What are the challenges of remote working and how should companies address them

2nd July 2020


COVID-19 forced companies to switch to remote working very quickly. Although this migration went reasonably well in a short period of time, there are a few pitfalls that business managers need to be aware of. After all, the implementation of remote working is broader and deeper than most organisations realize. To be successful in the long term, a structured approach is needed.

The COVID-19 crisis is confronting companies with a large number of challenges over a short term. In order to maintain productivity, a quick adoption of remote working is a must. However, this also brings with it some difficulties. The three major obstacles in implementing remote working are the following:

  • Implementing remote working in a structural way.
  • Securing the infrastructure for remote working.
  • Balancing the work and private lives of employees.

Leadership needs to define a goal

When implementing remote working, business leaders must first define a goal. COVID-19 is no goal in itself. Company leaders need to ask why they want to implement remote working beyond the demands of the current crisis. Is the aim to reduce office space? Can it be used to optimise commuting, or introduce more flexibility into the corporate culture?


Using the right tools for a good migration

When choosing appropriate tools, it is important to first look at what is already available. If the company needs to act quickly, the tools already available can get you well ahead on the road to full adoption. If they are not available, or they turn out not to be applicable or effective, then there are some user-friendly short-term solutions that companies can install and that contain all the needed features. Always look at what the company needs, not at what is most popular. Every business culture is different and may need different tools to keep productivity high.


Maintain good employee sentiment for good collaboration

It is important for companies to keep track of employee sentiment during the rollout of structural remote working. Company leaders should pay attention to the impact a lack of physical contact has on people. Only when employees work remotely do they fully realise the added value of physical contact.

Companies need to stimulate cooperation between colleagues and monitor togetherness. Consciously planned off-time moments such as virtual coffees or 'bring your kids to work' sessions give teams the opportunity to connect with each other. It is no coincidence that silly games, video sharing and virtual after-work drinks are doing so well these days: they are a way to ventilate emotions and share them with colleagues.


The value of remote working, now and after the crisis

Remote working is an opportunity for companies to change their way of working sustainably and reap the benefits over the medium to long term. Think of less office space, less commuting, fewer business trips, shorter breaks and greater focus for employees. Feedback from the market seems to indicate that remote workers are also less likely to take short absences due to illness. It can also have a positive impact on the remuneration system of companies and provide insights into (HR) opportunities. Remote working on a larger scale also offers companies the flexibility to deal with unexpected events in the future, such as the COVID-19 crisis. Finally, remote working can give a renewed boost to cooperation and cohesion.

Investing in remote working will have far-reaching consequences on the way we work after the crisis. It is too early to say to what extent we will not go back to the old way of working, but business leaders should already think about the potential of these investments:

  1. A new operational model based on higher flexibility and more agile and remote ways of working;

  2. A corporate culture that is more connected internally and externally and where an analysis of collaboration can provide valuable data;

  3. An alignment of business goals to the new cultural standard and employee expectations.

  4. Data driven methods of analysis to get deeper insights into new learning patterns, employee sentiments, etc.

Remote working is here to stay and will more than ever become an integral part of the way we work. Now is the time for companies to prepare for this 'back to the new normal'.