In the continuing wake of the COVID-19 virus, businesses of every shape and size are adopting more flexible working environments. No doubt, the initial transition has proved challenging for some.
However, it has also exposed many key advantages of remote working. And how this fluid style of work can deliver significant benefits for both companies and employees.
Today, many companies are taking flexible working to the next level to become fully distributed. But what’s a distributed working model really like and why do so many consider it the future of work?
Working in different physical locations
Distributed work refers to organizations that have one or more employees working at different physical locations. It may comprise on-site teams at one or more office locations. As well as remote employees who work from home, or in public or private spaces.
According to Indranil Roy, Executive Director in the Human Capital practice at Deloitte Consulting, this blended work model will split into four modalities: home, roam, club and hub – to collectively form a “virtual-first” organization in the new normal.
This comes as remote working becomes even more mainstream. It’s growth means supporting new and flexible ways of working becomes a business necessity.
“When COVID-19 first hit, we started looking at the world in a binary way. Are we for coming to the office or are we against coming into the office? Eventually, we realize that we will settle in a hybrid world and it will not be a binary choice. Home or office are not the only two options because in reality, people can work from anywhere,” Indranil shared at our recent webinar, titled: Driving cost effective digital transformation for a post-COVID future of work.
“We now use this framework to think about how to shape a virtual-first enterprise in the new hybrid world.”
Indranil was joined by Ed Philips, General Manager in the Digital Workplace Practice at NTT Ltd. Australia. The event was moderated by Manoj Paradkar, Director of Advanced Services (APAC) at the Cloud Communications Division of NTT Ltd.
The four modalities of distributed working
Here’s a more targeted look at how the distributed working framework could be structured:
By now, we are all familiar with the term “working-from-home” (WFH). This means an employee working from their house, apartment or place of residence rather than working from the office.
As is, many companies have a WFH policy or a remote-working policy. These offer employees the flexibility to WFH either full-time or when it’s most convenient for them. Looking ahead, we can expect to see more WFH arrangements as distributed working continues to gain traction.
As WFH becomes increasingly commonplace, a new form of remote work is emerging. This is working from anywhere (WFA) or as Indranil calls it, “Roam”. This working modality enables employees to live and work where they choose.
“This could be anywhere. Perhaps a hotel lobby, a Starbucks, a different country, or even a beach in Bali. Anywhere as long as you have a reliable internet connection,” he said.
From Home and Roam – to Club and Hub
Indranil then considered the idea of the ‘club’. He talked about the “club” modality as being like that of a co-working space. “When people talk about co-working spaces, you think about high-value setups within the Central Business District (CBD).”
However, in post-COVID, the club will be a co-working space that is located in the suburbs, Indranil said. These spaces will be located within walking or cycling distance from your home, and will provide basic security and connectivity. More importantly, they offer peace and quiet where you can work without distractions.
“Ideally, there should be a selection of clubs or spaces. Your company would pre-approve these – and pay for them,” Indranil added.
“Take a young person who lives in Jakarta who spends two hours commuting to work for example. For him, the club would offer the best of both worlds.”
The hub is essentially the office, and will continue to be the center point of an organization and of social interaction, said Indranil.
However, as more employees work out of offices, the baseline demand for office space is expected to shrink.
For companies, the reduced need for office space and supplies would translate to greater cost savings, and thus increasing business margins.
What does the shift to distributed working mean for enterprises?
Firstly, because the distributed workforce model is not limited by any geographical boundaries or restrictions, it enables companies to hire, train and support their workforce across multiple locations.
For companies, this makes it easier to attract and retain talent. For employees, it offers a unique opportunity to practice better work-life balance.
From a business continuity perspective, having a geographically dispersed workforce can help mitigate risks in case of a disaster affecting all employees in the same location.
When designing policies and structures for distributed working, companies should start thinking about these four modalities and how to allocate the distribution of work around them, Indranil advised.
“For example, what kind of technologies and work setting are needed to support the distributed working model? And what percentage of time should be allocated where?”
Becoming “virtual-first” – how can enterprises enable the transition?
“Before the skillset, must come the mindset, and mindsets do need to evolve,” Indranil said with a laugh. He noted that even as the efficacy of remote working becomes more apparent, the common assumption remains that employees were less productive while working remotely.
“So it’s not just about using the right technologies, but also about creating cultures, structures and processes that support digital optimization,” he pointed out.
In addition, leaders must also adjust their managerial style in line with the new distributed working environment. “It starts with assuming trust, and focusing on outcomes rather than activity,” Indranil concluded.
Learn more about how we can help you with your transition into a virtual-first organization.