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Distributed working is here to stay – but what does it mean to you?

By Kristine Dahl Steidel

This year, the workplace has undergone a revolution – and not necessarily by choice. Changes to working models that had been discussed for decades in many countries were catapulted to the top of business agendas. Some organisations like Barclays have taken a U-turn around what their working structures look like after initial reluctance to embrace distributed working, whilst others like Capital One and Spotify, have made permanent changes with virtual offices.

Many organisations and their workforces are now at the crossroads as to what their working practices will look like moving forward. With the anywhere, distributed working model becoming increasingly solidified, does it matter where you work now? The HQ, satellite office, home, internet café – or a combination of all. If productivity levels are high and employees are engaged, what is holding businesses back?

Our new research with Vanson Bourne revealed that 41% of employees across EMEA now recognise distributed working as a prerequisite rather than a perk*. Yet despite the call for a more flexible approach to work to be built into business models rather than considering them an ‘add-on’ benefit, we’re still seeing those in management roles struggling to adapt. For example, when productivity isn’t being measured by the ‘line of sight’, in EMEA, 41% of managers still worry that their team won’t stay on task when working remotely and over half (59%) feel pressure to be online outside of normal working hours.

Obviously, there is no longer a one size fits all approach to work. What perhaps works for a senior manager in one country, might not work for a new graduate in another. Using the insights from our research we have stepped into the worlds of various types of works to demonstrate how the new way of work is impacting people in different industries, stages of their career, gender, and generation differently:

Recent graduate in finance, age 22, male

Paul is a recent graduate working at a new role in a finance firm in Frankfurt. Despite struggling at first to connect with some of his colleagues virtually, there is a positive atmosphere in his new company and employee morale is high. As part of Gen Z, Paul grew up in a digital-first world so doesn’t feel this style of work will hinder his career. Within his generation:

  • 61% feel more empowered to speak up in video meetings
  • 62% feel more valued by their managers
  • But 61% still feel more pressure to be online outside of normal working hours
  • 34% feel their productivity has increased since working remotely
  • 30% say collaboration within teams has increased
Healthcare GP, age 45, female

Kate is a GP in Lyon and since March, has drastically reduced in-person patient consultations. Digital transformation in the healthcare industry means Kate is able to see more patients than ever before over video conference at times that suit her, resulting in a better work-life balance. In the healthcare industry specifically, managers experience the following:

  • 71% say their stress levels have improved
  • 67% feel more valued by colleagues
  • 40% feel they are more productive since working remotely
  • 89% believe remote consultations and routine check-ups will accelerate
  • 84% believe the move to telehealth will create opportunities in the long-term
The working from home dad in recruitment, age 35, male
Louis is an in-house recruitment manager living outside of London with his family and has been working from home full-time since March. Without the time-consuming commute into the city every day, Louis has more time to spend with his kids and has even experienced an increase in productivity. Other males have felt the same in recent months:
  • 80% say their work-life balance has improved
  • 70% say stress levels have improved
  • 42% worry their team will not stay on task when working remotely
  • 73% believe innovation is coming from more places in the organisation than before
  • 68% say recruitment of top talent is easier
IT manager, age 57, female

Catherine is an IT decision maker working in a government agency in Copenhagen. With strong digital skills, the shift to distributed working has come naturally to her but she has been investing a lot of time into ensuring her colleagues have the right technology and skills to use it to continue working remotely. Other IT decision makers across EMEA have had a similar experience:

  • 66% say their organisation recognises the benefit of remote work and say it won’t go back to the way they worked before
  • Only 35% believe their IT is not equipped to manage a remote workforce
  • 26% feel their boardroom culture discourages remote work
  • 68% feel more empowered to speak their mind to leadership
  • 45% worry their team won’t stay on task when working remotely
Becoming ‘anywhere organisations’

The workplace revolution has forced businesses to look to become ‘anywhere organisations’. These hypothetical employee scenarios reflect the very real sentiment that employees don’t want to go back to old working structures and instead value the newfound flexibility on offer.

Forward-thinking companies will need to meet employee demand for dispersed working to be a prerequisite, rather than a perk. Now, leaders need to instil a culture of complete trust in employee productivity and output to create a working environment that is not based on ‘light of sight’ management and will see employees thrive in the new world of work.

Read more in our latest research report “The New Remote Work Era”.


* The “The New Remote Work Era: Trends in the Distributed Workforce” report is based on a survey, sponsored by VMware, of 2,850 EMEA respondents (950 HR decision makers, 950 IT decision makers and 950 business decision makers) across 12 countries – UK (600), France (450), Germany (450), Italy (150), Netherlands, (150), Russia (150), Poland (150), Norway (150), Sweden (150), Spain (150), UAE (150) and Saudi Arabia (150). Vanson Bourne conducted the survey in June and July 2020.


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