The School of Life recently put out a report about the future of work. They talked about how things have changed astronomically in the last ten years, what people are demanding in exchange for their loyalty and creativity at work, and the ways in which current employers must adapt to the changing needs of those who work for them, in order to attract and retain brilliant people.
The statistic that blew me away was this: 42.5% of the workforce are going to be remote workers by 2022. They are demanding flexibility, trust, autonomy, and the ability to fit work around their lifestyle, rather than the other way around.
As I read the report, I think back to the single most memorable thing I learned reading Outliers four years ago.
Those three things – autonomy, complexity, and a connection between effort and reward – are, most people will agree, the three qualities that work has to have if it is to be satisfying.Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers
I think workplaces could do a whole lot better at meeting other needs, but he’s also right – if we are micromanaged, coddled, or cut-off from the ‘why’, it’s going to heavily affect both our work and our attitude towards the work.
When we’re working remotely, autonomy, complexity and connection reappear in different forms. I only realised this when I started contracting with a global team; I was stunned at how technology could be used to leverage these three things so effectively.
It’s certainly not possible for everyone to work remotely.
Here’s how you can bring connection to a team that does.
Use the right tools to communicate. Pay for them to work better for you. If you’re leading a team in this area, ask them what they need to get the work done. Then follow through and deliver what they’re asking for.
Understand how each person likes to be communicated with.
Don’t know? Ask.
Over-communicate. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts, but things can get lost in translation when you’re not face to face.
Work even harder to understand what someone else is trying to say. Tone, style and even timing of communication all signify more with a remote team.
Don’t assume though. See above: Ask.
Treat the work like you’re a professional, because you are, even if half of your Slack channels are filled with dancing parrots.
And that’s the beauty of remote work – you can’t take yourself too seriously. You aren’t the hero.
Perfectionism is rewarded with remote work, but the time that goes into it isn’t. You’ll need to properly learn when and how to let go, trust the rest of the team, or simply move on.
Create your own culture. This is the hardest one, but the most important.
If you’re young or early on in your remote work career, please remember this: you don’t have to be the “leader” to model open communication, care for your work, and commitment to your team. Each one of us gets to show that, every day. But it’s up to you just how you express that online. People will notice, and start to reflect back what’s modelled to them.
Culture eats strategy for lunch, remember?
Lastly: Celebrating success is an integral part of being a team. Not only can you see what others are achieving, but you can share in what is being achieved together. When you’re not in the same room, this has incredible power to motivate and inspire.
I’d love to know what you think.
How has contracting, freelancing or remote work changed the way you communicate, or the meaning you derive from your work?
How do you communicate the change you’re making?
What tips do you have for making it easier?