Virtual Teams

Will we now see a great offshoring of remote office roles?

I was talking to one of my contacts recently. He was struggling to get his finance people to return to work in the office. They argued, persuasively, that they had demonstrated their ability to do the roles completely remotely for the last two years, why should they need to come back in the office now? It’s a tough argument to counter.

He argued that it was important to relationship building, communication and culture building that people spend some time in the office.

They countered that they could do all of that perfectly well when working remotely, with occasional social catch ups in out of office time. The idea that you needed to come in the office to do these things was outmoded.

He then asked, if that’s the case why have you always resisted outsourcing finance activities into lower cost locations? If physical proximity adds no value, then it doesn’t matter where we have the work done.

They struggled to explain why this was completely different 😊

Regular readers will know we are strong advocates of virtual working. As a remote first organisation ourselves for over 28 years we know we can get nearly everything done remotely.

However, if we completely remove physical proximity as a consideration, in larger organisations the case for outsourcing becomes much stronger.

One of the biggest barriers to outsourcing in the past has been a lack of management trust in managing and controlling remote relationships and service providers.

Not only has the pandemic proven that people generally can be trusted to work remotely, but managers have also started to develop the skill set and mindset of virtual leadership that allows this to happen.

So given this, are we about to see a massive outsourcing and off-shoring of work that can be done remotely to lower cost locations?

As always with a change in ways of working of this magnitude there will be unintended consequences. As we always say, “be careful what you wish for”. People who don’t see the point in coming into the office may find that their employers equally don’t see the point in paying them San Francisco or London salaries when they could get the work done just as effectively from someone in a much lower cost location.

Location flexibility goes both ways, there are compelling arguments for flexibility for individuals, but there are equally compelling arguments for using that flexibility to improve efficiency in organisations. Expect both trends to continue to create surprises.

What are you seeing in your organisation?

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