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Top tools and strategies for the future of remote work

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With the newfound trend of working from home and remote working arrangements, the future of work is a very different looking future indeed.

Companies like Twitter, Shopify, and Google are making bold statements about reducing their rent expense in the coming years.

The average commercial lease is approximately eight years or more, so the promises might not take effect overnight, but more work-from-home arrangements are certainly coming.

Because of this forthcoming change, which will be dramatic for many workers that are used to traditional centralized workplaces, employers must be prepared to adapt.

This change will encompass everything from social strategies to providing access to customized technology solutions to introducing tools that accelerate output amidst a new work environment.

Acknowledge that remote work has its own challenges

Remote work, in a perfect world, sounds appealing. Many imagine sitting on the beach with a laptop at your side and the sound of rolling waves lulling workers into a flow state in between sips of strawberry daiquiris.

The reality is far less Utopian, most likely. But one thing that many underestimate is that remote workers have challenges, too.

Four out of five remote workers say they face challenges office workers do not, according to a report by Igloo. The bulk of this problem involves the lack of interactions workers have with their peers and managers.

The difficulties that remote employees face include social, technological, support-related, behavioral and mentoring challenges. Each challenge creates a markedly different career experience than what one might expect from a centralized working environment.

Consider these situations:

  • The loss of face-to-face interactions, which has implications on the individual’s social-circle and mentoring
  • Increasing dependency on collaborative technology to fill that gap (and the corresponding support and training for that technology) 
  • Many people want the best of both worlds – hybrid remote – so that they can have access to the social environment that comes with the traditional workplace when they feel they need it. Though, most all-remote companies say this will be catastrophic. 

Remote works best when all members of a team are remote. Otherwise, no amount of communication in the world will be enough to compensate for the disconnect the remote employees feel from the in-office employees.

The important takeaway from these deficiencies is that there is no natural replacement for these in a work-from-home environment or remote setting.

Employers must be proactively engaging with employees to ensure that they have the support they need to succeed in their remote roles.

Let employees procure their own technology

It can take months to onboard new software solutions in an enterprise setting. Employees simply don’t have the luxury of waiting for an enterprise procurement process to complete to get the tools they need to produce results.

In fact, 57% of employees use at least one non-company approved app to do their job. This simply isn’t acceptable for both the employer and the employee.

To encourage ownership of the employee’s path to success, employers should fund a technology budget that shall be procured by the individual employee rather than imposing restrictions on software to be approved and onboarded through a corporate procurement process.

This of course, excludes common technologies such as Slack or the Microsoft 365 suite, which enable communication and collaboration across the organization.

By not being present in a predictable, mostly-quiet, centralized workspace, employees might need a different set of tools than they would otherwise have when surrounded by colleagues.

Of course, the individual situation varies, but here are some common pain points for remote workers:

  • Noise cancellation for background noise (eg. Krisp to block out noisy kids or ambient noise in coffee shops)
  • Personal organization tools (eg. Todoist to keep track of personal and professional tasks)
  • Streamlining tools to deal with the additional noise of online communication (eg. Shift which is a desktop app for streamlining your accounts, apps, and workflows)

Whatever the individual needs may be, it would be helpful to offer a $250-$500 annual budget to pay for the subscriptions that best suit the employee’s workflow.

This program should extend beyond paying for a portion of internet or mobile data and allow the employee to craft their own optimized tech-stack.

The future of work is ‘accelerated’

The future of work is not just about productivity; it will be about accelerating low-value tasks to concentrate on high-value output.

Consider this statistic: 51% of employees avoid sharing documents because they can’t find them or it would take too long to do so, according to Igloo.

This staggering statistic shows just one of the many reasons why employees waste so much productive time; so many hours are wasted on low value tasks like searching for lost files.

Earlier we listed some tools that help employees move toward productivity, but a further delineation of tools can occur between ordinary productivity tools and work accelerators.

Productivity tools, like Trello, promote productivity through organization and time management. But a work accelerator is a tool that actually makes work faster.

Here are a few examples:

  • Superhuman – the fastest email experience
  • Loom – video messaging that eliminates hours wasted composing text emails
  • Troops – connect Salesforce to Slack to keep updated
  • Streak – CRM with seamless integration with Gmail for faster updating
  • Calendly – eliminate negotiating meeting times
  • Obie – the fasted way to find and capture knowledge at work
  • Docusign – faster document execution

All of these tools enable faster execution of tasks.

With the competing priorities of employees in work-from-home or remote arrangements, accelerating work is a highly desirable strategy for anyone looking to spend more time on high-value projects.

The future is bright

Planning for the future of work will require some out of the box thinking, especially for companies that are being tempted by some of the success seen during the COVID-19 pandemic.

But much of this success has been achieved through the sheer willpower of people seeking normalcy in their work day.

To sustain remote work arrangements, employers must work toward a future where the challenges of isolation are at the forefront, employees have the financial support and authority to procure the tools that make them productive and then hopefully choose the tools that allow them to focus their time on high-value output.

Disclosure: This story is brought to you through an ESPACIO portfolio company.

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Chris Buttenham
Chris Buttenham is the Co-Founder and CEO at Obie -- the fastest way to capture and access knowledge at work.