Robert Pittman, Founder and Executive Director of the Janus Institute
On September 24, 2020, Prosperous Places hosted a webinar exploring the challenges and opportunities of remote work for companies, employees, and communities with special guest Michael Dziak, a telework consultant, workplace change specialist, and author of Telecommunity Success. Despite the challenges, the webinar challenged attendees to consider how companies and workers can become more efficient and effective with remote work, and how communities can become more remote work “friendly” and enjoy a competitive advantage.
- Robert Pittman
- Amanda Sutt, Creative Director and CEO, Rock Paper Scissors
- Michael, Dziak, Remote Work Expert
- Launched two companies to help firms improve remote work practices
- Wrote the book Telecommuting Success in 2001
- Was a “go to” source to help prepare for the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta
The topic of this webinar was inspired by responses to a survey sponsored by Prosperous Places regarding economic development in the “new normal” spawned by the COVID-19 crisis. Respondents were asked first if they felt COVID-19 will permanently affect remote work, with 48.3% responding it will have a significant effect and 51.7% indicating it will have some effect.
Respondents were also asked if they felt more flexible work hours will be the new normal moving forward. Most respondents felt that this will be the case, with 55.2% responding “significant effect”, 37.9% responding “some effect”, and “don’t know” and “no effect” each receiving 3.5% of responses.
In the early days of remote work, Dizak recognized early on that executives needed to see a business case for allowing employees to work remotely. “Panic” initially pushed most early program adoption (no parking spaces, out of office space, lengthy commute times, recruiting and retention), but telework became attractive for improving air quality and traffic congestion in preparation for the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta.
As the Internet and broadband expanded in the 2000s, telework was much more viable. Large corporations and government agencies began widespread adoption to reduce overhead, and remote work centers began growing in the 2010s.
Some Benefits and Challenges of Telework Noted by Companies and Employees
- An improvement in overall positive workplace mindset
- Improved team collaboration skills
- Improved team communication effectiveness
- Meetings seemed to be more efficient and productive
- Virtual meeting skills and participation improved
- Reduced employee absenteeism
- Improved employee accountability and assignment completion
- Improved task and time management skills
- Customer service seemed to improve
- Some were grateful for having no commute
- Remote workers improved as contributing team members
- Managers became more effective at setting expectations
- Some expressed concerns about working additional hours
- Some individuals had difficulty separating family activities from work
- Contribution from some team members seemed to decline
- It was more difficult to reach some team members
- Team cohesiveness and connection seemed to decline
- Some managers had difficulty with setting expectations
- Family interruptions were too frequent during calls and meetings
- Virtual meetings could have been more efficient
- Connectivity and bandwidth has been a big problem for some
- Virtual meetings were too frequent
- Remote workers miss face-to-face contact
What Helps Make a Company Successful With Remote Work?
- A specific set of program objectives backed by a strong business case
- Executive buy-in
- A well-designed set of program policies and procedures
- A culture-shifting employee education and participation challenge
- Formalized training for managers, teleworkers and non-teleworking co-workers
- A process for measuring ongoing program success
How Can Companies Get Better at Remote Work?
- Executive support and a clear program purpose must be clear to all
- Telework must become an element of the organizational culture
- Program results must be measured, celebrated and rewarded
- The organization must take advantage of program ‘unexpected benefits’
- Telework must transition from a workplace novelty to a standard organizational practice
What Makes a Community Remote Work-Friendly?
- Community leadership recognizes telework for community improvement, competitive advantage, and quality of life benefits
- The accomplishments of model employer programs are well known outside the community
- Adopt telework in support of strategic initiatives for transportation, quality of life, technology, contingency planning, economic development, homeland security, innovation, workforce enhancement, labor relations, digital inclusion, commuting time, community watch
- Adopt telework as a strategy to enhance achievement of community certifications such as Smart City, Sustainable Cities, What Works Cities, LEED City, etc.
- Are guided by public/private partnership advisory council, and being embraced, supported and adopted by community-based government agencies
- Are supported by stakeholders to ensure that its employers and workforce are prepared with essential remote work knowledge and skills
- Are recognized as a critical component of community development to attract employees and workforce
What Can Economic Development Organizations Do to Help Their Companies and Workers Be More Successful with Remote Work?
- Help provide remote work centers
- Provide education, information, and resources
- Seminars, speakers, lunches, etc.
- Just like any business retention and expansion activity, be proactive and try to identify companies and workers that need help with remote work
- Organize committee including members from successful companies to help companies and employees
Ways Economic Development Organizations Can Help
- Educate community leaders on the undeniable benefits of community-wide telework
- Organize leaders from successful remote work employers to establish/publicize standards and best practices
- Provide remote work education, information and resources (seminars, speakers, guides, etc.)
- Identify opportunities to provide support to employers and workers who need assistance with remote work
- Create an environment that attracts and supports remote work centers
Remote Work Certification: What It Is & How It Works
- “Development Ready” or “Sites and Buildings” certification is a proven way to offer an advantage for many communities
- Remote work has made some companies and workers more geographically flexible – an opportunity for smaller cities and rural areas
- “Remote Work Certified” can make a community stand out to companies and workers looking to relocate or expand
Remote Work Community = Less Perceived Risk and Easier Decision
Telework Certification Distinguishes a Community as:
- Providing an environment essential for tomorrow’s workforce
- Being ready for increased demand for remote work jobs
- Creating a magnet for like-minded innovators seeking a good quality of life
- Providing the infrastructure, mindset and support systems needed for continuous operations
What is the Future of Remote Work?
- Prior to the pandemic, “35% of employees would change jobs for the opportunity to work remotely full time.”
- “Our best estimate is that 25-30% of the workforce will be working-from-home multiple days a week by the end of 2021.”
- “We estimate that 56% of the U.S. workforce holds a job that is compatible (at least partially) with remote work.”
- “We estimate work-from-home initiatives will save U.S. employers over $30 Billion dollars a day during the Covid-19 crisis. This may be the tipping point for remote work.”
Kate Lister, President of Global Workplace Analytics