High Profile Companies are Banning Remote Working Arrangements – Should Yours?

31 Mar, 2017

Working from home or remotely is one of the most valued work perks for Australian employees and many organisations are jumping on the bandwagon and fostering remote teams. In fact, remote working teams are no longer the anomaly. Over half of Australian professionals are now working away from their main office for at least half of the working week and that number is growing.

So why, when remote working appears to be approaching its zenith and becoming the norm, are some high profile companies reverting back to the “old ways”? Recently IBM, a pioneer of remote working, announced that it is requiring thousands of employees to “co-locate” to one of six cities. Over the past three years Reddit, Best Buy and famously, Yahoo have also abandoned remote working options.

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer cited communication and collaboration as the major push factor for her to release a memo to staff removing one of their most valued privileges.

Certain employees “who were working really hard on some key products” had complained to her they were being hamstrung by absenteeism by co-workers, she told Business Insider’s Julie Bort.

She went on to say that serendipitous meetings and anecdotal collaboration could not take place to fuel creativity and innovation. “Things don’t come together unless someone from Flickr runs into someone from Weather in the hallway or cafeteria and has a conversation,” she said.

Yishan Wong, CEO of Reddit went a step further and closed the online community’s New York and Salt Lake City offices, giving staff three weeks to decide if they want to relocate to its San Francisco headquarters or leave.

In a statement he made on Quora where he is an advisor he said, “As it turns out, our teams (within each office) and remote workers did good work, but the separation has kept us from effectively being able to coordinate as well as we needed to on a full-company level. Big efforts that require quick action, deep understanding, and efficient coordination between people at multiple offices just don’t go as well as we (and our users) needed.”

For Best Buy, the decision came within a do or die situation. Facing a corporate restructure, including the sacking of 440 staff, the company banned all remote working and required all corporate staff to put in the traditional 40-hour work week, with the requisite 9am to 5pm hours. Best Buy CEO Hubert Joly said it was an “all hands on deck situation” and that they needed “all employees in the office as much as possible to collaborate and connect on ways to improve the business.”

Across the three organisations, communication, group agility and access to expertise were the catalysts to termination of remote working practices.

The 8 Biggest Challenges Facing Remote Teams Today 

According to a survey conducted by Projects At Work, an independent publisher covering project management, the eight biggest challenges facing remote teams today are:

  1. Poor communication: 33% of respondents cited communication as their greatest challenge.
  2. Access to expertise: 14% report a difficulty in accessing the knowledge they need to succeed.
  3. Technical management: 14% say technical management is their biggest hurdle.
  4. Planning overhead: 12% have a difficult time planning.
  5. Lack of training: 10% claim their team is not adequately trained.
  6. Cultural differences: 9% say overcoming cultural diversity is their team’s biggest challenge.
  7. Team morale: 4% have trouble keeping their spirits high.
  8. Lack of support: 4% don’t feel encouraged in their work.


Getting The Right Technology and Training

Michelle Campbell is a manager with Ignite’s Outsourced People Services group. She advises that companies considering offering remote working arrangements – or those who are not seeing great results from current remote arrangements – ensure they have the right management training and online frameworks.

“Staff won’t be successful working remotely if their manager doesn’t know how to manage remotely. In addition to providing leadership training to enhance collaboration and results for remote teams, we recommend performance management tools that encourage ongoing communication, coaching and development,” she says. “We launched Ignite CCF (continuous conversations framework), an easy-to-implement SaaS (software as a service) performance management tool that is ideal for remote working arrangements.”


Should Your Organisation Go Remote? Words from the Wise

Marc Andreessen tech entrepreneur and engineer says that if transitioning to remote working creates roadblocks to growth and agility it’s not worth it.

He said, “A company can choose to open themselves up for remote work. It can bring a wealth of new talent and skills and ideas. They can train themselves up to manage the performance management aspects and ensure they have good development processes in place. But if doing all that introduces drag, particularly for the first few years while they get good at it, particularly if they’re a startup on a limited runway: the math just doesn’t add up.”

If your organisation is looking for guidance, tools and technology such as Ignite CCF that can help create a successful remote working program, Ignite’s Outsourced People Services can help. Contact Sharon Costigan, senior solutions consultant with Ignite, to find out more please email Sharon.Costigan@igniteservices.com.