Spurred on by the Covid 19 pandemic, many businesses experienced a change in the way their work was done virtually overnight. This change was brought on mostly by the requirements to shelter in place and the need to move the work of many businesses from an office to other remote locations. The pandemic likely accelerated a form of work that had been a small part of the economy into the dominant form for certain types of businesses. And as society adjusts to the way in which it deals with the impacts of Covid 19, remote work is not going away. In particular, those businesses that operate through the implementation of creative intellectual capital most likely have changed their form of work forever.
Specifically, businesses that employ “Cultural Creatives”, as described in the book “The Cultural Creatives: How 50 Million People Are Changing the World” written by Paul H. Ray and Sherry Ruth Anderson, have seen a sudden shift in how work will be completed far into the future. That shift is reforming again into a hybrid formula of in person office and remote work.
The shift may take many forms. Some businesses are not coming back to the office and have implemented all staff as remote workers. Some businesses have moved into co-office spaces such as We-Work, reducing their office footprint and scaling up or down based on their changing needs. Other businesses have created policies that require a minimum number of days or specific days for employees to work in the office. And still other businesses have implemented policies that have a mixed footprint, that allows full-time remote employees, part-time remote employees, and full-time in office employees.
Remote work policies do have some challenges. Following is a sample of challenges that businesses can expect to experience with implementing remote work policies:
- Remote work can be difficult to manage. Managing the work of employees requires a greater effort in planning, collaboration, communication, and mentoring.
- Maintaining a work-life balance can also be challenging when navigating at-home work, where workspaces may not have supporting surroundings, or proper access to technology.
- At-home work requires a self-motivated employee as there is no one on site that can physically supervise or remind them to get the work done.
- Distractions at home can also be present, though different than the distractions found in a traditional office setting. Family, guests, social media, entertainment, etc. can have a negative affect on the quality of the workspace.
- Access to assistance in technology issues can also be a challenge. Notably, those employees that use technology to complete their work, may not fully understand the workings of the technology that supports their work.
- At-home work can lead to loneliness. Particularly when an employee lives alone.
Along with the challenges of implementing a remote work policy, there are also many benefits. Those benefits can outweigh the challenges for some types of work. Following is a short list of the benefits that can be achieved in implementing a remote work policy:
- For some employees having flexibility in their work is very valuable, allowing them to adapt to the ever changing availability of services such as childcare, senior care, other family obligations, or in taking on general life tasks.
- Reducing the requirements for commuting and physical travel, can result in a reduced carbon footprint and savings in cost and time for the employee. The recapture of lost commute time can also improve an employees work-life balance.
- Other employees may find that they are able to maintain a higher level of focus with fewer distractions than can be found in the office workplace. For those working in the creative fields, this ability to focus is incredibly important to performance.
- As employers, this hybrid work formula may help create a driven, motivated team that attracts self-directed, highly skilled employees.
- Additionally, for the employer, remote work opens up the available pool of talent exponentially, as employment is no longer tied to a geographic location where an employee resides.
Professional design services company, are the type of business that employs a significant number, if not a majority of staff that identify as Cultural Creatives. Understanding what drives this group can be very valuable for a business, providing the opportunity to tailor work policies to gain the most productivity from their employees. This productivity will give a business an advantage to excel. A short, incomplete list, of characteristics found in Cultural Creatives are:
- Love of nature and caring about its preservation
- Desire equality for women and men in business
- Has a different definition of success than the traditional characterization
- Being physically active
- Volunteer with good causes
- Like people, places, and things that are different or exotic
- Developing and maintaining relationships
- Optimism towards the future
Cultural Creatives values tend to be a good predictor of their behavior. Generally they are authentic and see the world as interconnected. They tend to be idealists, that support global health and believe in the growing significance of women within our culture. And in business, Cultural Creatives are generally defined by entrepreneurial characteristics:
- High need for achievement
- High need for independence
- Low need for conformity
- Internal focus of control
- Love of ambiguity
- Propensity for risk-taking
- Obsession with opportunity
Knowing the challenges and benefits to remote work, and the characteristics and values of the employees in a creative business can provide the baseline to help craft a policy that leverages the way employees work in a business. This policy may shift and change across time, reflecting the ongoing needs of individuals and the company as a whole. Making these changes going forward will help define the boundaries between flexibility and structure for both the company and the employee and will be part of the ongoing challenge of developing the policy. Ultimately the goal is to keep employees productive and engaged, and in the end, if this can be accomplished, most businesses will benefit.