The Importance of Flexibility and Adaptability:
Playing to Remote Work’s Strengths Instead of Caving to its Weaknesses
Here at Alliances Management, our entire U.S. and international workforce has been working remotely since 2006. For some perspective, that was before the launch of the iPhone and the boom of easy, continuous connectivity. Suffice to say we are career remote workers and have had the opportunity to work through its various challenges and pitfalls.
As COVID-19 spreads and many of our most visible institutions close, more employers are exploring remote work. For those employees who are adapting to a work-from-home setting for the first time, it is important to acknowledge that this is a new work dynamic that requires new management approaches, means of project or assignment execution, and a period of adjustment.
Over the years (and trials), we have learned that working remotely can be a significant employment perk, but it can also be an albatross. When the office walls come down and the physical work environment dissipates, lines and boundaries begin to blur. Some flounder in the distraction of being home or lack of oversight, others may even burn out from overreach and the seemingly never-ending demand of emails around the clock. Flexibility and adaptability are crucial to making remote work not only feasible, but efficient and successful for both the employee and employer.
Most jobs have a natural ebb and flow. You’ll find peaks when deadlines are approaching, meetings and conference calls stack your schedule, or “fire drills” emerge. Lulls tend to surface when all that remains on your to-do list are the long-term projects. In a traditional office setting, employees are essentially stuck there to ride out this ebb and flow. During the quieter times, not only is productivity down for the employer, but employees are often wasting their own time. In sum, the typical work setting creates a one-size-fits-mediocre approach. However, if both the manager and the employee embrace the flexibility created by remote work and adapt to it, everyone can reap the benefits.
Allowing employees to flex their time to accommodate surges in workload increases timeliness of work and overall productivity. Here at Alliances Management, we have clients working in a dozen different time zones. When employees flex and adapt their schedules, we can truly offer round-the-clock global service.
Embrace an “Extended” Workday
9-to-5 work allows employers to assemble everyone at key times and allows employees the opportunity to “check out” from work. However, remote work offers employees the opportunity to improve their productivity and better enjoy their personal lives by embracing the flexibility and adapting their working hours. It is true that you may find yourself working potentially long or atypical hours during the peaks, but ultimately, working remotely also allows you to take charge of and master your time and schedule.
By not being held hostage by the office, you can leverage the downtime. Depending on the nature of your position, you can even create your own ebb and flow by intentionally working during off hours (maybe while your children are napping or off to bed for the evening) so that you carve out time for something non-work-related during traditional working hours (maybe a daytime workout while you still have the energy).
Make Sure to Communicate with Your Team
Remote work isn’t a license not to work, and it’s important that your boss and colleagues are onboard with the flexibility and approach. Don’t sneak around: be upfront with your boss and ensure that all critical meetings and deadlines are communicated and understood. In this way, you can ensure that flexibility does not hurt the company. Even more, your colleagues know that a traditional workday has lulls, and many will appreciate how flexible working hours will enable an entire team to get its work done more effectively. One example of how remote work can facilitate this better than an office environment: imagine completing a draft project at the end of one’s day—and then seeing feedback and contributions when you arrive the next morning, all because a team member’s flexible schedule facilitated “off-hours” work.
Make it a Strength, Not a Weakness
Remote work can either be a strength or a weakness. If employers work with their employees to allow flexibility and embrace the ability to work from anywhere at any time (while maintaining some sense of balance and boundaries), you can enjoy a highly productive and satisfying career, while still enjoying a bit of freedom.
[About this Series: Since its inception in 2006, Alliances Management (www.am.consulting) has operated as a 100% virtual, distributed workforce; today its staff members work in a dozen U.S. states, Europe, and the Philippines. In light of employers reconsidering face-to-face work because of the proliferation of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), we decided to write a multi-part series to share some of our thoughts and best practices about remote work. Read the entire series here.]