Remote Work Culture — Path Forward

Prateek Sharma
3 min readApr 24, 2024
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Before the global spread of COVID-19, remote work was a somewhat limited concept, mainly confined to IT environments and freelancers. However, with the onset of the pandemic, the entire world shifted towards remote work. During the lockdown period, almost all companies had to adopt remote work practices out of necessity. This shift was facilitated by the emergence of various cloud technology tools that enabled communication and collaboration among colleagues. Consequently, remote work gained prominence and was embraced more seriously by both individuals and organizations, leading to a significant transformation in work environments and cultures.

The shift towards remote work has notably increased the participation of women in the workforce and extended opportunities to segments of society previously underserved. Individuals who were previously unable to access suitable job opportunities now have greater access due to the flexibility remote work provides, allowing them to balance household responsibilities and other activities. As remote work gained momentum, companies began actively promoting remote and hybrid work options, emphasizing the elimination of the need for physical office presence. This strategic promotion aimed to attract top talent, as candidates increasingly sought companies offering remote work arrangements. The resulting competition among companies led to intensified advertising efforts to highlight their remote work policies and attract skilled candidates.

Challenges

Over the past few years, there has been a growing recognition, both among individuals and companies, that the practice of remote work needs reassessment. Management has observed a significant decline in productivity associated with remote work arrangements. Instances of misconduct, such as engaging in multiple employments simultaneously (moonlighting), have further hampered productivity and led to various fraudulent activities. Consequently, many companies have begun phasing out remote work policies and encouraging employees to return to office settings. This shift has met with resistance from employees, especially those who benefitted from the newfound opportunities of remote work, such as women and individuals with diverse responsibilities. However, mounting concerns over productivity, misconduct, and team coordination have prompted a widespread return to office-based work cultures. This marks a complete reversal in work environment dynamics. Companies cite declining productivity and the challenge of monitoring work activities as primary reasons for moving away from remote work arrangements.

How to continue with Remote Work Culture through proper monitoring

Companies have various methods for monitoring the activities of remote teams and employees. Firstly, there are numerous software solutions available, known as device management software, which not only track ongoing activities on computers or laptops but also record them. Instances have been reported in the media where individuals were dismissed due to inactivity detected by such monitoring tools. Companies noticed prolonged periods without any activity, affecting productivity, prompting them to monitor keystrokes and computer usage. Secondly, many companies utilize platforms like Google Workspace or Microsoft Office 365, which offer version control features for documents. This allows companies to track when and by whom changes are made, providing insight into individual contributions. Similarly, in coding, version control is applied to centralized repositories, enabling assessment of contributions and output from each coder.

Remote Work Policy

Another important aspect is that many companies with remote work setups lack a formal remote work policy. It’s crucial for such companies to establish remote work policies on an individualized basis for their remote employees. These policies should outline specific working hours to prevent overwork and maintain work-life balance. Additionally, they should address monitoring procedures and potential privacy concerns. All employees should have access to and be familiar with these policies. Furthermore, companies should specify in their remote work policies which continents, countries, or geographic regions their remote workers can operate from.

Word of Caution

Companies should exercise caution in promoting their remote work culture policies excessively, as this strategy may have negative repercussions if they decide to revert to an office-based work model in the future. Recent news reports highlight a major IT consultancy provider in India that initially advocated remote work but later mandated employees to return to the office due to declining productivity. Consequently, employees expressed dissatisfaction and placed demands on the employer. To address this, the company adjusted variable bonuses based on office attendance. Thus, it’s advisable for companies not to overemphasize their remote work culture to avoid potential backlash. Such inconsistencies in messaging can tarnish the company’s reputation regarding work culture. This underscores the complexities involved in navigating the remote work landscape.

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Prateek Sharma

A lifelong learner with keen interest in tech automation, finance & economics.