Photo By: Chris Montgomery from Unsplash

Brock’s Niagara Community Observatory (NCO) has spent the last year investigating  the question of remote and hybrid working success and will be presenting their research findings this week.

“To be, or not to be, remote?” is the title of the brief that Brock adjunct professor Kate Cassidy and co-author Mackenzie Rockbrune, a communications student at Brock, will be presenting on Wednesday, Oct 20. The authors have identified seven themes to help managers decide on whether remote working or a hybrid setup is optimal for a successful work organization.

“My research area is small group and team communication. This past 18 months has seen a global, and unprecedented, experiment in remote work so I was naturally interested in learning more about how digitally mediated communication affects workers capacity for collaboration,” said Dr. Cassidy. “This policy paper outlines what we have found about the pros and cons of remote work, as well as key factors that we believe should be addressed in planning a permanent remote, or hybrid, work plan going forward.”

Dr. Cassidy stresses that although remote work has been celebrated by many as more productive, through cutting out commutes altogether and being able to work from the comfort of home, it may not be right for every work environment. Figuring out which configuration to go with for the most optimal work environment, in both a productive and cultural sense, may be difficult for organizations to decide on going forward. 

“First, some workers want to get back to the physical workplace, and many jobs can’t be done remotely. So remote work will not be for everyone. Second, when people are working remotely there is naturally less face-time with co-workers and supervisors… This means that over time relationships will suffer which isn’t good for people or organizations…Third, pivoting quickly during an emergency is one thing but building a remote work strategy that will work well for the long term is another. Organizations shouldn’t just slide into remote work policy based on what has worked during the pandemic,” said Dr. Cassidy.

As mentioned, remote working conditions present a challenge in their structural distance and impersonality which organizations that are primarily opting for a remote setup need to keep in mind. 

In terms of overcoming this impersonality, Dr. Cassidy suggests fostering a remote culture is important.

There are examples of organizations that have done exceptionally well with a remote-first strategy,” said Dr. Cassidy. “They foster a remote culture rather than simply trying to use technology to recreate what used to be physical processes of interaction. In other words, I believe that if organizations choose to be remote, or hybrid, they should be prepared to deliberately — and continuously — address relations, communication, and culture in a remote plan.”

COVID-19 has caused massive shifts in the way we approach work life. To address those shifts, organizations need to create successful models for the future of remote and hybrid work to ensure organizations are facilitating human connection. This is what Dr. Cassidy and Rockbrune hope to encourage in presenting their findings. 

Individuals can attend the presentation online this Wednesday, Oct. 20 from 9:30 – 10:30 a.m. on Microsoft Teams. In order to RSVP contact Carol Philips, NCO Research Coordinator, at [email protected].