Are you starting to see the long-term effects of remote work? From what I’ve seen, some organizations are achieving great results, some adapted well at first and are now running into challenges, and others are struggling. This is not surprising. I conducted several research studies* many years back on what is necessary for remote work to be successful and three components are necessary: the right job, the right person, and the right organization.
Some jobs are easily done remotely, like coding, writing, and marketing. As we’ve discovered over the past few months, other jobs simply cannot be done remotely, like food delivery, emergency response, lab work, and hair styling. Some industries, however, have made very creative adaptations to enable remote work during COVID-19, like gyms providing video classes, judges conducting telephonic hearings, and schools providing online learning. If people are struggling working remotely in your organization because of the job requirements or structure, there may be ways to change that to make them more successful.
Because of COVID-19, we’ve had to move people en masse to remote work without consideration to whether they are suited to it. Certain personality characteristics correspond to success at remote work, both due to the person’s satisfaction with doing it as well as their manager’s satisfaction with their performance. For example, a highly extraverted person may feel lonely and isolated at home while a highly introverted person may not communicate enough. For those who are miserable working from home or who are not productive or collaborating effectively, it may be worth finding ways for them to come into work at least in a limited way.
Certain characteristics of the organization help and hinder remote work. The culture and infrastructure are the two most important factors. Many organizations are overcoming the IT aspect of the infrastructure, but other systems, processes, and cultural norms may need addressing. For example, hierarchical, highly centralized organizations fare worse with remote work. Organizations with a lot of community and friendship may suffer going remote if systems aren’t put in place for people to keep in touch. I’ve seen this start to become a problem for a number of organizations.
If you’d like to talk about how to solve any of these long-term remote work challenges, please set up a call with me. I’ve been consulting with organizations on leading remote teams for twenty years and have a pretty good handle on how to help.
Connell, J. B., Sorenson, R. C., Robinson, K., L., & Johnson, S. T. (2004). The Birth of a Telecommuter Selection Instrument: Results of a Validation Study. Proceedings of the International Telework Academy 9th International Telework Workshop, (Crete, Greece: September 6 – 9, 2004).
Connell, J. B., Sorenson, R. C., Robinson, K., L., & Ellis, S. J. (2003). Identifying successful telecommuters. Proceedings from the International Association for Development of the Information Society International Conference: WWW/Internet 2003, (Algarve, Portugal: November 5 – 8, 2003).
Sorenson, R. C., Robinson, Connell, J. B., K., L., & Ellis, S. J. (2003). Factors affecting the success of telework: A collection of case studies. Proceedings from the International Conference on Advances in the Internet, Processing, Systems, and Interdisciplinary Research, (Sveti Stefan, Montenegro: October 4 – 11, 2003).