Yekaterina Starodubtseva-Kalacheva: ‘Remote working demands the top management to possess other competencies’
What problems companies faced when shifting their employees to remote working and how they are trying to get them back to the office
The trend for remote working came to the business environment as early as 2020 when the coronavirus epidemic started. In autumn, with the start of the partial mobilisation, it acquired new forms and aspects, while employers faced the next twist of challenges. In an op-ed column for Realnoe Vremya, Yekaterina Starodubtseva-Kalacheva, career consultant and founder of Hurma Recruitment HR agency explains why companies refuse remote working more often and how this influences businesses.
How remote working format manifested itself in the last two years
Almost any company in the market had the time to shift its employees to remote working, while some have done this more than once. However, businesses soon understood both the pros and cons of this format.
- A big choice of candidates. The possibility of recruiting candidates from all parts of the world became a serious advantage of remote working for the employer. This seriously increased chances of finding the most suitable specialist for a post or even hire a person with a very rare profession that simply doesn’t exist in the city or country where the office is located.
- Organisation flexibility. The second point comes from the first. When a company can choose an employee regardless of time and place, a new person can also be easily found instead of the one who quitted or a colleague who is on maternity leave.
- Fewer expenses. With the transition to the remote format, a company can refuse pricey office rent and cut this item in the budget. But even if the company keeps the office, there will be no need to pay for communication, cleaning, security, office equipment service and stationery purchase.
- No control. As practice shows, performance efficacy among employees in remote working often goes down, however, this doesn’t mean that strict accountability and regular meetings to check out the work done should be introduced. Clear deadlines for every stage of the task should rather be created. So employees will understand that nobody is interested in tracking them, only timely done work is expected from them.
- Communication difficulties. In the office, a team always has the possibility of turning to the manager or colleagues for a piece of advice and ask questions. This becomes hard to do in remote working: constant calls and chats take much more time, consequently, the work process can slow down.
- Corporate culture lags behind. Working from the office envisages periodical meetings, team building, corporate parties and strategic sessions that help unite the staff and raise its motivation. Organising something no less engaging online is a real challenge for the HR department.
- Difficulties with adaptation for new employees. The period of adaptation in itself is very resource consuming for both the specialist and the company. A new employee needs a lot of attention as well as constant guidance and immersion during three months. This is extremely tough to do in remote working: communication in work-related issues decelerates, while there is no contact with the team.
What problems the trend for remote working from abroad created
The remote format gained momentum after the partial mobilisation when many specialists left the country. Moreover, both workers and companies faced a number of difficulties — legal, financial, technical and managerial.
Formal onboarding of employees and tax payment became the main problem for employers in this respect. A special who relocated loses the status of Russia’s tax resident, thus raising income tax from 13% to 30%. Here, some companies raise salaries so that the employees receive the usual amount. But the tax burden on the employer considerably rises too in this chain.
A transfer of the salary to foreign accounts is another headache of businesses. Especially this applies to specialists who relocated outside CIS countries, for instance, in Dubai or Israel. Considering that SWIFT transfers take much time and the end sum the recipient will get remains unknown because of the fee, expats look for other ways. For instance, they find people who need to exchange dirhams into rubles. They transfer rubles to the Russian card and get cash in dirhams.
It is also harder for the employer to control employees in other countries. A remote working demands the top management to possess other competencies a handful can handle. Also, such factors as home search, paperwork, the change of time zone influence the speed and quality of expats’ work.
At the moment businesses are quite tolerant for working from abroad. However, legislation will tighten from January 2024 and tax rates for expats and their employees go up. This is why it is highly likely that the employees will either be asked to come back or labour relations with them will be terminated. Many big companies no longer hire those who want to work remotely. For instance, Vk.com isn’t ready to work with the employees who went abroad, while Yandex aspired for complete offline work.
Who and how is back to the office
Some business spheres are so dependent on offline work that could shift only a part of the back office to the remote format. For instance, HoReCa where waiters, bartenders, cooks, hosts, baristas are employees that are needed for the enterprise to run. This is why only marketing, IT and HR workers started working from home in hotel and restaurant businesses as well as in many other. The same happens to many other companies in production, design, etc. Personal contact has always been important in the work of the creative industry.
Today employers are trying to get everybody back to the office again where it is easier to manage a team and communicate with it. But a bounce back to “pre-COVID-19” times and permanent office work are unlikely because employees have managed to get a lot of upsides of remote working. There is no need in spending time on commuting, getting up early and spending on lunch.
Of course, some companies have kept the pace of work even in remote working, this is primarily in the IT sphere. Also, the remote work became a great opportunity for small businesses and start-ups to optimise their costs on the office, employees’ lunches, corporate transport and much more. Nevertheless, working from home still deprives people from a live communication, as a consequence, engagement, the quality of teamwork decrease, the time of communication increases. In such conditions, businesses actively introduce a hybrid format that not only allows ramping up productivity but also becomes a realistic option for employees who aren’t ready to go back to the office for the whole week.
We are yet in early days to talk about the full transition to a hybrid format because businesses are multi-faceted and they don’t yet have the general course for changing business processes. The career market will still be looking for the happy mean for a long time where both employees and the company feel as comfortable as possible. The online format will likely alternate with the offline one and vice versa because companies will simultaneously learn how to optimise costs and correctly distribute human resources.
The author’s opinion does not necessarily coincide with the position of Realnoe Vremya’s editorial board.