By Michael Kruklinski
I count myself among the reported 70% of employees globally who take advantage of remote working. Not only does it improve work-life balance, it also allows me to keep up with projects and deadlines while traveling.
For industries where remote working is feasible, office managers face a challenge: How can they give employees the option to work from anywhere while still ensuring they stay productive and connected to the team and company culture?
Flexible and efficient spaces are necessary to integrate technology, like virtual collaboration, that gives employees the ability to complete important work whether they are at home or in an airport. Combined with the right space, this can ultimately change your culture for the better. Whether you are designing a completely new office or changing your existing one, here are some things to consider when implementing a remote working plan.
Keep your employees connected. When office managers think about the potential challenge of remote workers, productivity is often top of mind. But keeping employees connected to their coworkers across an organization is just as important. According to Harvard Business Review, a study of 1,100 remote workers found that the majority felt shunned by colleagues. Specifically, many worry that they are left out of major changes to projects. It is of utmost importance to keep employees connected to your company, the culture and team. This will further drive satisfaction and productivity but also keep retention high and turnover low.
One way we solve this concern at Siemens is through technology. Employees can access important files from any Siemens location, from home or on the go. We also have several virtual collaboration tools and an internal social network platform to keep employees connected. This allows employees to stay up-to-date on current happenings in the office, while also maintaining constant, real-time communication with colleagues.
Connecting with a video feed is also a good way to curb the lack of interaction of remote working. Up until a few years ago, video calling or conferencing was a luxury that required expensive and complex equipment and expertise. Today at Siemens, we regularly participate in or host video conferencing meetings on smartphones and mobile devices as well as on our computers.
Become location agnostic. Earlier this month, Siemens Real Estate had a 2020 budget kick-off meeting. Groups gathered face-to-face at some of our larger offices in Iselin, NJ and Orlando, FL; some connected via video conference; others dialed in from home. There was not a single moment during the meeting where anyone noticed that a majority of the participants were virtual. And most notably of all, this didn’t require any extra coordination — it happened organically.
This is a great example of a team that is location agnostic, but it cannot happen unless your culture and space are prepared. Take a look at how your current space is being utilized. Are a majority of your employees remote during peak hours? The HBR study referenced previously states that employees are more comfortable with face-to-face interactions. If a good portion of your workforce is remote, you have to invest in technology to make the experience seamless. Survey your employees to gather feedback on the product you choose. If it’s not easy to use, you won’t get the desired results.
Manage your space intelligently. As important as it is for remote workers to feel connected, you must use the same care for those in the office. According to a study from Brandware, 64% of employees who were satisfied with their work environment strongly agreed with the statement “my organization cares about my well-being.”
Creating a work environment that supports modern thinking is key to fostering innovation at your company and, in turn, boosting morale. This means swapping the traditional cubicle model for a more creative layout that matches the needs of your workforce. If a large chunk of your employees are not consistently in the office, assigned desks no longer make sense. Even as the head of my organization, I do not have a dedicated office. When I’m in the office, I work from an unassigned space, and when I’m away, the room is available to whomever may have a need.
A common criticism of these open, non-territorial arrangements is its disorganization. If there are no assigned desks, won’t it be more work for employees to find a space to sit? Just because there are no assigned seats, however, doesn’t mean there can’t be an order to things. With Siemens’ New Way of Working (NewWow) model, offices are arranged by “neighborhoods.” For example, marketing employees work in the “marketing neighborhood,” while financial teams work in the “financial neighborhood,” so they can more easily share ideas with each other.
It’s important to note that ability to work remotely at Siemens varies by job function and is at each managers’ discretion. Additionally, remote working is not a mandate; those that prefer to work in a traditional office space every working day are encouraged to do so.
Employees are the lifeblood of your organization. I’ve learned from experience that it’s possible to give employees what they want while still maintaining a productive and healthy business. Change may be difficult but it’s ultimately necessary to keep up with a rapidly changing and digital world.
Kruklinski is the Head of Real Estate for Siemens Gas & Power and Siemens USA. In this role, he oversees the company’s entire real estate portfolio in the United States and manages all real estate-related services and products in the oil & gas, power and industrial markets worldwide. With over 30 years of experience at Siemens, Kruklinski has held several senior positions within the company. From his role as the vice president of corporate development and strategy to his time as the Head of Siemens Real Estate for the Americas, Kruklinski oversaw cross-sector strategies, new business opportunities and portfolio management. Kruklinski led the creation of the Siemens Industry Sector as well as the Company’s Smart Grid business unit and e-Car initiative. He was also involved in the creation and implementation of Siemens’ “New Way of Working” flexible office design plan, MIS and organizational development, benchmarking and business process reengineering, business process consulting and market intelligence and competitor analysis.