It has been uncomfortable to watch the total chaos that has resulted from a corporate flirtation with remote work. After countless employees made a permanent switch to working from home in good faith, an alarming number of organisations are rapidly rowing back on their enthusiasm for distributed teams. The question we need to be asking is: what went wrong?
Lack of intent
The topic of remote working triggers passionate debate. However, the standout reason for failure can be summarised in three words: lack of intent. It is this lack of intent which has now left bosses scrambling for office life rafts and unable to grasp the full potential of remote work.
The growing media narrative that so-called “laptop workers” have it easy when working from home has not helped matters. The working remotely narrative is in dire need of PR support.
Remote can work
As the founder of a PR agency that has been fully remote since launch in 2017, I have long been inspired by tech industry trailblazers such as Automattic which grasped the importance of mindfully building a remote culture.
Our intention with being a remote-first company was to create a different integrated pan-European PR agency with staff from across different countries working “side by side”. Having a clear purpose around the reason why we are remote provides confidence and commitment to the remote model. The fact we have cumulative staff retention of 83% over six years of operating underlines that employees value the model too.
Agencies can’t commit
The challenge for so many businesses which are now wavering on their commitment to remote work is that they became accidentally remote. This shift was thrust upon them during the pandemic and they now find themselves in a situation where they don’t know whether to stick or twist. Rather than a marriage, their relationship with remote work was more of a casual fling.
Across the PR industry, we are witnessing the increased introduction of mandatory office days, and arbitrary bans on back-to-back working from home. In this struggle to find a middle ground, bosses will feel like they are trying to run two parallel businesses at the same time. A mish mash of people in and out of the office has a detrimental impact on work culture.
Questions to ask
So what’s the answer to this challenge? If it was me facing this dilemma I’d do some navel gazing with three questions: Why do we want to be a remote company? Why do we want to be an office-based company? Or if you must, why do you want to be a hybrid company?
The rationale must be clear and robust. Making it possible for your employees to walk their dogs every day is admirable, but long-term success requires a higher meaning. Make sure your reasons will stand the test of time. Well, the length of an office lease at least! Then be very intentional about what you are doing and why.
The companies that are most intentional about their remote models will reap the greatest rewards. The accidental remote companies and the hybrid dabblers, rather than reap rewards, may in fact end up with the worst of both worlds rather than the best of both worlds.
Article written by Brendon Craigie, CEO of PR agency Tyto
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