Remote work became somewhat popular in the last few years. Freelance platforms opened up, allowing people to work from the comfort of their home for basically any company out there willing to hire them remotely. People became aware that the office doesn’t necessarily mean productivity, and that working from home has many benefits. But employers don’t seem to share that enthusiasm.
According to statistics from 2020, 44% of companies globally don’t allow employees to work remotely, and in Europe, 6 out of 10 individuals have never worked from home. The US has only 29% of residents who can work in a home office setting. Still, the trends predict that by 2028, 73% of businesses will have remote workers.
This percentage seems easily achievable, especially since the Coronavirus pandemic started and some businesses had to allow their workers to use their homes as their workplace. Unfortunately, some businesses weren’t that quick to adapt to the change or simply couldn’t adjust in time, which led to high unemployment levels. This is especially noticeable in the US, where the number of unemployed residents is as high as 36.5 million. To better understand the movements of industries during this turbulent time and the benefits that remote work brings, let’s take a look at what effects COVID-19 has on certain businesses.
The pandemic forced many industries to lay low and wait for the pandemic to pass. These got affected the most:
• Sports and arts
• Furniture stores
• Restaurants and bars
• Motion picture and audio recording
• Dentist offices
• Personal services
• Clothing stores
• Amusement parks
It appears that businesses that must rely on the physical presence of both employees and customers were hit the hardest. Unfortunately, there’s hardly any way to work remotely in many of these jobs. On the other hand, some businesses were able to adjust to the change or belong to the essential business that had to remain active.
Even though many have closed their doors, for the time being, some industries are still hiring workers on the physical location. Those employees who were laid off from their last job position fortunately still have a chance to find new workplaces among the following positions:
• Shipping and delivery
• Grocery stores
• Working families
Still, there’s an increased risk of COVID-19 infection while working on physical location, and many people will have to follow strict protocols to avoid contamination. This resulted in fear among manual workers since some of the preventative measures are impossible to maintain, such as physical distancing.
It seems that the biggest winners in Coronavirus pandemic will be those companies that don’t necessarily rely on their brick-and-mortar facilities.
• Remote communication companies
• Supermarket chains with an online presence
• Online learning companies
• Pharmaceutical companies working on the cures
• Technology companies
Essential industries also started focusing on creating new jobs both remotely and on physical location, such as healthcare with telehealth, state administration with official websites and online services or banking with online banking accounts. Many of these must remain in operation, yet they can delegate some of the work to remote workers.
These companies will be the ones to lead the new era in digital transformation, driven not only with the fear of the pandemic, but also with the empowering technology that can be used to improve their business, the lives of their employees, and the trust of their customers.
Both employees and companies can reap the benefits of a remote workforce. Let’s see the main reasons why businesses should allow telework whenever possible.
There are many benefits of remote work for the employee, meaning that there are many for the company as well. A happy worker is willing to give his best to their job and the company.
No commute to work means more free time for the employee to prepare for work. It also means less time spent on stressful and unpleasant rush hour. Instead, the employee can focus on the work ahead without stress, which will make the day more productive. Also, having no need to commute saves money for the employee.
All the workers are considered equal in an office setting, but not all of them operate equally, making them less productive. When working from a home office, the employee has the autonomy to work flexible schedules and use the time of their day to the best of their strengths, thus bringing better results. They will be able to create the environment that they’ll love working in.
More autonomy and more time lead to improved health. Remote workers can devote some of their time to creating healthier meals instead of eating junk food, or exercising more, which leads to better sleep and improved productivity. Many have stated that the office setting keeps them stressed during workdays, and with remote work, the stress is also reduced. These benefits result in a happier, healthier, more motivated, and more productive workforce. There’s also noticeably reduced absenteeism.
Benefits for the employee affect their results, meaning they indirectly affect how the company is doing business. But aside from employees’ benefits, some are directly connected to companies.
There’s something called the ‘millennial effect.’ The millennial generation can communicate cheaply and effectively from anywhere in the world. Naturally, they’ll want to do so at their workplace too. Companies that offer remote work and flexible hours are letting the millennials know that they understand their needs and want to meet them half-way. In return, many young talents are drawn to apply for the job opening, allowing the HR department a wider selection of candidates.
Office space can turn out expensive. When the business does many of its operations remotely, they save a lot of money per year, as much as $10,000, since teleworking cuts employee turnover costs and has a high impact on employee retention. There’s also less expenditure for office supplies and material.
A configured salary shouldn’t mean a cut paycheck, but there are many employees out there willing to agree on a lower salary if they can be allowed to work remotely. They can easily see the option to have flexible working hours as a reward, instead of the pay raise. This can also affect the reduced business costs, plus the employee will bring better results.
It’s not just the vehicles and fossil fuels that affect the environment - it’s office buildings too. They consume much more energy compared to a home, and with telecommuting, workers’ contribution to negative environmental issues is smaller. When in an office setting, employees aren’t financially motivated to pay attention to energy consumption. While working remotely, workers still create some waste and spend energy, but they can opt-in for energy-efficient devices.
Even though remote workers enjoy their home office and are willing to put in some extra hours into their work, there can be some challenges for the company, especially when the transition to remote work is done quickly and without a plan.
Some of the biggest struggles for a remote worker include:
• Unplugging after work
• Collaboration and communication
• Home distractions
• Different time zones
• Staying motivated
• Finding good WiFi
Those employees who suddenly found themselves in a home office setting can have a hard time managing the silence and loneliness. Lack of engagement can be detrimental for workers and might affect their productivity.
Communication issues can also be present. Humans are used to reading both verbal and non-verbal cues, and it’s often impossible for remote workers to do so. This leads to the difficulties to sense what's supposed to be communicated clearly.
Lack of knowledge about the technology that’s used to communicate and work can also be an issue, and might demand additional training for the employee.
Since a manager is a person that should be in close contact with employees, delegate work, and be active in decision making, problem solving and motivation, managers are often the first on the line of experiencing issues with remote workers. And remote work can sometimes place an additional burden on them.
There’s a lack of face-to-face supervision and it can hurt both the manager and employees because managers feel like the workers might not work as hard as they should, and workers feel that managers are out of touch and not supportive enough.
There needs to be daily communication between managers and remote workers, as well as among workers. So setting up different communication channels is a must. There need to be rules of engagement, such as what’s the ideal time to communicate with the team.
Remote employees can demand an extra level of creativity from the management side, such as using GIFs in communication and feedback, or involving some stress relief activities.
Issues that C level executives will have to handle in 2020 regarding digital transformation and remote workers include the lack of a skilled workforce and the need to turn towards intelligent automation to do more for less. CEOs will need to adapt to the increased use of technology and become able to not only use it to improve communication but also build relationships with their teams. With this comes the need to communicate too often, and it also must be addressed, because common interruptions can lead to stress. And the more stressed the workers get, the more negatively they will identify with the organization.
With more and more employees working remotely, the need to set up a certain amount of rules was born. This will keep the employees in check while still allowing them to maintain the same level of productivity while working in their home office.
Remote work policy is an agreement that outlines the best practices, when and how the employees can work from places other than the office and their legal rights. It can be temporary or permanent.
Determine who can work remotely. Not all roles can be fulfilled with a remote work setting. The policy should clearly state all the guidelines for all suitable and less suitable positions, and it should also include all the necessary tools and strategies that will help the employees be productive when working outside of the office.
Provide the tools. Sometimes, a laptop and a WiFi connection are not enough. Remote employees often need additional technology that will keep them in the loop. Another thing to consider is the cybersecurity of an employee and the company files and data privacy.
Establish the rules. This can be tricky since there’s no face-to-face interaction, so you’ll want to create clear communication and collaboration processes. If an employee should be online during a specific time, it needs to be clearly outlined in the rules.
Plan the time for meetings. Team building usually isn’t done online, but today’s technology can make it possible in times of need, such as the pandemic. Workers need to feel as a part of the team, and human interaction is a must. This can be achieved with video calls and virtual gatherings.
Outline the legal rights. Remote workers should enjoy equal rights as the in-office worker, and the company needs to be legally compliant. The best example is the overtime hours. By selecting the timespan when the employee should work and the workload they should work on, the worker is clearly in the know about their obligations.
Provide feedback. Giving feedback is the most essential yet the most overlooked form of communication when it comes to a remote workforce. Finding the best medium to communicate the feedback, being specific about praises, and allowing a two-way communication will result in feedback well received, and both sides satisfied.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic started, many businesses that demanded physical contact between customers and employees had to close temporarily. Still, those who stayed open and allowed their workers to do their jobs from home saw the benefits that remote work brings. Their employees became less stressed, saved more money, and increased their productivity. They also enjoyed flexible hours and all the spare time they could spend resting or improving relationships with their family.
Companies also saw the potential to reduce the costs of office space and material, as well as increase access to a bigger talent pool. Nevertheless, there are still some challenges to overcome when it comes to the employee’s feeling of loneliness and the need to communicate effectively both with other employees and with upper management. The challenges for management include lack of face-to-face supervision and, again, communication with the workforce. Finally, the biggest hurdles for C level executives are a lack of a skilled workforce and an increased need to adapt to the use of different technology quickly.
The benefits of remote work are immense, and the facts clearly state that having as many employees work remotely as possible will benefit the company in more ways than one. If the world remains under the pandemic for a longer period, it’s imperative that those businesses that have the potential, adapt to digital transformation, and finally allow remote work where possible.
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