Introduction to Remote Work Series

OrgVitality is aware of the ongoing struggles organizations have around remote work issues, such as making sound policy decisions, managing employees remotely, the cost/benefit of requiring a return to office and more. Over the next two months, we will look at all aspects of remote work, offering practical data-based advice for organizations. If you’re interested in a specific aspect that you’d like to see included, please contact us directly.

The world of work has seen many periods of transformation, which are often caused by broad environmental, economic, or scientific events.

Organizations must adjust to these events in order to sustain themselves and thrive. They must choose well. The COVID-19 pandemic ushered in remote work on a grand scale, changing the nature of work in ways organizations and employees are still trying to understand.

Technology has changed work dating back to earliest times. The industrial age of the 1700s saw hand tools and cottage industries replaced by power tools and large-scale manufacturing facilities that allowed the production of goods in quantity. In order to take advantage of that new technology vast changes in how people were organized and managed in the world of work were required. Large numbers of people moved from rural environments to cities to work in factories. This of course was not a forced migration, but rather working in urban centers was more attractive than the opportunities that the rural environment afforded. Labor was aligned with the technology to produce at scale.

Other technological innovations came along, such as automation and computerization of operations, which increased productivity and in some cases safety, but it also triggered Business Process Re-engineering.

The goal of Business Process Re-engineering in the 1980s was to radically redesign work processes to achieve dramatic improvements in cycle-times, quality, productivity, customer and employee satisfaction. As someone who was measuring employee satisfaction during this time period I can emphatically state that the last goal was elusive, but the technological shifts continued.

Innovations in the way work gets done have come fast and furiously and seem to come at an increasingly rapid pace. And there are way too many to list them out here. Innovations that are getting a lot of attention these days are the technologies that allow for remote work of office jobs. Of course, many production, construction, or service jobs can’t be done remotely. But other jobs, such as call center workers, have utilized at least some distributed work-forces for a long time because it attracts the workers they need and helps to manage their costs.

Today the definition of who must be onsite and who, with the help of technology, can work remotely is in flux.

For those that can work remotely, there are benefits that accrue at the individual level, and depending on which research articles you read, at the corporate level. The advent of COVID simply sped up a transition in the ability to work remotely that was already underway. Labor will once again align with technology, even though the path to that alignment may be somewhat bumpy. What seems to be lacking, perhaps due to the volumes and speed at which remote work has grown are the corresponding business practices to support a large remote workforce in a comprehensive integrated fashion. What has been true and is still true today is that painting with broad brushes (everyone must be on the office 3 days per week for instance), making rules that blindly apply across the board is never a good idea. Workforces and optimizing work processes is a complex undertaking and simplistic or overly broad rules or dictates, or decisions that make the top of the house comfortable only because that is how they want it, will undoubtably suboptimize performance.

Over the coming weeks OrgVitality will publish a series of pieces on remote work, exploring the benefits and shortcomings, the business practices that must change and importantly how to measure the attitudes towards and effectiveness of remote work in your organizations. Please join us for this upcoming series. 

Need help with these items, or any others? Contact us to learn more about OrgVitality’s employee survey and 180/360 assessment services.


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