According to Omnipresent, a global employment services provider that helps companies manage the employee lifecycle in 155 countries, remote working does not automatically mean reduced meaningful communications or departmental interconnectivity. Omnipresent says it’s a matter of understanding and adapting a new corporate culture.
A study of more than 61,000 Microsoft employees during the COVID-19 pandemic found that working from home during the period led to the firm being less interconnected. It found that work was more siloed, static and offered fewer bridges between teams.
The study concluded that employees spent an average of 25% less time collaborating across groups and less time with new connections when working remotely.
Communication was also affected, with less people replacing in-person communication with video or voice calls, and more using asynchronous methods such as emails and instant messages. This can often make it more difficult for workers to convey the meaning of complex information, according to the study.
However, Irene van der Werf, Omnipresent’s People Manager says that employers need to consider remote working completely separately from previous work styles, and not try and recreate an ‘onsite’ feel. Omnipresent is a remote-first business, with no head office and employees working across 26 countries.
“This particular study may be true for Microsoft, which like most, started off with a traditional office work culture, but remote work simply cannot imitate office work in terms of culture. If companies don’t adapt to new ways of working, silos will naturally become more common.
“Siloed team dynamics have always plagued businesses and play into corporate culture. Remote work can increase the existing flaws that an on-site company had. If people didn’t already communicate well in the office, then remote work will make it more difficult especially as individuals don’t have the opportunity to bump into each other regularly.”
Omnipresent finds that avoiding this is about creating new ways of working and patterns that support a remote setting.
Here are five essentials for remote working according to remote-first Omnipresent’s van der Werf:
- Make a conscious effort to communicate well and set up rituals that work for a remote setting. This is all about creating new ways of working together, actively sharing and documenting relevant work and finding new ways to socially interact - not a horribly awkward Friday night video-social.
- Prioritise transparency, team building initiatives and creating a flat structure to help ensure teams are working cross-functionally.
- Focus on engaging people. Three essentials when people don’t meet regularly are: having a culture where people feel well supported, positively challenging them and making sure there is a great atmosphere.
- Link the company’s vision and values to team actions. It’s important that people live these day-to-day. At Omnipresent, we let people decide the objectives they’re working on, we publicly praise in an open feedback culture and have transparency on what is done well – and not done well.
Note to journalists: Omnipresent operates as a fully remote business and helps hundreds of companies with their employment needs in 155 countries. It has grown from 15 to more than 130 employees since 2019, with staff working across 29 countries.
The study was published in the Journal Nature Human Behaviour, the study looked at the communication habits of 61,182 Microsoft employees between December 2019 and June 2020. The company went fully remote in March 2020.