Why managers fear a remote-work future—and why they shouldn’t

As remote work continues to cement itself within modern office culture, how can we embrace it while avoiding common pitfalls? Learn how managers and teams can collaborate more effectively than ever, in this guide to the future of work.

An illustration of a person working remotely from their home

In July 2021, The Atlantic published an article titled “Why Managers Fear a Remote-Work Future”. It challenged the established norms of workplace culture, and presented an argument that we are witnessing an inescapable evolution of our work habits.

The piece made quite an impact when it was published, catching the attention of workers on both sides of the management hierarchy. It struck a chord at a point when workers wanted to retain the right to work flexibly, while many managers sought to bring their workforces back in-house.

While global lockdowns may be a thing of the past, the debate on remote work rages on. On the one hand, we’re seeing some of the world’s most recognized companies enforce a return to office policy. A prominent example of this caught the headlines in June 2022, when Elon Musk asked Tesla employees to return to the office, or face dismissal from the company. 

Meanwhile, employers that have embraced remote work have been able to hire from a wider pool of candidates, without the restriction of proximity to their local area.

So the question remains—as remote work continues to cement itself within modern work culture, how can managers and teams use it as an opportunity to collaborate more effectively than ever?

We’ll explore it all, in this definitive guide to embracing remote working solutions for the better.

Is remote working here to stay?

Let’s cut right to the chase—if you’re hoping to find evidence that the remote work experiment is over and a mass return-to-office is inbound, well, you’re probably not going to find it.

As the previously-referenced opinion piece from The Atlantic had predicted, remote work has continued to become a mainstay of workplace culture.

And, honestly, this makes sense. Given the benefits it provides employees, such as reduced or non-existent commutes, more comfortable working environments, better work-life balance, and more—it’s no wonder that so many have chosen to stick with a remote-first or hybrid work culture.

What’s more, the capabilities of modern technology make it easy for tasks to be done remotely, when they would have previously required an employee to be office-based. With Dropbox productivity tools, for example, it has never been quicker to share and collaborate on projects remotely.

While no one can be certain what the future holds, it’s difficult to imagine a return to the traditional exclusive office work approach.

How companies benefit when employees work remotely

It isn’t just the employees that can benefit from remote working, but companies and managers too.

To name just a few of the advantages enjoyed by remote-friendly employers: 

  • Reduced overheads—with fewer people in the office, you can opt for a smaller, more affordable office environment
  • Facilitate growth—remote workers allow businesses to rapidly expand, even beyond current geographical constraints, without acquiring more office space
  • Collaborate more—cloud-based collaboration tools make it easy for teams to work on documents at the same time, while discussing them over calls or other feedback channels

So, if there is a lot to gain, why are some companies holding back?

A remote worker enjoys the comforts of home, spending time with their pets whilst working

Why some companies don’t allow work from home

There are a number of varied and case-specific reasons why a particular manager or company might be hesitant to allow continued working from home.

These perceived challenges can commonly be grouped under the following three themes: 

  • A need for control—managers finding it harder to stay on top of, and trust, their teams remotely
  • Visibility of employees—and the resulting impact on praise, promotions, and favorability
  • Culture—there is a concern that teams who don’t meet in person won’t connect or collaborate effectively

How to justify working from home

Are you looking to introduce remote, or flexible working to your team?

Whether you’re hoping to convince your peers, your superiors, or yourself—the best way to rationalize remote work is to demonstrate its benefits, while reassuring against the typical concerns listed in the previous section.

Most notably, it can help to present solutions as part of an actionable proposal. With this in mind, cloud-based technology—along with the productivity workflows it enables—is the backbone of effective remote working.

Let’s use an example to illustrate this—it’s nearing the end of a long week and a big new business pitch has just landed on your desk. It’s too good an opportunity to pass up but, if you’re going to meet the deadline, you’re going to need a specialist from each department in the company to contribute within the next 24 hours. With their busy schedules and such short notice, getting them all in a room to collaborate is going to be impossible—enter cloud technology.

With a cloud-enabled solution like Dropbox, you can create a single document with a clear brief and the client context in its introduction, followed by a section for each team member with a short summary of what you’ll need them to produce. 

Rather than having each team member working in isolation and then trying to collect all of the versions being emailed across, you can have a single central file that the whole team works on in parallel. 

This not only makes it easier to project manage, but allows each contributor to see everyone else’s work in progress, and then tailor their own message to fit. In this case, remote working systems allow for more effective collaboration than previously possible.

Looking for further inspiration? You can find additional best practices and thought leadership in our dedicated collection of remote working resources for leaders.

Strategies for remote work success

There are a number of ways cloud technology can create an environment for remote working success.

Remote collaboration on documents

With cloud storage and collaborative spaces like Dropbox Paper, it’s easy for teams to collaborate on documents in real-time.

With features like annotated feedback, linking calendar events to documents, and advanced sharing controls, it’s never been easier to create your best work—together.

Managing staff working from home

Managing staff working from home requires a degree of trust, but equally, as their manager, you need to identify the signs that jobs are being fulfilled—is it the quantity and quality of work? The performance figures? Or something else?

Rather than spending time and energy being concerned about whether employees are sitting at their desks, focus on their output. By measuring the output of your staff against the expectation, you’ll quickly see whether a member of the team isn’t working to their potential.

With tools like the Dropbox Slack integration, and the ability to see users within documents in real-time, it’s easy to feel connected with your teammates—even when you’re not.

For advanced techniques and expert tips on how to manage teams remotely, try the Business as Unusual webinar series from Dropbox.

Meeting and engaging with teams when working remotely

It can help to arrange a recurring meeting, like a daily stand-up, during which your team briefly states what they will be working on today, keeping things as short as possible.

Thanks to Dropbox’s Zoom integration, it’s easy to run recurring meetings and even link a Paper document to the event, with the latest status and progress on projects.

And if teammates cannot make it to meetings, asynchronous meetings—enabled by recording tools like Dropbox Capture—make sure everyone can benefit from the session in their own time.

Don’t fear remote work—embrace it, with Dropbox

However you look at it, remote work in some form or another is here to stay. As a result, it’s quickly becoming essential for businesses to adopt a workflow that facilitates remote work as an option.