Institutional • 01 May 2024
Remote work requires new management tools

Remote work requires new management tools

Aristides Ferreira


Professor Iscte Business School

Researcher BRU-Iscte

Remote work is here to stay. But, for now, there are more doubts than certainties about its impact, especially about the workers

The REMOWA project deals with remote work, a topic that has become central in the last two years due to the pandemic. What are your work's goals, which culminate at the end of this year?

When the pandemic made remote work mandatory across the board, few professionals were prepared for this reality. This project focuses on human resources management and the need for these professionals to have tools to manage and motivate their teams. Despite the foreseeable end of the pandemic, remote work will continue to be a reality, for example, in multinationals with global networked offices that find economies of scale here. In specific sectors, such as Information Technology, the possibility of remote work is becoming a requirement.


Did the project come in the context of the pandemic?

The REMOWA project was structured before the pandemic but was approved and started to be developed during the pandemic.


How is the research being conducted?

We started by contacting human resources managers and researching scientific articles and media. The goal was to list the skills needed for remote work. This research resulted in the knowledge of a series of learning processes from which we structured the project.


The most often mentioned problem is the family-work conflict. Most people have a great deal of difficulty in separating the two realities


And what is the point?

The research we are finalising will result in a multilingual digital platform – in addition to Portugal, there are partners from Greece, Poland, Slovenia, Belgium, and Croatia – to which any manager can have access. On this platform, it is possible to access a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) with six learning units, among which are work-family balance, aspects related to leadership, organisational communication, the use of digital tools, organisational skills, and human resource management practices in a generic way. In practice, these are PowerPoint presentations, each corresponding to a thematic lesson. Each unit is accompanied by reading notes, where anyone can find additional information. In the presentations, challenges are launched to users, questions are asked, practical cases are aimed at consolidating the knowledge acquired, and suggestions for teamwork are given. Finally, there is a game in which participants earn points for each challenge they overcome.


What stage is this tool at?

The tool already exists, and we are currently in the translation phase for all the languages of the project.


What are the main difficulties raised by remote work reported by managers?

The most frequently mentioned topic is the family-work conflict. Most people find it extremely difficult to separate the two realities. For example, families with children who do not realise their parents work at home. Another relevant factor is mental health, such as emotional exhaustion or depression. There is also a dispersion problem, i.e. workers cannot focus on assigned tasks. Another critical theme has to do with leadership. Leading in person is entirely different from leading remotely. Also mentioned was that remote work is usually carried out in an environment of solitude, with the loss of social support networks. The issue of timetables also deserves reflection. More breaks and more flexibility are needed at home, requiring greater self-regulation. Finally, many companies are not prepared to have their employees working remotely, either in providing technological tools or training. We also detected ethical and legal issues, but we could not structure them due to the significant variations in legislation between the various countries.


Remote work opens up a company highway into our home, which needs to be regulated


How did you deal with the fluctuation of the legal frameworks in the various countries during the project?

We have tried to keep the project insulated from those swings while recognising that it is an area with a lot of work to do. One example is the interference of work in the worker's rest times. Remote work opens a company highway into our home, which must be regulated.


Does this study involve only academia, or does it also include other types of entities?

The exciting thing about this project is that it involves academics and entities closer to the world of work. For example, the coordinator is connected to a consultant. The contributions of the various parties enrich the work.


Aristides Ferreira

What is planned in terms of the dissemination of results, namely the digital platform?

Our dissemination partner is the Portuguese Association of People Management (A.P.G.), through which we intend to make the platform free of charge to the people it addresses. Likewise, Iscte and the BRU (Business Research Unit), the research centre that supports the project, are disseminating it through their communication channels.


Would it make sense to give more weight to human resource management themes in the context of remote work in teaching programs?

The theme is already addressed in the curricula of this area, although, in fact, not in such an exhaustive and structured way as the one done in this work. This game could be assessed in a classroom context, for example.

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