The pandemic crisis has caused businesses to completely change how they operate. With strict social distancing guidelines, many companies were forced to go remote. COVID-19 has created a “new normal” that all businesses must become accustomed to in order to continue being successful. With the uncertainty of when the pandemic will end, companies need to let go of their traditional ways to stay afloat. The remote work environment has indeed become the “new normal” for businesses.
Many surveys have been conducted throughout the pandemic on remote work. Both employers and employees were asked how they feel about the ability to work remotely. Here are some of the results from PwC’s US Remote Work Survey:
- Employees who worked in the office said they would like the option to work from home more often.
- Even though staff can still work well when apart, many would like to meet and engage with their co-workers in person. This is why 50% are even willing to work in the office.
- 55% of executives expect to offer the option of working remotely at least once per week, given the response from employees wanting more flexibility during work weeks.
While these results come from June 2020, they are still heavily relevant to what’s occurring still in early 2021, along with what’s to come in the future.
The Benefits of Working Remotely
Aside from the fact that remote work can lessen the spread of COVID-19, many additional benefits can come with working virtually.
When staff is given the ability to work from home, they don’t have to worry about commuting and can keep their commitments for themselves, family, etc. It has been shown that workers who work remotely can have increased productivity. If businesses need more talent on their staff, they can broaden their horizons to other employees all over the country with telework.
Following along with the previous benefit of working remotely, if needed, businesses can look to hire international employees as well. Without the need to meet in-person, remote workers can come from anywhere in the world. Using video conferencing tools can make for easier communication between international employees.
Ability to Save Money
What business doesn’t like to save money? When employees aren’t required to be physically in an office, it can reduce the costs needed to run a business. Companies can save money on real estate, rent, utilities, and other smaller expenses such as food.
Challenges with Remote Work & How to Resolve Them
With all of the benefits of working remotely, there can be some challenges that come about. Listed below are some challenges that may arise from remote work and ways to solve them.
Sometimes, too much flexibility can be a problem. Working from home can mean many distractions and temptations for employees to avoid. Sleeping, family and friends, TV, and social media are just a few examples of possible distractions for employees. This can lead to employees not finishing projects on time and less overall productivity.
Employers can provide tools that induce productivity (provided below), or persuade them to use tools that limit distractions, such as browser plugins.
A common problem for traditional, in-person work, communication can pose unique issues for remote workers. A survey from the State of Remote Work reported that 20% of respondents stated that collaboration and communication were their biggest struggles. This can be due to the amount of flexibility and the different time zones staff may be in.
To solve this issue, employers must provide structure and strong leadership to create the best environment for their staff. There is an abundance of online tools available to ensure that employees can work together with very few problems. A few examples of those tools are listed below.
- Microsoft Teams
Issues with Technology
Many remote workers are using their own devices to conduct work. Every device working differently can lead to many inconsistencies when information needs to be shared between staff members or reduce production times.
To resolve this, employers should provide staff with all the equipment needed. All software should be preloaded to the equipment to prevent or reduce any issues that may come about. Cloud-based platforms are preferred because they don’t require upgrades and update regularly.
Retention of Employees
Although the job may be remote, the threat of losing employees is still plausible. According to Small Business Trends, 20% of remote workers feel lonely. Employees don’t feel connected with their colleagues, given that all communication is virtual instead of in-person. There is also the issue of feeling overwhelmed by remote work, making them want to leave a company.
Businesses must ensure that their employees have a healthy work-life balance. This means creating spaces where employees can still communicate with others virtually, such as conferences or even virtual water coolers, as well as providing recognition for their hard work.
The switch from in-person work to remote has been difficult for many businesses but due to the pandemic’s uncertainty, it does not look like telework will be going anywhere anytime soon. Companies need to understand and embrace remote work to avoid problems and reap the benefits of this “new normal.”