remote work

Is remote work here to stay?

January 11, 2021

2020 has redefined the workplace. As remote working policies continue to be enforced, the focus is less on whether ‘home office is here to stay’ and more on ‘to what extent’ organisations go all in.

The coronavirus pandemic has changed the way we work. While remote working has been around for a long time, most companies had to adopt the practice in recent months out of necessity. But as the world learns to live with coronavirus, will ‘home office’ go back to being that often frowned upon option companies use occasionally?

Companies are shifting to remote work – for good

Early evidence suggests that organisations are starting to re-consider remote work. Large companies have announced their intention to continue offering remote work as an option to employees. Some organisations are even thinking about shifting to remote work on a more permanent basis.

Examples include:

  • Microsoft: who now offers remote working indefinitely and allows employees to work from home less than 50% of the time without approval.
  • Indeed: who has extended remote working options until July 2021 and announced its intention to consider making remote working a permanent possibility on a case-by-case basis.
  • Airbnb: who extended its work-from-home policy until the end of August 2021 and said it would offer a $500 stipend to employees for home office equipment.

There are also many organisations that have always offered remote working as an option. The following businesses either operate solely on a work-from-home basis or make it a big part of their company’s ethos:

  • Web design and online marketing agency Coalition Technologies
  • Online language learning platform Duolingo
  • Online tutoring and e-learning service Mindojo
  • Productivity and time-tracking software company Time Doctor

Major advantages of remote working

One of the main reasons companies are currently rethinking the way they operate is because of the many benefits remote working can offer such as a noticed improvement in productivity and employee satisfaction rates.

Advantages of remote working include:

  • Fewer overheads – organisations can save on costs associated with onsite business operations, such as office space and equipment.
  • A larger talent pool – remote working allows organisations to hire from all over the world, as talent is no longer tied to a physical location.
  • Improved productivity – studies show that remote working boosts productivity.
  • Improved employee satisfaction – it is believed that many employees are happier working from home because it can help achieve a better work-life balance and cuts the time commuting.
  • Higher retention rates –linked to increased employee satisfaction are higher rates of retention. One study suggests remote workers are 13% more likely to remain in their job over an extended period of time compared to onsite workers.

Organisations have to listen to what the workforce is saying. The vast majority of employees are calling for more flexible working arrangements.

Tips to make the shift to remote work a success

The overwhelming evidence points to the benefits of remote working. But can going all-in end up a disaster?

It’s important to realise that remote work isn’t an automatic advantage for a business. While there are clear benefits associated with it, an organisation can also harm itself if it takes the wrong approach. Employees can feel disenfranchised and productivity can suffer.

That is why developing an appropriate strategy is so important. The following steps are advised:

Ensure your company policies reflect remote work

You need to be clear how, when and under what circumstances remote working  is an option. For example are you going ‘all in’ or is a more flexible structure better suited to your company? Setting a code of conduct for digital communications and outlining approved ways of handling and sharing sensitive information is paramount to success.

Identify the digital tools you need

You need to consider the range of tools employees need in order to perform their various tasks. Communication platforms from virtual data rooms to internal chat systems also need to be set-up.

Don’t forget the human element

Remote workers should have unique ways to stay in touch and get to know other members of the firm. Building environments that promote socialising are important. Consider setting up activities such as poker nights, escape rooms virtual coffee breaks and so on.

Promote healthy work-life balance

It’s equally vital to create a corporate culture where employees feel able to set boundaries promoting work and life balance. You should not expect remote workers to be accessible at all hours and around the clock.

Educate and train your workforce

Although new digital tools and long-term remote working set-ups might be easy for a great many employees to adapt to, there may still be a small number of staff who struggle to thrive. Trainings, interactive workshops and other forms of education that promote best practice and remove barriers to success are a worthwhile investment.

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