The advancement of COVID-19 has companies facing unprecedented challenges in workforce management. This global pandemic has forced companies to test out the effectiveness of wide-spread remote work, and most companies have seen overwhelmingly positive results. According to a recent SS&P Global Intelligence survey, 67% of businesses are considering keeping remote work policies in place either long-term or permanently.
Many big-name companies have indicated they plan to keep remote work policies into the future. Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook, said as many as 50% of Facebook employees could be working remotely within the next five to ten years. Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield said that their employees have adopted remote work with open arms, stating how challenging it would be to try and walk back current remote work policies now or in the future. Twitter recently confirmed their goal to keep some employees remote forever.
Although working from home is relevant, especially in this time, identifying the challenges and benefits of sustained remote work policies is the first step for any company that is considering making part or all of their workforce remote for the future.
Identifying the challenges and benefits of sustained remote work is the first step for any company that is considering making part or all of their workforce remote for the future.
Employees have always had to reckon with the tradeoffs between showing up to work prepared and on-time, and their day-to-day wellness goals. People have many objectives outside of the professional world, like eating better, exercising, getting enough sleep, and taking time for mental relaxation. As many of us continue to work from home, employees are seeing sustained improvements to their health behaviors, such as:
Workers are now closer to their kitchens and are spending less time scrambling to eat breakfast on the go or grabbing lunch from the nearest fast food restaurant between meetings.
Employees who are home almost all of the time may exercise more frequently. Being remote gives employees more options in terms of scheduling and creativity with exercise opportunities.
No longer having to rush to get ready for that morning meeting or pushing back bedtime to answer that final email can lead to better sleep habits. Maintaining a set sleep schedule helps with mental focus.
Working from home provides employees with more opportunities to prioritize mental health with increased family and relaxation time.
While employees may note increases in some health behaviors, companies will need to recognize the different mental health effects associated with long-term remote work. What worked for a few months while everyone was quarantined might not work two years from now. In developing a sustainable, long-term remote work policy or contract, companies should maximize even the smallest actions to help boost employees mental wellbeing. For example:
Many employees derive pleasure from being recognized for a job well done. However, what once could be provided as a shout out in a meeting or a rewarding team lunch is suddenly no longer viable and potentially no longer effective. Companies may need to focus on shifting praise to include more immediately-realized monetary benefits such as bonuses, gift cards, or even food delivery app services to reach deserving remote employees.
While water cooler talk might seem like a thing of the past, there are great benefits to getting to know your colleagues. Companies can leverage video call technology to hold informal meetings and encourage employees to open up and find relaxation amongst their fellow colleagues outside of work- or client-specific calls.
It is no secret that long-term remote work has the potential to increase feelings of loneliness or isolation. Companies should work to ensure they have built in adequate access to covered therapy sessions for employees.
For those companies that rely heavily on in-person meetings and visits, remote work has created new obstacles. Continuing to service clients at the ideal rate and quality as before COVID-19 has been the single biggest challenge faced by most businesses. Get creative with customer service by:
While workers may have previously been able to “pop in” or wait for scheduled client meetings, setting up more frequent, shorter “check-ins” can make clients feel supported and heard while workers are at home.
Taking the effort to provide video conferencing, even if clients don’t chose to put themselves on video, helps employees stand up. Companies that encourage client-facing video functionality help to sustain their client base while keeping their employees safe.
While scheduled meetings were often the way in which clients got the most up-to-date information on their account, engaging them with a formalized, even automated reporting schedule can help them feel included and informed. Workers should plan to send out more frequent status updates, even if in a quick and casual email, to help keep their customers updated.
To address growing health and safety concerns, companies have instituted policies to protect their employees like travel restrictions, suspending in-person meetings, and setting strict time limits on any required person-to-person contact. A lot of these measures can impact the bottom line. When thinking of the long-term transition to remote work, companies will need to recognize the following impacts:
Industries that spend heavily on travel, like consulting and sales, have immediately recognized the savings associated with having all their workers remote.
As firms reduce the number of employees in the office day to day, there is potential to reduce office space and cut down on rent costs. This can be especially attractive for larger firms in big cities were rent is a significant overhead cost.
Companies that still need people in the office, even occasionally, have implemented personal protection measures like masks, workstation partitions, and hand sanitizers, which will come straight out of the budget at least in the short term.
As most employees are taking conference calls and video chats in place of in-person meetings, companies have to work to meet the increased technological needs of their workers. Protected networks and secure access add complicating layers to the increased role technology plays in remote work.
As employees are saving travel time and taking meetings from home, companies should take note of the potential for increases in productivity. For example, the fifteen minutes a worker takes to drive to a meeting can now be used to call a client or finish that report.
By embracing a remote arrangement, many companies are able to hire individuals with different backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives that can impact the organization in a positive way.
While some of the most successful companies like Google and Facebook have spent years perfecting their campuses to promote collaboration and attract employees with modern facilities and amenities, more and more young people are entering the workforce with a new understanding of workplace benefits. Young people often prioritize freedom and flexibility over office conveniences. To many people entering the workforce, “working from home” tops the list of reasons to consider taking a job.
In considering the transition to a full-time remote workforce, remember that limiting your recruiting search to a limited geographic area (or to those willing to relocate to that area), you are also potentially limiting the diversity of your workforce. By embracing a remote arrangement, many companies are able to hire individuals with different backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives that can impact the organization in a positive way. As the hiring landscape changes, nimble and responsive companies will see that the freshest minds are drawn to the freedom and comforts of a full or part-time remote work policy.
Businesses will have to address the challenges already apparent in remote workforce management, considering the many facets of productivity, technology, recruiting, employee wellness, and more. However, as long-term remote work policies become more commonplace and more desirable to top talent, your organization may need to give the future of remote work a long, hard think. Contact us for support in exploring the options and shifting your temporary remote work policy to a long-term practice.