Embracing remote work can bring with it several advantages, like the ability to hire globally and reduced real estate expenses.
However, some companies are making the decision to shift to permanent remote work for the wrong reasons, according to a Harvard Business School professor and remote work expert.
Prithwiraj Choudhury, a remote work expert who was already studying the idea before the COVID-19 pandemic, said at a recent CNBC event that remote work should instead focus on the idea that employees can work from anywhere – not just their home.
According to CNBC’s writeup of the event, Choudhury places a bigger emphasis on the flexibility provided to employees and the human resources department.
“Remote work is more than work-from-home, and the form of remote work I am most excited about is work-from-anywhere, where the employee has the choice to live anywhere,” Choudhury said at a recent CNBC Workforce Executive Council virtual event.
Choudhury – who also recently penned a lengthy inquiry on this topic in the Harvard Business Review – says companies looking at real estate savings as the main reason for embracing remote work are making a mistake.
“You really need to be convinced of why you are embracing this model… This is the way to attract and retain the best talent. There are real estate costs and other benefits, but those are secondary,” he said, and he added that the competition among employers for the best talent, based anywhere, will be intense on the other side of the pandemic.
The first group of employees that should be afforded the opportunity to work from anywhere are C-suite executives, Choudhury says.
He argues that the model can only work if senior managers adopt it because if executives are still in the physical building, lower-level employees will follow suit to get in front of them.
Choudhury also says that organizations adopting remote work need to do so thoughtfully and strategically and understand that massive transformation that includes changing long-held business practices could take months or years.
“You can’t keep doing things the way you did in the physical world… You have to invest in a multi–month, maybe multi-year, organizational project, and most importantly, convince senior managers.”
Old habits need to change, and organizations need to be ready to accept asynchronous communication and waiting for employees in different time zones to respond to questions and meet project deadlines.
That can be a more effective way of working and allow teams to react faster and more effectively.
As an example, instead of employees working on a project on their own and only coming to the team when the slides are ready to be presented, asynchronous sharing of information can result in the consistent input of new information, team members reacting more quicker, and making innovation richer.
“Remote really outperforms existing models,” Choudhury said. “Research shows if you have a globally distributed team they have ideas that recombine to create innovation.”