Has working from home created a ‘Remote Generation’?

On the 5th of March, I joined the first ever Remote Generation focus group, led by Eddie Ross and Larraine Solomon, who have brought together their expertise in coaching and internal comms to conduct exciting research about the effects of remote working.

In particular, they want to find out more about the longer-term impact on future leaders, working culture and business success.

To kick off this research, Eddie and Larraine set out to create a survey to gather data on how people, particularly the younger generation, feel about remote working and how it has impacted their careers.

As a remote working advocate, I have relished the last year as my favourite way of working has become ‘cool’ and ‘normal.’ Being a freelance writer before joining simply, means that I’d become accustomed to working alone, most of the time from home, sometimes not.

It’s always been a career that provides the flexibility that so many people crave. But, what if you’re not one of those people?

What if you’re a recent graduate who desperately wants to meet their colleagues? Or a current student who is missing out on the social side of study – which is surely 80% of the reason we go to university?

I found out the answers to my questions on taking part in the focus group webinar. For an hour, we put our Zoom fatigue aside to discuss a common issue that’s become a hot topic in the media, as companies around the world consider the future of work and how they’re going to make the transition.

How do the focus group feel?

The Remote Generation is defined by a group of people who have never met their colleagues, or had limited physical contact with them, since the pandemic began.

It’s a whole new way of working that has been born out of a crisis, where we’re now using technology to try to re-create water cooler conversations.

As much as Zoom fatigue is a thing, there have been positives to come out of it for the focus group. These included making it easier to form support bubbles with family members, being able to live and work in different locations with no commute, and discovery of helpful tools like Asana and OneDrive that have revolutionised efficiency.

These are some of the comments that came out of the session, as a group of Millennials and Generation Z from around the world came together:

“As a young person, you need to be in an office.”

“The effectiveness of remote working depends on the work you do.”

“Culture is what remote working lacks – not getting to know the people you work with.”

“It doesn’t make up for being in person. We’re trying to make the experience richer, but it doesn’t compare to face-to-face teaching.”

“Student culture cannot be replicated through a screen.”

“OneDrive is my new favourite thing in the world.”

“Working for a technology company, I’ve really struggled.”

Giving employees a choice

Some companies, such as tech giant Twitter, have decided that their employees don’t ever have to come back to the office if they don’t want to, whilst others, such as Goldman Sachs, refuse to adopt remote working at all.

My stance on this is that it’s about asking employees what they’d like to do. If one person wants to work from home 100% of the time, that’s ok, if they want to work from home 3 days and come into the office 2 days, that’s also ok.

It’s all about personal circumstances, and due to classic presenteeism and saving face, many people don’t want to share their reasons with their boss.

Maybe someone has a difficult home life or struggles with the isolation of working from home. Mental and physical health conditions also come into it, as many people have seen an improvement in their symptoms since being given increased flexibility. Or the impact on mental health may mean that they’ve worsened.

The issue is, we can’t see these things without asking or being told. This is why communication around the future of work is so important.

It’s not surprising that not everyone agreed with me, with one member saying: “Implementing remote working is fine, but I think it has to be the same for everyone. Otherwise, it effects collaboration.”

Reaching leadership remotely

There were mixed reviews on how leadership communication has been throughout the pandemic, with some people (including me), commenting on the fact that in a small organisation, the hierarchy is relatively flat, which means you see your leaders all the time.

Others, however, said that remote working hasn’t made leaders more visible: “Senior leaders are as impenetrable as ever. Hierarchy is fixed and unchanged.”

Accessibility and support

Overall, the 10 focus group members shared that their employers had been supportive throughout their time working from home and that they had access to everything needed to do their job.

We were all impressed by one organisation that went above and beyond to provide for their teams, including giving all employees an extra £45 per month to cover increased bills, as well as arranging computer monitors, desks and chairs, if needed.

One member in the engineering field explained that they were used to working in pairs, which isn’t possible at the moment, so they have to be logged onto a video call all day long.

It’s clear to me that there’s one key thing that can make or break remote working: balance. At simply, we champion flexible working, digital workplace and the technology that makes this possible.

So, it’s only right that we support remote working in its entirety. That’s not to say, though, that we don’t understand the challenges involved – in fact, we know them better than anyone!

If you’d like to find out more about the Remote Generation project, you can take part in the survey and read Eddie and Larraine’s article here.

THE AUTHOR

Laura Riaz

Laura Riaz is simply’s content creator. With a strong background in copywriting and social media management, she thoroughly enjoys writing about the wonders of internal comms.

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