A distributed workforce, also known as telecommuting or remote work, occurs when a business has employees that work in different locations (e.g., their home, satellite offices, etc.). This is an idea that AAIS has embraced successfully for nine years before the COVID-19 pandemic. The long-held belief that collaboration can only happen in person in a single location is no longer the case.
With a distributed workforce comes an increase in collaboration, according to cloud services company VMware, as businesses use platforms such as teleconferencing tools (i.e. Zoom or Teams), chat rooms, and cloud-based file sharing services. Additionally, distributed workforces can make a significant impact on the bottom line, saving businesses money in the long run with the reduced cost of office space. It also increases the talent pool as hiring is not restricted by geographic boundaries. For employees, working in a home office saves travel time and provides more time for family and personal commitments.
Still, distributed workforces and their many benefits are not easily realized. They require commitment, planning, hard work, and may present challenges to the traditional in-office mindset.
Working from home isn’t for everyone. Some people are more easily distracted at home and find they’re more productive in an office environment. Others don’t have the equipment required to tangibly work from home and/or their employer will not provide it to them. For example, at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, buying a desk was near impossible as millions of people rushed to set up home offices.
Other issues include less in-person interaction, a lack of company culture, and difficulties in scheduling meetings due to time zone differences.
Some solutions to these challenges that AAIS found and implemented include casual weekly Zoom meetings where employees can gather and talk about whatever they would like – similar to gathering around the water cooler in a physical office. Sharing all employees’ calendars assists in meeting planning, regardless of time zones. This way, people can be transparent and block off time when they are and are not available.
While distributed workforces come in all shapes and sizes with many pros and cons, the key to a successful distributed workforce includes the ability to maintain or create a strong company culture, set clear expectations of employees, consistent communication of goals, and much more.
Want to learn more about how the insurance industry is handling this new way of working? Reach out to an engagement manager.