Distributed working practices—office, home, on the move or hybrid—have proven business and employee engagement benefits, but leadership and business culture need updating.
New research has revealed a 41% increase in the proportion of employees across EMEA, who see remote working as a prerequisite rather than a perk, rising to 53% among Gen X workers. This is according to a new global study conducted by VMware, Inc. (NYSE: VMW), a leading innovator in enterprise software, with business, HR and IT decision-makers.
Almost two thirds (64%) of all respondents recognize that their organization is realizing the benefits of remote work and can’t go back to the way they used to be. Yet, there is a concern that company leadership and management are not putting in the work to adapt in offering their employees greater choice and flexibility.
“The challenges in the past six months have forced businesses to quickly adapt to new working practices where ‘work’ doesn’t equal ‘the office.’ The future of work has arrived in the form of a distributed workforce, bringing with it tangible business benefits, from productivity and employee morale, to greater collaboration and enhanced recruitment opportunities,” said Kristine Dahl Steidel, vice president, EUC EMEA, VMware. “And with this digital foundation, companies need to instill the right culture and leadership approach to create a new way of work. The digital workspace solutions that enable distributed workforces to be collaborative, engaged, visible and productive have already helped thousands of businesses and millions of employees—and VMware is continuing to innovate.”
Adapting Company Culture to the Requirements of the Distributed Workforce
More than four in ten (41%) decision makers surveyed worry their teams won’t stay on task when working remotely. More than a quarter (28%) also feel their boardroom culture discourages remote working, and over half (59%) feel more pressure to be online outside of normal working hours. These factors indicate a need for a top-down shakeup of traditional management thinking and practices.
This is despite the clear business and employee benefits of flexible working, including organizations being able to capitalize on the more diverse talent and skillset pools across the world. Since working remotely, more than three quarters (76%) of employees surveyed believe personal connections with colleagues have improved, 66% feel more empowered to speak up in video conference meetings, and 69% say their stress levels have improved. Employee morale (30%) and productivity (34%) have seen an increase. Furthermore, 67% say recruitment of top-tier talent has been made easier, specifically for working parents (83%) and minority candidates (68%). When it comes to generating new ideas, almost three quarters** (72%) agree that innovation is coming from more places within the organisation than before.
Dr. Carl Benedikt Frey, director, Future of Work Program, Oxford University, comments, “For organizations to truly embrace the ‘work from anywhere’ model, managers will have to move away from monitoring inputs to focusing on output, all from within an environment of mutual trust. Striking the right balance will be key to ensure employees are motivated and while being in an environment where creativity can flourish.”
IT is no longer thought to be an inhibitor to distributed working practices, where employees can work from headquarters, a local office, home, on the move or a combination of locations, as standard—with only a third (33%) of those surveyed believing that IT is not equipped to manage a remote workforce.
“The unprecedented shift we’ve seen to a work-from-anywhere model this year undoubtedly offers many advantages to employers and employees alike,” comments Véronique Karcenty, digital workspace director at Orange Group, France. “However, we should not underestimate the required change in people management strategies to keep employees engaged and productive. While executive leadership is important for setting the tone, it’s middle management that needs to constantly demonstrate trust, energize the team and build a sense of shared purpose.”
Holistic Vision for the Future of Work
Enabling a distributed workforce is fraught with challenges, ranging from remote employee on-boarding, visibility and compliance, security, employee safety, and more. Due to the pandemic, the scale of today’s distributed workforce has amplified the proliferation of digital technologies and platforms in use. While organizations try to stay operational, they are moving more applications to the cloud, which is driving new information silos. As workforces shrink and grow and some employees opt to remain home, the anywhere-organizations’ device mix is increasingly heterogeneous as they adopt more flexible BYOD arrangements. As a result, every new device connected to an enterprise network represents a possible attack vector for would-be hackers. All these factors break down the enterprise security perimeter, catapulting the need for zero trust security models even further.
At VMworld last month, VMware announced VMware Future Ready Workforce solutions to provide exceptional workforce experiences, end-to-end zero trust security controls and simplified management. The Future Ready Workforce solutions combine VMware Secure Access Service Edge (SASE), digital workspace and endpoint security capabilities to deliver any application from any cloud onto any device, so organizations can unlock the value of this holistic approach—enabling powerful workforce experiences, no matter where one is working.
The “The New Remote Work Era: Trends in the Distributed Workforce” report is based on a survey, sponsored by VMware, of 2,850 EMEA respondents (950 HR decision-makers, 950 IT decision-makers and 950 business decision-makers) across 12 countries: UK (600), France (450), Germany (450), Italy (150), Netherlands, (150), Russia (150), Poland (150), Norway (150), Sweden (150), Spain (150), UAE (150) and Saudi Arabia (150). Vanson Bourne conducted the survey in June and July 2020.
** For those whose organization has a defined headquarters with regional offices
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