the employer and the employee. Office space and its operation costs can really add up for the employer. Especially for early-stage companies, it is a big relief to not have to think about the lease and focus on building the company. Working from home often allows employees to save on commute or healthy meal costs.
- More time to have a life outside of work. At Xtensio, we’ve been a remote-first company from the start. This has given us the flexibility and agility to brace the ups and downs of being a bootstrapped startup while giving our team the flexibility to raise families, complete degrees, travel (or not) and, generally, make time for other goals and hobbies outside of our professional careers.
- It encourages and enables diversity. Remote work provides a unique opportunity to bring diversity to your organization. Employers can hire geographically and demographically distributed talent regardless of their physical location to reduce overhead expenses while fostering diversity and collaboration. At Xtensio, we currently have employees in the US, Tibet, Greece, Turkey, Pakistan, India, the Philippines, and Mexico. This gives us the unique opportunity to work with people who we would not normally collaborate with and we generally do a better job at collaborating both despite and because of our geographical, cultural, and demographical differences.
Embracing the Future of Work
While working with a distributed team has been tough at times, ultimately it has made us more resilient. Recent developments have fortified our decision to remain as a distributed team. Threats like the coronavirus and natural disasters will continue to present challenges for many businesses that run from a company office. But these events also give us a unique opportunity to rethink how we work and how business is done in the 21st century.
The future of work is in harmony with the physical world.
Perhaps rather than the traditional office job from 9-5 and the occasional flex-schedule or remote work, the emerging public health crisis will be the nudge corporations need to update policies, practices, and workflows to support and encourage a different way of working. This is an opportunity for businesses to adjust to our physical world’s natural rhythms and flows, by letting go of the machinelike discipline and control over the human workforce.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the challenges of remote work?
Remote work presents challenges like collaboration across time zones, maintaining communication transparency, and ensuring access to information. Cultural and professional isolation can also impact team dynamics and engagement.
How does technology play a role in remote work?
Technology facilitates remote work by providing tools for real-time communication, collaboration, and information sharing. The right tools optimize workflows, enhance communication, and ensure secure data management.
What are the main features of effective remote work tools?
Effective tools for remote work prioritize privacy and security, offer simplicity in communication, provide instant access to information, and enable consistent branding. These features foster efficient collaboration and support remote team success.
What are the benefits of remote work beyond the pandemic?
Remote work offers benefits such as increased job satisfaction, improved mental and emotional health, enhanced team efficiency, and cost-effectiveness for both employers and employees. It also enables a better work-life balance and encourages diversity in hiring.
How can businesses adapt to the future of work?
The future of work involves embracing remote and distributed teams, updating policies, practices, and workflows. By letting go of traditional office-based norms and focusing on flexible collaboration, businesses can harness the natural rhythms of the physical world for improved productivity and employee satisfaction.