Transformations in the workplace culture have seen an increase for demand of remote work flexibility which is directly related to employee engagement and happiness.

Many organisations are working towards a happier work culture and are starting to recognise that allowing employees to work remotely is part of the equation. Some will argue that the remote work environment might distract employees from doing actual work and that communication is the most difficult part.

I strongly counteract these arguments. Having worked in collaborative collocated environments for over a decade, I have first-hand experience that communication is still the main challenge for organisations, even when everyone is working across each other. There are many communication etiquette techniques that can be agreed by a team that will improve communication regardless of team members being collocated or remote.

Remote work distractions can be used positively too. People are complete beings, with families, hobbies and interests. This wholeness should be embraced and supported by organisations, and leveraged to maintain happy and productive employees. Inspiring trust and freedom can feel like a scary thing to do. We don’t know what we don’t know, but if you hire purpose driven employees I guarantee that they will thrive when given autonomy and freedom.

Why should you consider letting your employees work remotely?

If you think about why some organisations can constantly innovate while others
cannot, you might think that it’s because they have highly talented motivated individuals, or great leaders, or they make the right investments. That is in fact all true, but at the end of the day it all boils down to happiness. People’s individual contribution is maximised when they find purpose and happiness at work. This individual effort is a piece of the overall collective innovative effort of an organisation, therefore unleashing people’s happiness will ultimately drive innovation.

Shawn Achor who has studied the science of happiness extensively, wrote that “when employees experience a small burst of happiness, they get primed for creativity and innovation”. So letting people work in an environment where they feel happy and are at their optimal, is a step closer to a more innovative organisation.

Happiness means different things to different people, maybe some people prefer to work in the office day in and day out, while others will benefit from working from home, a coworking space or even a remote location. It’s about embracing the uniqueness of each individual and situation, finding the optimal working conditions for each person and the team, depending on the current demands and needs of the organisation.

There will be times when teams need to be collocated to collaborate, exchange ideas and collectively solve problems, while other times individuals will benefit from focused, uninterrupted time away from the office.

Finding inspiration working from anywhere

Some organisations have already recognised the benefits of allowing employees to work from anywhere for a fixed amount of time. Soma’s CEO Del Ponte, has made “Work From Anywhere Week” an employee perk because he believes creativity and productivity can be supercharged in inspiring environments. Del Ponte even says he is happy to sacrifice 20% of productivity if his employees come back with new perspectives that will drive innovation for the company’s product, brand or culture.

Remote work is not a vacation

Let’s make one thing clear, remote work is not a vacation. It is an opportunity for people to be in right context and environment for their individual needs in a way that benefits the organisation that they work for. It’s way to get people working smarter, by personalising their work day.

Remote work opportunities can be used to solve hard problems, create something novel, learn something new, explore creative freedom and autonomy. These aspects are part of the organisational culture evolution that we are starting to observe more and more, and it allows empowerment of people and their ability to innovate.

A hybrid remote experience to maximise happiness

A startup that has recognised this evolution, is Southwest Collective of which I am a co-founder. Our goal is to merge the remote work experience with learning, meaningful analog activities, playfulness, wellness and local culture in programs called “coworking retreats”. It’s a hybrid approach that is purposely put together in a format that embraces the wholeness of life and work, and leverages the science of happiness.

Established organisations can take advantage of these programs to provide flexibility to employees that thrive in workspaces that encourage brilliant work at any time, in a way that optimises their skills and embrace their individuality. Programs like Offsite Immersive, one of the coworking retreats organised by Southwest Collective, can help organisations guide individuals to have a greater impact, engagement and commitment.

These coworking retreats bring incredibly bright and passionate people together, including influential minds from the business community to share experiences, build connections and accelerate ideas.

People start the morning with mindfulness, yoga or jogging sessions and then spend the day working and participating in talks and workshops, breaking for a nature walk, dive in the pool or other activities. They finish the day with a healthy home cooked meal, purposeful conversations around a campfire, or just plain fun with musical evenings and playshops. Depending on the location, participants also enjoy different aspects of the local culture.

Remote is a huge slice of the future of work

The workforce is changing and the future of work demands jobs that are an extension of people’s passions and individuality, jobs that give them autonomy to make decisions and ultimately stay happy.

I believe more and more organisations will be embracing remote work in order to get and retain the best talent, motivate employees and fuel their happiness. Leveraging the benefits of remote work, is a step towards setting your organisation for success and innovation.