The COVID-19 pandemic brought the global workforce out of the office and into home offices, kitchen tables, basements, and closets. CEOs are now working from the couch and the HR team is a hundred miles apart. This abrupt switch to a remote working team brought its own set of challenges for companies worldwide but may have also opened our eyes to a whole new way of doing business.
The truth is, working remotely is not a new trend and it isn’t going away anytime soon. Currently, 4.7 million employees work from home at least half of the time. Even more companies across Europe and globally offer a couple of work from home days as part of their benefits plan. For many companies, this brings positive benefits for both individual employees and the company as a whole. On the other hand, social isolation, employment uncertainty, and burnout have shocked the health and well-being of employees worldwide.
The Good News
Working remotely comes with a whole host of benefits. It’s more convenient, easier, and allows you to work while on the beach or at your son’s soccer game. The world opens up when your office is everywhere. In fact, many of the world’s biggest companies allow, encourage, and support full-time remote working from their employees.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, Twitter and Amazon have both embraced the remote work culture indefinitely. Twitter announced that employees would be allowed to work remotely “forever,” and Amazon CTO Werner Vogels described the transition to cloud-based work environments as “permanent” at the AWS summit in May.
So how does remote working boosting productivity and saving companies money? Let’s break down the good news:
- Safety First.
It’s quite surprising that it took a worldwide pandemic to realize that your employees are healthier at home. The safety of your employees should always be a top concern and you don’t need a virus outbreak to conclude that telecommuting is safer.
- Attract Top Talent.
No longer are you limited to the talent in your city, or trying to convince a candidate to move across the country to join your company. Now, you get to work with top professionals from all over the world. This allows your company access to unlimited talent who might have not considered your company otherwise
- Results Focused.
Ditch the morning meetings and administrative tasks and just focus on what really matters. You can eliminate office policies, dress codes, timesheets, conflicts, and lunch breaks. Instead, you’ll start to focus more on results.
- Happy Employees.
Employees who work from home are often happier, being able to enjoy their work flexibility and still develop themselves professionally which contributes to a significantly more productive workday. In fact, 73% of employees said flexible work arrangements increased their satisfaction at work.
This is the main concern of most companies who are considering remote work opportunities. Will people really get stuff done at home? The answer is a resounding YES. More so, in fact. In a recent study, 78% of employees are certain that flexible work arrangements have made them more productive. Remote work conditions allow for faster conversations, fewer meetings, and focused conversations so you can complete tasks that truly matter and stop wasting time at the office.
- Customer Support
Having a team of people around the country, or around the world allows you to cater to a larger customer base. Ilma Nausedaite, COO at MailerLite, says the main reason they decided to start hiring remote colleagues was to serve their growing global customer base: “Our network of remote team members working in different time zones gives us an advantage in providing a higher level of customer support. I believe that great customer support is one of the key elements of our business growth. Remote helps make it possible.”
Clearly, going remote has helped companies in a myriad of ways. According to a WalletHub study, almost 60% of Americans think COVID-19 has changed the way we work for the better. Whether you’re looking to cater to the needs of clients all around the world, get the most out of your team, and tap into opportunities you couldn’t have gotten otherwise – working from home may be your golden ticket.
The Bad News
Despite the statistics on remote working productivity, companies are worried that their employees will slack while at home. After all, when given the opportunity, why would they work when they don’t have to? They want the team to be productive, and how is that really possible when you’ve got kids, distractions, a dog, your DVR and video games all within reach of your home office? Turns out, remote working isn’t quite the utopia it’s cracked up to be. Here are just a few of the reasons why:
- Lack of Collaboration
It’s the mid-office conversations, the drop in brainstorming session, the chat over lunch that are completely eliminated with remote working. You no longer have real-time collaboration to support innovation and problem solving.
- Misplacing Information
This is a huge problem with remote working when you have no control or oversight where the work information ends up. Files can get misplaced, colored on, spilled on, lost, or the old – my dog ate that file situation.
- Lack of Trust
Some employees simply can’t be trusted to work at home. These employees may be using company time to play video games or watch ESPN rather than actually do their work. This limited control over how employees actually spend their workday can end up costing the company big time.
- Technology Issues and Distractions
There is some technology requirements to have an effective remote working team. It doesn’t take a lot, and most of it is easy to find and use. However, with a large company the tools, policies, training, and techniques to manage remote teams can be overwhelming. Sometimes even when the tech is working properly, it can still be a hinderance. A Doodle, survey of more than 1,100 U.S. employees cited. 52 % of employees said background noise and/or poor audio quality disrupted their focus while working remotely.
- Maintaining Work/Life Balance
Sometimes working from home means you never really clock out. Instead of limiting productivity, it actually causes employees to work overtime and lose the work/life balance. According to a study of over 1,000 remote employees by Twingate, remote employment is causing workers to lose a sense of work/life balance during the pandemic. It’s easy to check your email at midnight, work on that report when you can’t sleep, and attend meetings on vacation.
- More Meetings
When trying to manage a remote team, some managers overkill on the meetings as a way to ensure remote workers are at their desks throughout the day. In fact, 45% of employees reported attending more meetings during the pandemic than when working in the office. This, of course, is counterintuitive when managers are concerned with productivity.
For companies who are regularly working with sensitive or secure information, working from home can come with a whole host of additional issues. For example, 59% of employees felt more cyber secure working in-office compared to at home and over 1 in 10 employees had their video calls hacked while working remotely. This can become a huge issue if you have a data security issue with remote employees.
The Ugly Side of Remote Working
Clearly there are both benefits and drawbacks to a remote workforce. The worst part of this whole issue is the divide it creates within people in the company. This division is deep and engrained and isn’t going away anytime soon. Oftentimes, working from home becomes a moral, ethical, and political division.
In our research, it is difficult to find business owners who are genuinely concerned that office work won’t be safe for their team. Business owners want their employees back, they want their business back and they are not overly concerned that going to work everyday is damaging to anyone’s health. Even now, many managers and business owners refer to the whole situation as a “disruption” and an “experiment”.
This creates opposition with the remote work fanatics, those who can’t imagine going back into the office. For personal, health, convenience, or simply personal preference 90 percent of people who already have a fully remote job would not get back to a regular office environment. At the same time, a third of Americans believe businesses should fire employees who refuse to go back to work according to WalletHub.com.
These personal and political beliefs can create a rift in company culture that is difficult to bridge. So, how do you get the best of both worlds? We think it’s entirely possible with the right leadership, the right team, and the right tools.
Creating the Best of Both Worlds
The benefits are clear, and the concerns are all logical. The key is to take the best of the best and incorporate it in the right way. Companies of all sizes often opt for partially distributed teams. These allow them to keep part of their team on-site and others working remotely. We suggest starting with these three steps to create the best of both worlds within your company:
1. Remote work is not for everyone.
The best approach is rarely all or nothing. First, understand that remote work is not for everyone. By nature, some of us prefer to communicate face-to-face and interact with our team members. This may be due to personality or job description. For example, a survey of more than 11,000 full-time workers by Reflektive, found that HR departments were most likely to feel unproductive and overwhelmed. These jobs may be best suited to the office environment. Understand that eliminating the office completely is not the answer.
2. Remote work IS the best option for some.
The remote life is by far better suited for independent workers who don’t need much supervision. If you’re essentially looking to add people with strong leadership and organization skills, these type of people may work successfully from home. Provide remote opportunities for those who have the job, skills, personality, and technical ability to work from home – not just those who want to work from home for convenience reasons.
3. Get the Tech
People are directly affected by the tools they use. The right apps or software can make work more time-efficient due to their ability to optimize workflows. Communicating by email alone is not going to be enough, invest in the technology to set your remote teams up for success.
4. Communicate Clearly
Communicate with your employees on how remote position work, what the expectations are, and why some employees are in the office while others are not. Discuss their personal preference and level of comfortability or desire to be in the office. Make it clear what positions are available for remote work and which ones are not. Finding a place where everyone feels the most comfortable will translate into optimum productivity company-wide.
5. Set and Keep Expectations
It’s important to keep the same expectations, deadlines, and performance goals company wide regardless of whether your employees are in the office or at home.
The New Normal:
Remote working is not a fad or just a benefit for millennials, it is clearly becoming a norm for the best individuals in a field. For employers, opting for a remote team will but be a must if you want to collaborate with experienced and highly-skilled workers.
Remote working truly is a lifestyle. It takes training and organization from the company as well as an adaptation from the individual. But when done correctly, you get to create your own utopia of successful business, unlimited collaboration, increased productivity, all while living life exactly as you want to live it.