What is remote work?
Remote work, telework or distance work, is understood to mean employees working for their company at least some of the time at a location outside of their office. However, remote full-time employment still seems to be relatively rare. Where the work is done is often at the discretion of the employees. In most cases, however, the choice falls on the employee’s own home, which is why the term “home office” is also commonly used in German; in English, the term is “working from home” (WFH). On the other hand, not every job is suitable for being performed online. White-collar jobs lend themselves to this, craftsmen or employees working in production, doctors or nursing staff in hospitals or retirement homes – to name just a few industries – do not have the same opportunity to work independently of location.
Implementation of remote work
Location-independent and, to a certain extent, time-independent work initially requires certain basic prerequisites. These include things that are naturally available at the fixed workplace in a company, such as office materials, telephone, computer or laptop, internet connection and – ideally – ergonomic furniture.
The technical basis for digital collaboration in the context of computer-based workplaces is virtual private networks (VPN). In this context, virtual means that no separate connection is set up for communication, but that the existing connection is used as a transport medium. In the case of remote working, for example, to connect employees at home with their company’s network. A VPN gateway gives the VPN partner, i.e. the remote worker’s PC, direct access to the corporate network. All data packets are also imported into the company network via an encrypted tunnel, which should ensure tap-proof and tamper-proof communication. If implemented correctly, remote work is a secure new form of work for both employees and companies in terms of data protection and data security.
Challenges of remote work.
More and more companies are enabling their employees to work remotely from any location even after the pandemic has subsided and are providing digital tools to implement job requirements. Since there is little robust experience on the subject to date, the most important challenges will be listed here in bullet form:
Lack of experience in leading virtual teams
If a company plans to allow its employees to work remotely to a greater extent, managers should be trained accordingly for this new requirement.
Reduced possibility to control performance
If employees regularly work from home, more trust is needed in their personal responsibility. If necessary, management and teams should develop strategies for dealing with the loss of control, which can sometimes only be subjective.
Compliance with labour law requirements
For both employers and employees, working outside the office does not mean being able to work outside the law. German labour law – for example, with its stipulation for an eight-hour working day and an eleven-hour minimum rest period – is currently only partially geared to the remotely organised working methods of digital nomads and the general desire for flexible time management. Of course, the applicable standards must still be observed. If an employer sends an important digital document after the end of regular working hours with a request for immediate review, they are operating outside the legal framework. Incidentally, just like an employee who checks their work e-mails remotely shortly before midnight.
Recognition of work performance
Even with remote working, well-founded positive feedback on the work done should be guaranteed as a central criterion for employee satisfaction and retention. Management and HR should address the fear of remote workers that their temporary absence from the office may put them at a disadvantage when it comes to promotion and/or new appointments. The limited possibility of a direct assessment of employee performance when compared to a permanent workplace should, if necessary, be compensated for by other forms of performance control or more frequent staff appraisals.
Benefits of remote work.
Here, too, the observation made in the previous section on the state of studies applies, and therefore an identical procedure in bullet points:
Making remote work a fixed part of the job description in the employment contract offers employers the opportunity to meet the applicant’s desire for greater personalisation of their future employment. Especially in sectors affected by a shortage of skilled workers, such as IT, a stronger consideration of work-life balance may make it easier to attract new employees to the company.
Higher employee retention
Flexible working also plays an increasingly important role in the satisfaction of employees already working for the company. These include time savings due to the elimination of the daily commute and – also – an improved work-life balance. More job satisfaction means less staff turnover and therefore a continuation of competence in the company and consequently also an omission of sometimes cost-intensive recruiting measures.
A focused meeting culture
In the course of numerous online meetings, it has become clear that meetings on screen are more effective than meetings in person. Not only in terms of speaking time and topic focus, but also thanks to virtual visualisation and voting tools. This new, digital meeting culture can not only facilitate or accelerate decision-making in the team. It is also important to consider that voting by ‘anonymously’ clicking on a button reflects the actual opinion in the team more faithfully than physically raising hands in face-to-face meetings.
Shifting remote-capable activities to other time zones
As online work bridges space and time differences more effortlessly, employees can be delegated to other time zones. Such measures bring the company as a whole closer to its foreign partners and customers and at the same time allow it to offer certain tasks such as IT support or training “around the clock”. In times of increasing internationalisation, the relocation of remote-capable activities also offers employees the opportunity to improve their own language skills and gain experience abroad. Another plus point in the area of employer branding.
What solution does Lobster offer?
The software products Lobster_data for data integration and Lobster_pro for process automation can be used as classic client-server web applications (HTML5) and through the modelling and orchestration of business processes without restrictions for remote work.
Particular attention was paid to the new remote working requirements within the framework of Release 4.5 for Lobster_data: GUI & usability through faster rendering and optimised interfaces with less overhead, new personalisation features for a customisable look & feel as well as two additional modules – the Workflow and the DataCockpit Module – developed to significantly improve human-machine interaction and collaboration with internal and external partners. Lobster_pro appears in version 4.8 in the new “Urban design”, which not only looks more modern, but can also be operated quickly and efficiently on mobile devices.