5 Factors That Affect Companies Switching to Remote Work
[May 12, 2020] BY Shinji Ineda
As the number of companies that carry out remote work increases, specific industries and companies that have not and cannot implement work from home policies are emerging. Indeed, for many companies that have maintained their traditional working environment, the path to developing a remote work environment is steep. There are a lot of actions that must be taken by each company, including reviewing security policies and guidelines, and developing communication tools. As a result, many companies are scratching their heads to figure out how to overcome a great number of intricately intertwining barriers to successfully implement remote work.
However, it is easy to organize a number of issues leading up to the implementation of remote work from the viewpoint of “mobility.” Therefore, I would like to clarify the limitations that prevent the introduction of telework with a focus on mobility.
What does “mobility” mean in telework in the first place?
Mobility refers to the ease of movement with technology, communication, workflow, and the like. Initiatives such as the provision of take-home notebook PCs , the adoption of cloud-based internal systems, and the formulation of telework guidelines can all be considered as “measures to increase mobility” to free employees from being tied to a single desk in the office. In the context of teleworking, the higher mobility makes it possible to work remotely from the office, which means that “the choice of working location is expanded.”
Even recent work styles, methods like ABW (Activity-based working), which offers a choice of places to have fun and do work, or “workstation,” a form of remote work that is done in tandem with one’s vacationing, are all far from being fully realized without a mindset to improve mobility. Veldhoen + Company, the founder of ABW, cites one of the most important factors in realizing ABW is that “time and place are not bound; work can be done anytime and anywhere.”
But in order to increase mobility, it is important to grasp the constraints that hinder it. The constraints can be grouped into the following five.
5 Constraints That Inhibit Mobility
1. Place (location) Constraints
The choice of location is significantly limited for tasks performed in a specific location or for a designated location. Cases such as not being able to access the system from the outside or a designated personal computer, handling of specialized equipment by industry, maintenance of the internal system, receiving of mail, etc. are applicable.
In general, the prevalence of telework in the transportation, entertainment, medical and welfare, hospitality, and food industries is considered to be lower than in other industries. This is also because there is a “restriction of the place”. While these industries are an extreme example for office workers, examples such as unmanned deliveries in the transportation industry and the use of sensors in nursing homes indicate the possibility that technological advances will relieve the constraints of places and broaden the choice of working locations in all types of industries in the future.
2. Paper Constraints
As “paperless” is one of the themes of work style reform, there are still many companies that rely on paper for information management such as materials and business cards. For workers working in such situations, it is difficult to get access to a wide variety of paper media, to handle MFPs and shredders for output and disposal, and to work away from the office where the documents are stored. The more paper you handle in business, the less mobility you will have.
The reason why paper constraints are still hard to be resolved is that the impact of paperless is extended to the external environment. Although the spread of smartphones, tablets, and notebook PCs is progressing, the advance of work environment digitization varies from organization to organization, both internal and external. There are still many cases in which paper is used as the basis of courtesy in company-to-human and human-to-human interaction and exchange. In addition, it is not easy to digitalize all of the paper, including the storage documents and documents stipulated by the laws and regulations for each varying business. In that sense, it may be the limitation of this paper that makes me feel the most nervous as an office worker.
3. Communication Constraints
More and more companies are creating and changing offices to activate communication among employees. This is an important initiative, but if you rely on the office for all communication, it will lead to a decrease in mobility.
In fact, in recent years, a number of communication tools such as web conferencing and chats have become popular. More and more companies and managers are reviewing the value of face-to-face communication. Three years ago, IBM announced that it would focus its employees’ attention on remote work, but as if it were just a “slight physical distance away,” and it has become increasingly important to focus on face-to-face conversations among employees and the state of corporate culture through it.
The reason that face-to-face communication is useful is that it is easy to communicate non-verbal information and eases communicate with others. The importance of non-verbal communication is emphasized in by Mehrabian’s Rules of Communication. Insights can be found in our interview with Dr. Tanaka of Tokai University.
But face-to-face is not necessarily the only or best form of communication at all. Whether one-sided information sharing, interactive interaction, or non-verbal information is necessary, the most appropriate means will change according to the purpose and efficiency of communication. Mobility is improved by “taking appropriate communication measures adequate for each purpose.”
4. Collaboration Constraints
In order to extend the value of communication, there are objective goals of organizational activities such as “collaboration” and “innovation.” Moreover, the office is an important place. However, if the business becomes too dependent on the office (the location itself), the mobility of employees will decrease.
While many companies have tried to create offices with the aim of collaborating, some have turned their attention to the company’s splendid collaboration space, but some have not yet considered collaborating outside the office. Of course, the location of activities is limited due to information security and other stipulations and factors, but there’s a difference from seeking collaboration that can be done only because of the office and keeping the collaboration only in the office.
Instead of dividing the office in places of collaboration like NEW STANDARD, one solution would be to solve mobility constraints comprehensively by setting a flex system and remote work possible dates. In today’s world, where a multitude of collaboration tools are being developed for various types of work and activities, introducing appropriate digital tools and developing an environment in which collaboration is possible without being in the same place eliminates the inconvenience caused by this “constraint” of collaboration. By increasing mobility, you can also achieve new innovative types of collaborations across teams and organizations.
5. Culture Constraints
Cultural constraints are the most difficult to overcome and the most difficult to realize. When it comes to remote work, there are people who lament that they can’t get the standard in-house understanding built upon the corporate culture that has been cultivated over many years often complaining that their “boss doesn’t understand,” or, “My co-workers don’t understand.”
What is most troubling, however, is that it is very difficult for many companies to find out what their employees really think about the corporate culture. Even if an individual employee has a clear opinion in their heart, he/she cannot raise his/her voice because they “don’t want to disturb the discipline of the collective organization,” or because he/she does not want to be regarded as a “disruptive person,” or because they do not want to cause trouble to others. In a good way, it can be considered as a consideration to the organization and the company, but in reality, it is actually an untouchable area within the company.
In addition, there are cases in which people have lost sight of the true nature of their job with excuses of “fulfilling their role just by showing up” or the like.
Because it is a constraint that is not easily noticeable, it is essential to raise the consciousness of each and every employee from the upper layers of the organization to general employees. Coming to the office is a means, not a purpose of business activities. It must be clearly stated that the results will not be improved just by coming to the office nor is it true that you will be penalized at the time of introducing telework.
What are the top priority constraints that should be resolved?
Above, we discussed the five constraints that inhibit the mobility. The constraints surrounding “location,” “paper,” “communication,” and “collaboration” can be resolved by using a few relatively well-known technologies and services. But the “cultural constraints” will draw a line between them. How to use tools and services and to what extent they can be utilized is largely dependent on the culture of the company and the awareness of the individuals.
If we think this way, we can say that the most important constraints to be solved for improving mobility are clear. The way of working will not change without the intervention of the corporate culture and the reformation of the consciousness person to individual person. In this article, I have only explained the restrictions, but I would like to continue to focus on specific actions, measures, and cases that solve them.
Writer of this post
Shinji InedaWhile working as an executive officer in the design division at FRONTIER CONSULTING, he provides to companies and people information about the office environments and working styles mainly on the West Coast from the U.S. branch office.
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