As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads, it has caused a rapid transition from working in the office to working remotely for many firms and organizations globally. Some people find themselves enjoying working remotely, while others find it difficult to adjust to this style of working.
Is working remotely really as good as it seems? What kind of opportunities and possibilities does working remotely bring to people?
In this article, we will discuss how to implement a good organizational structure for remote working, and advantages and challenges of remote work, to provide you some helpful insights if you are looking to change your current workforce into remote.
BENEFITS OF REMOTE WORK
For employees, remote work allows them to have a flexible working schedule, more freedom, less commute stress, location independence, money saving, etc.
Studies have shown the possibility of employees to work in a place that they are more comfortable which saves time and money for commuting and eating outside, and staying close to their family has led to a better work-life balance along with better performance.
On the other hand from the aspects of organization, working from home usually means less interruptions, less disturbance, and less office politics. When employees have less distractions at work, it increases their productivity and performance, resulting in a better profitability for the organization.
Nevertheless, remote work allows companies to reduce their costs such as rent, which leads to a positive impact towards the environment by reducing greenhouse gas emissions when employees no longer need to travel to work.
WHAT COULD OCCUR IN A REMOTE WORKING ENVIRONMENT
Though remote work can bring success to organization, there are some common difficulties that firms or teams might face in this type of working outside of an office environment.
Poor engagement and communication
These two challenges are easily encountered for a remote working environment. With the lack of an office environment, employees working alone could have a sense of isolation, which might lead to low productivity.
In addition, people might misunderstand when communicating face to face, not to mention communicating through software tools or phone calls.
It is often seen that leaders use time-based productivity, they are more comfortable when “seeing” employees working. This is a sign of lack of trust towards employees and if this is the mindset of the leader in a remote working structure, then the organization is going to fail.
How to manage the performance of remote workers is critical for organizations or managers. To prevent the fall, leaders should encourage remote workers by recognizing task-based productivity. Focus on the team results instead of monitoring what they do and how they do. Take a step back and empower them to manage their own schedule.
Poor(er) problem solving
Businesses are facing and making tough decisions, to identify a problem, break it down into its components, and solve the problem effectively and efficiently is vital.
Less informal communication
Studies have shown 80% of innovative ideas generated in offices are a result of informal communication among colleagues, regardless of worldwide data and communication networks.
Without an office workplace, organizations may use informal communication tools such as Slack to enable employees to engage personally.
Less strategic alignment
An alignment with the goals of a company is one of the essential drivers of employee engagement. Remote workers could miss the sense of belonging. It is important for employees to realize how and why their efforts are relevant to the organization.
Also for the organization to understand how much are their employees motivated towards work and how much are they committed towards the organization and its goals?
DIFFERENT TYPES OF ORGANIZATIONAL STRUCTURES
Organization structure is a framework of the relations on jobs, systems, operating process, people and groups making efforts to achieve its goals. In other words, organizational structure refers to how an organization arranges its employees and tasks so that their work can be performed and achieve the goals and objectives of the organization.
There are different types of organization structures, commonly seen organization structures are Functional Structures, Divisional Structure, Matrix Structure, Team-based Structure, and Network Structure.
A functional structure is when an organization groups employees together according to their area of expertise, specialization or function, which is often used for small and simple organizations. Examples of common functions are sales, marketing, human resources, etc.
A divisional structure groups employees by divisions or branches, depending on the service, product, location or market, which is often used for large companies that have several lines of products and services. Industries such as automotive and electronics commonly use divisional structure.
A matrix structure is a combination structure of functional structure and division structure mentioned above, employees would report to two or more managers rather than one manager. This type of structure is useful when skills are needed to be shared across departments and it allows companies to utilize the strengths of talents.
A team-based structure is one in which a group of employees works together as a team. This type of structure is very agile and flexible, it allows people to communicate effectively and efficiently, and also gives employees the power to make decisions.
A network structure is a type of matrix structure that uses digital technology and specialized employees to complete assignments without the need of traditional work spaces. Organizations with this kind of structure would collaborate, outsource or create strategic partnerships with other companies.
To build a good structure for a remote working environment, whichever organizational structure fits your business the most. But do keep in mind that team-based structures, or any organic structures, require special attention in a remote working environment due to the decreased informal communication. So they should only be chosen if you are confident that you can make it work.
For more information regarding organizational structure, please visit our previous blog post “The Right Organizational Structure for a High-Performance Team”.
Besides defining your organization with a good structure that fits you the most, do not forget to consider “span of control”, this is normally referred to tall structure and flat structure.
Tall structure has many levels of hierarchy, which takes longer for information to travel through the layers of the organization. Tall structure is normally seen in public sector organizations or big companies where bureaucracy is in its nature. Common advantages are a clear chain of command; employees understand who makes important decisions; which employees are responsible for specific tasks.
Flat structure is exactly the opposite of tall structure, it is an organizational structure with a limited number of levels of hierarchy. Flat structure is commonly seen among small organizations and startups because of fewer employees and less need for hierarchical management. Flat structure promotes greater communication because less layers of management exist as mentioned above and it provides employees opportunities by giving them more freedom and authority to make their own decisions.
HOW TO STRUCTURE A REMOTE WORKING ENVIRONMENT
In order to build a good organizational structure for your remote business, you need to
First, focus on the business needs and what type of traditional structure accommodates it the best.
Second, make sure to modulate the span of control to be small enough for you and every manager to actually manage the teams they have – in a remote setting, as previously mentioned, the span of control should be smaller, as you need to communicate more. A good rule of thumb here can be 4-8 direct reports for you and each manager. More for simple positions, less for complex positions.
Third, resist the tendency to build upon a network structure alone. It is a great way to get started, but you need to build inhouse know-how to build a sustainable business.
Last but not least, establish a good flow of communication within the workforce. A good flow of communication means messages are delivered efficiently and effectively along with good transparency throughout the organization, which will achieve productivity and maintain strong working relationships at all levels of an organization.
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