The Future of Work is Not so Distant Anymore

By Karen Rubin, Owl Labs Chief Revenue Officer

5G, the Internet of Things, AI and Machine Learning, Wearables, Virtual Reality…these buzzwords are dominating the world of tech as the technologies they represent drive global cultural and business trends. One of those trends is the movement towards remote work and distributed teams, which is significantly changing how we communicate and collaborate in the modern workplace. 

Each year, Owl Labs conducts the State of Remote Work report by surveying thousands of workers — across the United States or across the world — to learn more about emerging remote work trends. For 2019, we focused on the United States, and covered all things remote work, including comparisons between remote and on-site workers’ salary, tenure, departments, and industries, the reasons people choose to work remotely, how remote work impacts employee hiring and retention, and several other topics. 

As the Chief Revenue Officer of technology company Owl Labs, I’ve had a close firsthand view of this evolution. Here, I’ll offer my best insights on what to expect in the rapidly-evolving workplace landscape evidenced by the report, and gives tips on how you can enable your team to keep up.

  1. Remote work isn’t the future, it’s the now.

If you’re waiting for the right moment to dig into remote work, you’re already running late. 

In 2019, we found that 42% of remote workers plan to work remotely more frequently than they currently do in the next 5 years, and that more than half of on-site workers want to start working remotely today. What’s more, 24% of respondents would take a 10% pay cut to work remotely. (SORW) 

Thanks to advancements like 5G and smart technologies, working from anywhere is not only becoming possible but becoming the norm. Importantly, the report also found that remote workers are happy in their jobs 29% more than on-site workers. If remote work can help us cultivate a happier workforce, we owe it to our employees to utilize all the technology we have at our disposal to do so. At Owl Labs, we not only accept remote work, but promote and encourage it. Our mission is to make this transition both seamless for companies, and positive for those on the remote side through technology. So what does this mean for you and your team? 

It’s crucial to consider creating a remote work policy if you don’t have one today. If you already have remote team members, take a step back and assess whether you’re offering equal opportunities to them as you are for your onsite workers. For example, is their work being credited and called out in group meetings? Are remote workers being considered equally for promotions and pay raises as onsite staff? Lastly, don’t panic if you’re not sure where to start. Try surveying your team to get their take.

2. The tools to support remote work are at your fingertips. Ignoring them puts your team at a disadvantage. 

Communication will suffer if the right tools and practices aren’t implemented on any team, and even more so for a hybrid one. A successful hybrid team needs collaboration tools to connect and equalize the experience of those still in the office with those working remotely. 

There are dozens of fantastic software tools out there to maximize team productivity digitally. Companies like Asana and Trello are modernizing project management through digital, accessible workflow management tools, and platforms like Slack are making quick, casual, virtual communication seamless in the workplace. Video conferencing platforms like Zoom or Microsoft teams also let remote folks hop on video chats as easily as they may have walked over to their colleague’s desk in the past. But, how is hardware keeping up? 

As a leader here at Owl Labs, I’ve been proud to bring the Meeting Owl products to market. These 360 degree video conferencing cameras, with mics and speakers all in the one device, use AI and SmartZoom technology to autofocus on whoever is talking. This creates an immersive experience for the remote participant, helping them feel as if they’re in the conference room. Owl Labs introduced the Meeting Owl with the mission of helping remote workers who were struggling to feel integrated in virtual group meetings. Other setups made them feel like a fly on the wall and made it hard to interject or participate naturally in team meetings. For our co-founders, Mark and Max, this wasn’t acceptable. They’d felt the pain as remote workers themselves, and wondered why– with the advent of AI and smart technologies, there wasn’t a video conferencing camera adapted to the modern workplace. The Meeting Owl was born, and Owl Labs now takes its place proudly amongst the forward-thinking tech companies which are embracing the new age of work (which is now done from anywhere from an office, to a cabin in the woods, to a sunny beach). 

What’s the takeaway on tools? Don’t be afraid to utilize both physical and digital instruments of the emerging modern workplace. By embracing them, you can help make employee workflows and communication more efficient, both in the office and remotely, and your hybrid team can grow increasingly agile.

3. Powerful technology +  Human empathy = a cohesive modern team

There are major happiness benefits for remote employees as their schedules are more flexible, they waste less time commuting, and have more time with their families. There are even environmental benefits thanks to less cars on the road. Yet, there are challenges to being a remote worker which often stem from loneliness and/or disengagement from the onsite team. It’s easy to think that technology will be the silver bullet to empowering remote work on your team, but tech without human compassion and empathy means NOTHING. 

It’s important not to rely on the tech to do all the work of creating a cohesive, agile team. For example, in team meetings, I make sure to check in that the remote folks can hear and see before we start. Myself and the other leaders at Owl Labs are cognisant of listening and looking for remote workers who want to comment. At a fast-moving tech company, it can be easy to develop tunnel vision during team meetings. Taking a minute to open you and your team’s ears to the remote people on the call not only makes those folks feel valued but sets a great example and tone of inclusivity for the entire team. 

Even if you think you’re doing it right now, messing up along the way is inevitable when you’re working with a constantly shifting landscape like remote work. Keep surveying, keep checking in, and constantly collect feedback. That’s the way to guarantee you’re doing everything you can to set up your team for success. 


Published on February 19, 2020

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