As staff have started to return to offices across Europe over the last few months, a debate has emerged within the media and the professional literature as to the benefits, impact and value of working from the office vis-à-vis working remotely.
On the one hand, there are those who argue that the return to the office cannot happen quick enough. The Chief Executive of Goldman Sachs in early 2021 commented that remote working was an ‘aberration’ and that younger members of staff needed face-to-face, in-person contact to foster collaboration and learning and skills development.¹ More recently, a Chief Executive of an investment firm in London suggested that working from home has been ‘abused’ by staff and remote working dampens levels of productivity.² On the other hand, a range of businesses have identified that the opportunity for greater flexibility in how staff work, including working remotely, has enhanced levels of productivity. For example, a study by the University of Southampton on work during Covid-19 lockdowns in the UK suggested that 90 per cent thought their productivity had stayed the same or improved by working from home.³ A World Economic Forum report highlighted that flexible working can lead to higher levels of engagement, better rates of staff retention, improved levels f performance and higher levels of resilience amongst staff
In order to harness such benefits and effectively support staff in working remotely over the near to mid-term, a number of articles have highlighted that there is a need for businesses to think creatively and to be innovative in their approaches to supporting remote working. As the CEO of Hubilo reflected:
Companies moving to a hybrid model need a new approach to turn virtual and offline meetings into more valuable engagement touchpoints. Gamification, Q&As and feedback loops are all important tools that will help employers open up two-way conversations. This means they can take a temperature check on employees and, crucially, help detect early signs of burnout in this soon-to-turn new norm of working (CEO of Hubilo, in Webber,2021).
Whilst there are a range of articles and online guides providing ‘how to’ advice on the different technologies to use, the strategies to get the most out of these technologies and how to prepare staff for remote working, there is less tailored provision, particularly demand-led support, which can be used by managers and leaders of small businesses to develop their own skills in managing hybrid workforces as well as staff to enhance their skills and productivity in working remotely.
In terms of approaches to addressing this gap, SFEDI is currently leading an Erasmus Plus project (REMOTE-CTRL) which will develop a set of bespoke training resources that will address the needs of employers, employees and vocational education and training (VET) professionals in a remote working environment. In so doing, the project will:
- Equip employees with the understanding and skills to work remotely and enhance the effectiveness of their productivity
- Enable leaders and managers to access a set of resources to support effective remote working amongst their staff
- Prepare VET professionals for remote teaching and facilitation, so that they can integrate digital learning resources into their work with employers and VET learners.
Over the next 18 months, the project will be developing:
- A set of learning materials and resources for managers and leaders within small businesses to effectively support staff in working remotely
- A set of resources for current employees to manage working remotely and individuals looking for employment to remotely manage different stages in the employment journey
- A new in-service professional development training programme for vocational education and training professionals working with small businesses to support management of people working remotely and a hybrid workforce
- An e-learning platform which will provide access to demand-led learning resources for both managers and leaders of small businesses and their staff
- A policy paper which will examine the experiences of small businesses in managing remote working across the eight partner member states and the implications for policy development.
The REMOTE-CTRL project consists of eight partner organisations from the UK, Finland, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Poland, Portugal and Romania.
If you are interested in learning more about the REMOTE- CTRL project and the outputs to date, please visit:
If you are a small business owner-manager and you would like to share your experiences of supporting remote working and/or vocational education and training professional who knows of examples of good practice in businesses managing remote working please do get in touch. Also, if you would like to explore ways of adding value to the project, please contact Leigh Sear [email protected]