Digital transformation is a critical element of successfully, sustainably transitioning from in-person to hybrid or remote teams.

In a world where remote work is here to stay (albeit maybe not in as big a way as we thought), digital transformation is allowing companies to support and better harness the potential of a partially or fully remote team.  

Remote work and the long shadow of COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic continues, in many ways, to cast a long shadow across the ways we live today. One of the most significant changes that the pandemic wrought was to the ways in which we work and view the traditional dynamic of the in-person office

The number of people working remotely in the US tripled during the pandemic. According to the US census bureau, 17.9% of people mostly worked from home in 2021, compared with 5.7% in 2019. Fast forward to 2024, and the situation is a little more complicated. 

During the pandemic, many companies claimed that, due to the initial successes of remote work, they would continue to operate hybrid teams in the future. Some claimed that remote work would be on the table forever. This trend didn’t last, as reactionary backlash against remote work pushed numbers down again over the past 18 months in conjunction with public health restrictions lifting. 

Today, in the US, slightly more than one-third of workers whose jobs allow them to work remotely do so full time. Just over 40% are at least part-time remote on a hybrid setup. A survey by USA Today found that remote work remains popular, with hybrid remote being preferred among white collar workers. Over half (58%) of white-collar employees prefer to work remotely at least three days a week. 

Also, a mere 16% of workers said they would be willing to consider a role that doesn’t offer any remote work opportunities. And, almost half (42%) of office workers said they would be willing to take a 10% pay cut to have the option to work remotely. 

In short, despite tantrums from various executives and business owners, remote work isn’t going anywhere. 

The question is, how can companies support and capitalise on this new, distributed form of working?

Digital transformation and remote work 

Working from home is no longer a coping strategy. Millions of people around the world now work fully remote, with still more working in hybrid remote setups. 

Digital transformation is the key to unlocking the potential of remote teams, through collaborative tools, data analytics, and platforms that automate manual tasks and increase transparency. 

Utilising data for more informed decision-making is a critical step for any organisation, but especially for one with a distributed remote workforce. As organisations transition away from the traditional 9-to-5 workday, leaders need to give decision-makers actionable data. This involves optimising data flow, preventing information silos, and empowering teams with tools that facilitate faster, informed decisions.

Digital transformation—correctly deployed—can increase efficiency and enable operational transformations at the workflow level. Implementing automation tools to handle repetitive tasks can free up employees for higher-value activities. This synergises especially well with the more autonomous, flexible nature of remote work. 

First of all, leaders driving a remote-focused digital transformation should implement digital solutions that increase workflow visibility. This enables the necessary clarity remote teams need when it comes to highlighting objectives and delegating responsibility. 

Real-time project tracking enhances productivity and empowers employees, but management should be careful not to overinvest in oversight. Mistaking micromanagement for support is a managerial sin that can, ironically, be even easier to commit remotely. 

It’s all about collaboration

Most importantly, digital transformations for remote teams should always return to the importance of enhancing seamless collaboration. Adopting cloud-native solutions, videoconferencing, and collaboration tools is something companies now have the breathing room to do deliberately, as opposed to during the mad scramble of 2020. 

Implement the right tools and train your team correctly, and leaders can ensure seamless collaboration across any number of locations. These tools bridge the gap between remote and in-person teams, and can help create unity without the need for digital presenteeism. 

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