Lessons learned from remote work: Giving employees the flexibility they need
Interviews / Opinions

Lessons learned from remote work: Giving employees the flexibility they need


What do people miss when they move from an office to working from home? While some may assume they miss casual conversations with their manager or team lunches, there is another surprising factor: potentially distracting noise.

Multiple workplace noise generators popped up during the shift to remote work. They provide the familiar sounds of keyboards, conversations, and coffee cups clinking in the background.

They might initially seem eccentric, but these virtual audio environments tell us something important about 2023 working styles. People want the positive aspects of in-office work while embracing the flexibility of remote work.

Why employees (and employers) value remote work

There are plenty of reasons people gravitate toward remote work, work-from-home, or hybrid working styles. And more and more companies are happy to adapt. Before we talk about specific lessons, let’s look at why both are attracted to a more flexible work model.

Why employees value remote work

Various studies and surveys have shed light on what employees appreciate about hybrid and remote work:

  • Improved work-life balance: In a recent poll, 85% of employees said the option to work remotely at least some of the time would improve their work-life balance
  • Enhanced focus and fewer interruptions: Remote workers experience fewer interruptions and can better control their work environment
  • Better mental health: 55% of remote workers report that the option for hybrid work has reduced stress

Lessons learned from remote work: Giving employees the flexibility they need

Why employers value remote work

Consideration of your employees’ preferences is important. But there are other good reasons for you to develop and support flexible work.

  • Better retention: According to one survey, 97% of remote workers want to continue working remotely, at least some of the time, for the rest of their careers. The option for flexibility increases the odds that employees will stay with your company for the long term.
  • Increased productivity: Contrary to initial concerns, remote work has been associated with increased productivity. According to the survey by Owl Labs, 62% of remote workers feel more productive when working from home.
  • Cost savings: Remote work leads to savings for both employees and employers. Employees save on commuting expenses, eating out, and work-related wardrobe costs. For employers, remote work can reduce office space requirements and associated expenses. This can save you up to $10,600 per remote worker per year.

Understanding these preferences can motivate you to create a supportive and flexible work environment. Learning about what we’ve learned so far from the recent shift to remote work will help you know where to start.

4 lessons learned from remote work (and how to apply them)

Experience has shown what people value in a job environment regardless of where they work. Here are four valuable lessons we’ve learned about best practices for helping employees thrive in a remote or hybrid work style.

Lesson #1: Embrace async work

Be open to letting people work on their own time and communicate offline. Focusing on results over strict work hours frees people up to do their best work.

Asynchronous work boosts employee productivity by letting people focus on tasks during their peak performance hours. It encourages a healthy work-life balance and accommodates individuals with diverse responsibilities.

How to implement it: Establish clear communication channels and guidelines to get the most from async work. This may mean investing in the right tools (async messaging tools like Slack or Messenger). It also means establishing rules around communication.

For instance:

  • How and when people are expected to respond to messages
  • Which channels to use
  • When conversations should happen in real-time

Ground rules ensure nothing falls through the cracks and that employees don’t feel the need to be available around the clock.

Lesson #2: Invest in more sophisticated tools

Remote work demands a tech-forward approach. Communication and collaboration are key to bridging the geographical gaps to keep work moving forward. During the initial push toward remote work, companies had to adapt to using digital tools.

Basic video conferencing and chat functionality got everyone through the initial push. But today’s remote work is about more than just keeping work moving forward. It’s about being just as effective as an in-office working model and continuing to grow.

And that means ensuring you have the right tools for the job.

How to implement it: Determine what you need to achieve and research the tools that will deliver. You could use tools to enhance transparency, encourage engagement, or organize tasks to keep projects on track.

These may include:

  • A video conferencing platform that supports team discussion groups
  • Project management software that tracks individual contributions and automates handoffs
  • An eLearning platform that allows for self-paced, remote learning
  • Whatever the case, invest now to promote seamless remote collaboration and employee growth

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Lesson #3: Step up documentation

When employees are physically distant, documentation helps maintain collaboration and knowledge sharing. Capturing institutional knowledge enables seamless onboarding, efficient collaboration, and increased productivity.

Documenting processes, guidelines, and knowledge repositories ensures employees have access to the info they need when they need it. It also keeps people from getting confused and clarifies the next steps.

How to implement it: Boost your documentation with tools like wikis, knowledge bases, and project management platforms. Give access to those who need it, and update it regularly so everyone has the latest available information.

Lesson #4: Offer continued learning and development

Employee development is crucial to employee satisfaction and career progression—even when employees aren’t all working in the office. Remote and hybrid employees need the same professional development they always had. And they also need the skills to succeed in their new work environment.

Develop a training strategy that teaches the right skills, supports employee goals, and provides a quality learning experience for all employees regardless of where they are.

How to implement it: Do your research on the training that will help your employees reach their own goals and work toward company objectives.

These may include:

  • Soft skills like virtual communication, teamwork, or time management
  • Leadership training for managers who need to know how to lead a hybrid team without bias
  • Courses specific to employee career track goals
  • Employee wellbeing

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Create a plan for your training and how to roll it out. This may include virtual or in-person workshops. You should also host self-paced courses on a learning management system (LMS) that’s accessible to employees no matter where they are.

Secure your future with meaningful flexibility

The future of work is flexible. And the future of any business is its people.

Employees want more control over their schedules. You’ll be better positioned to attract and retain top talent if you can provide that flexibility.

Applying the lessons learned from remote work will help you create an efficient, productive, and balanced work experience going forward—whatever “flexible” looks like for your organization.


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