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Remote work

A five-year leap in two months: remote work as a new norm

Author: Karl-Eduard Salumäe, Äripäev

Remote work has become a new positive trend due to the coronavirus, which is difficult to reverse, and both companies and employees will benefit from adapting to it, was a conclusion made in Äripäev's radio program "Kasvukursil".

Although remote work was popular even before the restrictions imposed by the coronavirus, it became a new but positive trend due to the epidemic. “I see remote work as a positive trend, with the leap over the next five to seven years in a few months,” said Grant Thornton Baltic’s IT-specialist Arko Kurg. “Remote work is the way of dreams of self-realization, and in reality, many people use this opportunity in winter” stated also Grant Thornton Baltic’s employee, but already working for months from Thailand, Vladimir Rüntü.

Marge Litvinova, HR Manager at Grant Thornton Baltic, agrees, who pointed out that companies have no choice but to adapt to the new trend. “Remote work will be a very clear expectation, at the same time, we have been practicing it for a long time, and each of our employees may decide themselves the frequency and need to be away from the office,” she pointed out, that in Grant Thornton Baltic the changes were foreseen and started to follow them earlier.

The challenge

However, the home office also requires adaptation. Rüntü brings out from his experience from working in Thailand, that even though it is pleasant to be a climate refugee, creating a suitable work environment is more difficult. “It is difficult to get a quality office and it is harder to work in an uncomfortable chair behind an uncomfortable desk,” he described the experienced anxiety.

According to Litvinova, the employer must ensure that people working from home are also guaranteed decent opportunities to work. “As an employer, we need to ensure that the labor inspectorate also looks at remote work jobs happily,” she described Grant Thornton’s role as an employer. “We needed to review the mentoring of employees and raise their awareness of how to adapt the workplace to health.”

In addition, when working remotely, employees have to overcome mutual trust problems. “For example, if someone needs to be reached and it doesn't work, it creates tensions in the team and questions about whether people are still committed and can be trusted,” Litvinova explained. “This is especially true when many consulting projects and audits have to be completed on time as a teamwork, and since because of one person the whole project may suffer, it can seem to the manager that suddenly something else is being done instead of what was agreed.”

According to Litvinova, these problems can be solved by constant communication between employees, among other things, recording the meetings and enabling to watch them later. “It means agreeing new rules with your immediate team, but also that employees mark what time they are active and available, they have to learn to use calendars accordingly,” she said. “It is also possible to be virtually involved in meetings very well,” Litvinova is convinced.

The need for communication is also pointed out by Kurg, who in the home office lacks primarily soft contacts and so-called coffee corner stories. “But here, too, it is possible to create different Facebook groups, where different employees exchange information, for example, where accountants can talk about their daily worries, exchange photos and much more,” he brought an example. “The need for communication between people speaks in favor of the office, employees want to meet from time to time, because communication is in our nature,” Litvinova seconded.

Problems for IT

The area that needs to be solved separately in the case of remote work is related to information technology. “Yes, a laptop is a hygiene tool and you may think that if it comes with it, everything will be fine, but the view of an IT-manager, a hot topic is data protection,” Kurg said.

According to Kurg, transparency and visibility of the use of data are important. “Since we don't watch people at home, we don't know if a neighbour working in a competing company, for example, can sit with our employee or not – in Estonian context, this fear is exaggerated, but in the USA it would definitely be a big issue,” he noted.

In addition, working at home is hampered by everyday information technology worries. “People in the office are used to high-speed internet, while in homes and cottages things are slow and internet speed fluctuates, here is the key to communication again – when to explain to people why some files are slower to download, they will understand,” he brought an example. “In the company’s view, the flow of information between networks should definitely be reviewed.”

Reduces overworking

Although the use of a home office requires adaptation from both the company and the employee, it has several positive aspects, for example, remote work helps to avoid overworking when it shakes in place. “I have been helped by the difference in time zones, I have adjusted my work to the local life in Thailand and this allows me to work undisturbed for half a day,” Rüntü pointed out that he can contribute to the company at times when there is no work in Estonia and thus, he is not disturbed by meetings and other whirlwinds related to work. “This way I can deepen for half a day and it increases efficiency.”

According to Rüntü, efficiency is also favored by the written method of communication that accompanies the home office. “It helps to think through the answers to the questions, while you are in the office, it is assumed that you have to answer immediately – this is not a prerequisite in the home office and it is absolutely nice,” he noted.

To prevent overtime, Grant Thornton Baltic has a system in place for employees to measure their own hours. “On the one hand, it is necessary because we bill clients on the basis of these hours, on the other hand, it gives employees the opportunity to stay on line and see that if one day takes 9.5 hours, then on the other you can work less,” Litvinova explained. “Also, if we see that someone has less work, tasks can be redistributed.”

Kurg added that remote work allows employees to better plan their resources. “Some do their jobs faster and can go live their lives after,” he brought an example. “If you know that getting ready faster is expressed in your free time, you will also focus better,” Kurg was convinced.