Should (and Will) Working Remotely Become the New Norm?
The pandemic has had a tremendous impact on companies across the globe. Offices were forced, with little notice and time to prepare, to set employees up to work remotely. The trend towards remote work had already been underway prior to the pandemic. Several companies already allowed it, even if only occasionally, and had a head start on this change. Others had to quickly adapt to new technology and ways of doing things. Now that most companies have been forced to put the technological infrastructure in place for remote work, it seems unlikely to completely go back to the way things were.
The fact of the matter is, long before this global pandemic, many employees craved more flexibility and the ability to work from home. There was little – if any – hard evidence that working in an office is actually the most productive environment. In fact, there are several studies that suggest the opposite. But should – and will – the pandemic usher in remote work as the new norm? We think so.
The Future Requires Agility
One lesson businesses have learned from this pandemic is that they need to be able to adapt and shift quickly. While there have been drawbacks and obstacles, even the most resistant companies are quickly adopting and becoming comfortable with new technologies. They are learning the importance of staying current on technological advancements and how those advancements foster remote work. They have also learned that part of being adaptable requires the ability to shift to all remote work on a dime.
Further, this is causing companies to reconsider their offices. Rent for office space is often one of the largest expenses a company has, especially in cities. Now, as companies are realizing their office space is not entirely necessary, it’s hard to imagine them continuing to carry the full expense. Those businesses that have substantial time left on their leases may be compelled to bring all of their employees back in-house as they are able. However, they’d be missing an opportunity to generate an additional revenue stream, another form of insulating your business from future disruption. They can downsize and rent a portion of their office to another company or convert it to coworking spaces, if their lease allows.
Being open to remote work also allows companies to be agile in other ways. It opens the talent pools to the entire country and beyond. This makes it much easier to find the prime candidate to fill certain roles, especially those that require very specific skill sets.
Employee Satisfaction & Engagement
Continuing to offer remote work going forward is also good for employees. It turns out that once employees get a taste of working remotely, they want to continue to do it. The 2020 State of Remote Work study conducted by Buffer earlier this year surveyed 3,500 remote workers from around the globe. Nearly all–98 percent–of the respondents agreed with the statement that they would like to work remotely, at least some of the time, for the rest of their career. Further, 97 percent said they would recommend remote work to others.
This survey dug deeper to find out exactly what it is that makes employees enjoy working from home and it turns out the top three reasons are:
- the ability to have a flexible schedule,
- flexibility to work from everywhere,
- not having a commute.
Remote work allows employees to save the time and frustration of a daily commute and to enjoy more flexibility.
Making Remote Work, Work
According to Ernst & Young, “remote working is an opportunity for companies to change their way of working sustainably and reap the benefits over the medium to long term.” If remote work is to be the way forward, there will be growing pains and a conscious effort is required to make it work.
In the Buffer survey, when asked about the biggest struggle with working remotely, the most popular response was communication and collaboration. Interestingly, a majority of the respondents that chose that response are the ones that worked for companies that had a mix of remote workers and in-office employees.
It is unlikely that all businesses will go fully remote immediately. Many companies will continue to have an office space but the size, purpose, and number of employees working in-office full-time is likely to look very different. Businesses need to be thinking now of how to strategically implement a more remote workforce to capture the benefits and flexibility that remote work affords, for both companies and employees.
Whether regular remote work becomes a cornerstone of “the new normal” is likely up to each individual company. However, as more companies allow it, employees are likely to gravitate towards these employers. There are also advantages outside of employee satisfaction and preference. The working world had already been making a gradual shift towards more remote work and COVID-19 simply accelerated it. While many aspects of the future of work and employment are still uncertain, it would appear that remote work is here to stay. The question is how well and how quickly businesses choose to embrace the practice.