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Interview with Maria Oancea Moşneag from WorkMotion on Remote Work

How to ditch old habits and adapt the workplace to the future. Unspoken truths we all needed on remote work, productivity, and more.
Becoming and Employer of Choice
In this article

We are so pumped to start our interview series “The Workplace Scoop”, where we are spilling the tea on the latest trends and best practices inside the workplace with amazing experts.  

Our first guest is Maria Oancea Moşneag, Global Infrastructure, Senior HR Infrastructure Lead at WorkMotion. WorkMotion is a global HR platform enabling companies to hire and onboard their employees internationally, at the push of a button. Their mission is to create opportunities for anyone to work from anywhere. 

The topic of our interview: dissecting the topic of remote work. The conversation is candid, brave and full of powerful messages. 

Without any further ado, let’s dig into the questions! 

How remote work is shaping the workplace of tomorrow

Alina from Tidaro: How do you think that remote work is going to shape the workplace of tomorrow? Which would be the most impacted areas?  

Maria: Remote work is already shaping the workplace of tomorrow and will continue doing so, along with the shift of generations on the labor market. It’s happening alright, whether some companies or leaders like it or not; not acknowledging it is like hiding your head in the sand and hoping it will go away. Boy, will they have a surprise next time they take an honest glance at the market! 

face the truth

The most impacted areas will most probably be workplace culture, communication and technology infrastructure, which are the same ones all leaders should focus on in order to remain competitive and be relevant as an Employer of Choice, regardless of their workplace policies. 

Alina from Tidaro: Data from Future Forum revealed that there is growing awareness among executives of the risk of proximity bias, or favoritism towards colleagues who work together in a physical office (41% of survey respondents). How do you think managers should approach the “proximity bias” issue when dealing with hybrid teams?  

Maria: As with any other type of problems, you can only manage it if you first acknowledge it. Leaders should openly recognize this as a potential issue and draft a strategy to overcome the risk of this affecting the organization.  

Proximity bias is a natural human behavior: we are built to support people closer to us and with whom we feel we have more things in common (including language or location). Still, it doesn’t make it right nor good for the company’s bottom line since it will certainly affect employee morale, retention and productivity.  

As managers are very keen on managing organizational goals, this should be one of them: implement an “excellence from anywhere” policy and build the right mechanisms to ensure it is working. It’s just about regulating a “biased mindset” (like many others: unconscious bias, discrimination etc.) with the tools we are already using in business management. 

Alina from Tidaro: Speaking of policies, which legal requirements should employers pay attention to when switching to hybrid/remote work models?  

Maria: Employers should pay attention to legal requirements such as data privacy laws, employment regulations, and tax implications when switching to hybrid or remote work models. Employer of Record solutions, like WorkMotion is offering worldwide, are the most cost-effective ways of outsourcing payroll and HR admin functions, while letting your own People & Culture team work their magic in integrating the remote worker in the organization.  

Alina from Tidaro. Speaking of “integration”, data shows that in hybrid work environments, the sense of belonging inside companies started to decrease. How do you think employers can foster a sense of belonging (to teams, to the brand) when they have remote/hybrid teams?  

Maria: Before saying anything else, I just want to have this openly said: in-office work policies do not guarantee “a sense of belonging”; they just guarantee that employees will work from the same place.  
Otherwise, it would have meant that before “remote working”, feeling disengaged at your job or with your company would have been a utopia, and we have decades of data proving otherwise. In fact, I’m curious to see what type of work policies companies experiencing “silent quitting” have?   

So, if we admit first that “in-office work” is not always filled with sunshine and rainbows we can also admit that the “feeling of belonging” is actually triggered by many other factors such as regular feedback, rewards and recognition, promoting a shared company culture, etc. Things you can do (or not) regardless of your place of work.  

Alina from Tidaro: Bullseye, Maria! We think alike. Now, going back to “in-office work”. Many leaders associate it with better productivity. So, how do you think leaders should tackle the “productivity paranoia”, as Satya Nadella named it recently at Davos?  

Maria: “Output per hour worked” – a key metric for productivity for many companies, is soooo last century. We are experiencing a workplace disruptor through many tech innovations and global values changes and it feels like we are hanging by our teeth on Taylorism and other 20th century management principles.  

No, “hourly productivity” as a KPI just makes us feel lame against robots and machines.  

That’s not to our competitive advantage, so why are some managers insisting on it? Because of a biased mindset: it’s familiar. Well, newsflash: it’s familiar cause it’s been with us for more than 100 years, which also makes it outdated.  

outdated habits

The solution is to focus on what humans excel at: mid-long term goals/achievements, flexibility in doing their role and exploring best solutions in a changing environment, which is also the definition of being agile. Take that, industrial robots! 

Alina from Tidaro: Let’s take this discussion on productivity even further: 4-hour workweek, can it work?  

Maria: It can definitely work to give a conservative leader a heart attack. We are still digesting the 4-Day workweek concept, which is already triggering a lot of debate worldwide, with more and more data to support it. At this point, I honestly believe that the 4-hour workweek is a bit too farfetched if you plan to be part of a standard organization, and not go on an entrepreneurial journey.  

Too many people are still debating whether you must eat in the same room with your boss to not be simply disregarded in the next promotions round! So, there’s still a long way to the 4-hour workweek, although there might be already some roles that could fit into the description. 

Leadership, skills, and goals in a hybrid environment

Alina from Tidaro: Yeah, that’s some food for thought.  

Now, my next question: How is remote work affecting leaders and their skills?   

Maria: I would say they need to put aside improving their visual skills needed when literally watching closely an employee, in an in-office environment, and enhancing their listening skills, needed to communicate and understand their team members.  

Remote communication and collaboration and project management skills should be at the top of the list of new skills and competencies to develop as a leader, along with employee wellbeing and mental health. 

Alina from Tidaro: Schedule or goals? What should matter most during the workweek?  

Maria: What’s the one triggering company’s profitability? Someone sitting on a chair from 9 to 5 or someone achieving the goals directly tied to the company’s bottom line? Do you, as a leader, want a “chair-sitter” or a “goal-getter”? 

Alina from Tidaro: Totally love the comparison you just made. It will stick with me for a while. Now, let’s move a bit to the topic of workplace teams. If you were to choose 3 pillars for successful workplace teams, which would they be? 

Maria: TRUST will be the main one. It will influence everything: the way you communicate and collaborate, decision making, managing conflicts, project management, performance appraisals, goal setting, etc. It’s the same pillar you need in any type of human interaction in order for things to function. As long as I trust anything you do as a leader, is with the employee’s best interest at heart, you don’t need to convince me to be by your side with a pool table or in-office drinks. 

Alina from Tidaro:  No more office drinks?  

Just kidding’. 

And the last question: what do you miss about working in an office?  

Maria: Tough question. I will let you know when I can think of an answer, if that moment will come.  

Remote working has opened a whole new world to me that is extremely different than home office, which is mainly what I have experienced before. In my opinion, a home office worker is like a remote worker who’s grounded and sent to his room!  
For now, I am enjoying my 100% remote role at WorkMotion, where workcations are more than welcomed and you can freely get to know other cultures while moving your work place as you wish, as long as you have a good Wi-Fi connection 🙂  

Alina from Tidaro: Thanks so much for the interview, Maria. It was so brave and sincere. There are some brutal truths that you’ve shared with us. But we think honest and candid conversations on such topics can have an impact in redefining the workplace experience. 

Maria: My pleasure! 

This concludes our first interview from our series “The Workplace Scoop”. We hope you’ve enjoyed it as much as we did. If you want to connect to Maria and ask for some advice, you can find her on LinkedIn, here. If you want more insights on how to manage hybrid work, we’ve prepared this thorough guide you’ll definitely enjoy: Mastering Hybrid Work.

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Alina Belascu
Alina is a digital marketer with a passion for web design. When she’s not strategizing she’s doing photography, listening to podcasts on history and psychology, and playing with her 2 dogs and cat.