Remote work versus home office – possible in project management?

Cooperation from anywhere in the world

Do you start your day-to-day work not in the office but at home, in a café or co-working space? Do you manage virtual collaboration using digital tools? Do you work when you are most productive? This is already part of everyday life for many companies. More and more organizations are discovering remote work for themselves.

This form of work is not just a buzzword but has also been an unstoppable trend since the corona pandemic at the latest, in many companies. It promises a better work-life balance, more productivity, and a flexible working day.

About 70 percent of employees around the world are believed to work remotely at least one day a week. But what does remote work mean, what is the difference from the home office and what are the advantages and challenges that remote work brings with it?

What is remote work?

Remote work means not having a fixed place of work, but rather pursuing your tasks in a spatially independent manner often paired with flexible time management. This independence means that the whole world can be the office and work takes place mainly outside the company.

In theory, everything is suitable as an office: from your own four walls to your favorite café in the city to a beach bar in Bali. But there is no fixed definition of the concept, as every employee and every organization can adapt the implementation to their own needs. Up to where the freedoms go and what framework conditions are agreed upon mutually is completely individual. The term mobile office is synonymous with this.

What does it mean to work remotely?

The remote work concept not only includes location-independent work as a mobile office but is also characterized by self-determined tasks, digital communication, and virtual offices. There are new freedoms for employees and employers, which shape a new world of work. The development is driven by digitization and new work methodologies.

Core values include the right to co-determination, freedom, and independence. But the focus is also on bringing in own ideas and ongoing training. The main work of remote workers takes place in front of the laptop and on the phone. The most important basic requirement: a stable internet connection. Besides: online collaboration tools, email, and video conference tools. The work takes place in front of the screen.

Remote work vs. home office

Remote work employees are often less involved in everyday office life compared to the home office solution. The home office concept is often about transferring the regular working hours and processes to your own home. This preserves the structure of everyday office life.

What is the difference between a home office and mobile work?

A home office creates a job environment in the private area, with working hours agreed between employee and employer. Furthermore, many employees who work from home still have the opportunity to work in the office if necessary. For employees who are dissatisfied with the structures in the office, however, the home office offers less room for change.

At the same time, the home office now has a rather negative image. Frequent associations are less concentration and discipline, which are visualized when working out of bed or on the laptop between the laundry basket and ironing board. Remote Work enjoys a more professional reputation due to its clearer focus on its productivity.

Remote work is geared towards your own needs

In contrast to the home office, the remote worker lacks a permanent workplace. Perhaps you work more concentrated at your desk at home, but your creativity is stimulated by the hustle and bustle in the cafés? Then you can customize your way of working and working environment.

The employee decides about the place of work and how to organize the working day. Start earlier in the morning and take the afternoon off? In remote work, everything is based on your own needs to exploit the full potential.

Advantages and disadvantages of remote work

If you want to discover remote work for yourself, you should not only have the employer's consent but also keep an overview of the possible advantages and disadvantages of remote working.

Not all of the points listed below need to be true. Often none of them occur, but occasionally even more.

Possible advantages

  • Higher productivity
  • Work-life balance
  • Family-friendly
  • Flexible working hours
  • Cost savings

Possible disadvantages

  • Loss of quality
  • Overtime
  • Isolation
  • No fixed structures
  • Lower salary

Companies and employees, especially outside congested urban areas, benefit from the independence of location. By eliminating the permanent office space, employees are freed from long commutes, which often end in rush hour. Costs can also be reduced because less space is required.

Productivity needs self-discipline

Many employees see the advantage of remote work in the flexible organization of the working day. The personal work-life balance is usually the most important one. So it is not prescribed when and where to work, which often increases productivity since you can work at an individually high level.

In addition to the advantages, the dissolution of classic office life is associated with some challenges. A portion of self-discipline belongs in the everyday life of every remote worker to be able to use the changed structure and variable environment profitably. If the efficiency of work suffers, it leads to frustration, both for the employer and for the employee.

Maintain personal contact

Personal communication with colleagues at the coffee machine or lunch is lost and there is also no direct space for private conversations. This can quickly lead to loneliness because not everyone is so sociable and can immediately find new people to talk to anywhere. It is therefore important to maintain regular contact via messenger or video conferencing.

It should also not be neglected: Those who are not present can consequently draw less attention to themselves. This can especially affect salary negotiations. Remote workers are less likely to receive pay increases and are less likely to be promoted.

Personal time management

A precisely structured daily schedule and work routines are often underestimated and should be developed even without instructions from the employer. Those who do not set clear time limits usually work longer and do not necessarily create more. Another finding is that the average number of hours worked by remote workers increases.

Promote team culture in remote work

Due to the lack of physical proximity, team spirit and the common goal can get lost. Team culture must be promoted regularly so that teamwork, the sense of togetherness, and communication within the company do not suffer. Digital tools for a simple exchange, but also team-building games and joint (virtual) events can help.

Remote work tools & helpful tips

Remote work largely depends on software. Tools for video conferences, social networks, and collaboration software collect relevant information for all employees and are essential for teamwork.

These tools help with digital collaboration:

  • Infrastructure:
    A good internet connection is a basis for the concept of remote work.
  • Hardware:
    Laptop and company cell phone or corresponding allowances should be part of the basic equipment.
  • Software:
    Video conference tools are helpful important tools. Among others, there are Zoom, Skype, WebEx, MS Teams, and others.
  • For dialing into the company network without cybersecurity risks, VPN access is an advantage.
  • Document management:
    Collaborative work on a document is offered, for example, by Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive, and others.
  • Project management tools:
    Project management software such as Monday, Wrike, ClickUp, BaseCamp, Zoho, Trello, Asana, and many others help to structure, distribute and monitor tasks in the team.

Transparent communication

It is said that project managers spend about 80% of their time with communication. Efficient communication becomes even more important in remote work to keep the work transparent and everybody up to speed. It should be discussed with the team beforehand which digital tools are considered helpful and which are not to be used. One thing is clear - digital tools only provide support when people share their knowledge with other remote workers.

5 helpful tips

  1. Create rituals
  2. Schedule the day
  3. Communicate clearly
  4. Create a comfortable place to work
  5. Set clear goals

Remote work only works with structure

Even in remote work, a clear structure for the working day is important to achieve the set goals. Daily rituals such as fixed lunch breaks help, even without a fixed place of work.

Remote work has become indispensable in the world of work. The concept expands the home office, which is now known in many places, with additional components and thus creates its form of work. It is particularly about the flexible organization of the day, tailored to the needs of the people. The free choice of the place of work enables a better adaptation to the private situation and personal high performance.

Ultimately, each company defines the terms and conditions independently. Some are switching to it completely, while others are only introducing it temporarily. The later success depends on many factors. This includes self-discipline, open frequent communication with everyone involved, and a clear structure.

What does it mean for project management?

As in most other industries, there is also remote work as well as home office work in the project management area. But it depends very much on what work is to be done and what type of project it is. While some work in the area of planning can be done quite well remotely, it may be more difficult with the project implementation, as well as with the control and monitoring.

There is certainly a big difference from industry to industry. Most of my project management work was in the construction industry. Sure there are some tasks that can be done remotely, but overall remote or even home office work is certainly rather unsuitable here.

Let me know your opinion and experiences.

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