The transition to remote work has been dramatic and sudden for many companies due to the COVID-19 outbreak. As businesses and workers have made the temporary move from company office spaces to home offices, many have decided that it may be permanent.
Companies like Square, Twitter, Facebook, and Shopify have embraced remote employee teams full-time, stating they will allow employees to work remotely going forward. As these trends continue, the landscape of employee work is shifting to one that looks more remote and more flexible.
Flexible working has proven to attract top talent and truly seems to be the future of work. Insights and studies have shown that remote teams work just as effectively or even more so than traditional office employees, bringing companies increased productivity. 97% of people say they prefer remote work opportunities, stating that flexible work can have a huge, positive impact on their quality of life and mental health. It is perhaps unsurprising that more flexibility in someone's work-life leads to less anxiety and better work-life balance.
With the state of remote work and top talent demanding greater flexibility, it may be time to consider if remote work is right for your workers. A recent survey by Upwork showed that by 2028, 73% of all departments will have remote workers.
Another study by Gartner showed that 74% of CFOs planned to shift at least 5% of on-site positions to permanently remote jobs. As you think about your work arrangement and the possibility of a remote workforce, it is essential to look at the pros and cons of what remote working entails.
What is remote work?
Remote work can take a lot of different forms depending on the company. For example, Google's CEO announced that they are taking a variant approach. They have reported about 60% of their employees working some days a week in office but not all, 20% working in new office locations, and 20% working entirely from home.
Just like Google, depending on your company's needs, your home policy may vary. Some companies require many office workers in-office to complete physical tasks, while some teams can do their work entirely remotely.
Project managers and bosses will have to navigate what will work best for their teams individually. While some office work may be necessary, it may make sense to only have employees in the office for two or three days a week. Remote work can also take the form of entirely remote workers and offices, where employees live across time zones and states. The best work plan will depend on your team and their wants and needs.
How do people work remotely?
Through collaboration tools and software, remote workers are often able to complete their usual workflows. Programs like Slack or Microsoft Teams allow for workers to easily message each other in real-time, replacing daily office chats and check-ins. Zoom and Teams also provide video calling capabilities that replace face-to-face meetings and more personal conversations with coworkers.
Working remotely also means flexibility in where someone spends their time working. Some employees prefer a home office setup, while others bring their laptops to a local cafe or working space to better focus. Some platforms, such as WorkChew, facilitate this kind of workspace by letting you reserve a table for your work time.
Why do people work remotely?
According to respondents from a Global Workplace Analytics study, 79% of people want to work from home, 36% would choose it over a pay raise, and 37% of technology professionals would take a 10% pay cut if they could work from home.
These astounding numbers may leave managers wondering why, but the perks are very significant for those with flexible schedules. Cutting out your commute, opening up your options for where you could live, and spending more time in the comfort of your home can be huge for many employees. This fact is especially true for those living in expensive, densely-populated areas like Silicon Valley and New York, where you have to pick between inhibitively expensive rent or a multiple-hour long commute.
The pros of remote work
We have touched on many benefits for remote work, but there are equally as many benefits for employers. When you start considering leases or the price of business real estate, happier employees, and a workforce that spans the entire United States or globe, you can begin to see why this is an attractive proposition for both parties.
How Remote Work Benefits Employees
There are a host of pros for employees that we have touched on in this article, but there are many more reasons why remote work is attractive to employees:
- Reduction in commuting, especially in busy cities
- Fewer distractions and more flexibility in your work environment
- The potential for increased wages
- Better quality of life and less stress
- More job options
- Better health with coworkers feeling freer to work from home when ill, preventing office spread
How Remote Work Benefits Employers
Employees aren't the only ones with benefits. Employers report:
- Saved money in rent and energy use for office spaces
- Increased productivity and happiness from employees
- Less money lost from unplanned absences
- Larger talent-pool access
Tons of saved money. Global Workplace Analytics saw that "if the Americans who hold work-at-home compatible jobs did so just half of the time, U.S. companies could collectively increase their bottom lines between $525 and $665 billion/year as a result of savings in real estate, absenteeism, turnover, and increased productivity. That’s between $10,400 and $13,200/employee/year. Full-time telecommuting can save companies between $20,000 and $37,000/employee/year."
The cons of remote work
With all of the benefits of remote work, there are some downsides to consider for your company. These negatives are especially applicable depending on your company's structure and needs.
How remote work affects employees
- Employees don't always prefer the work-from-home lifestyle. More social, hands-on employees may function better in a physical office where they can interact with their coworkers in person.
- The office can be a social need for many employees
- Not everyone has a strong drive, making remote working more difficult
- Lack of technical knowledge can lead to difficulties for some remote workers.
- Those with at-home children may face more distractions at home than in the office
How remote work affects employers
Employers have many challenges they may face in a remote work environment as well. The structure comes with specific hurdles and considerations you should think about before making the switch.
- Company culture can be harder to foster in a remote environment.
- Rollout of remote work can cause jealousy in coworkers who aren't eligible.
- Initial technology costs can be significant for getting employees the equipment they need.
- Depending on your IT framework, security issues can be a significant concern for a remote work rollout
Common questions about remote work
Is remote working effective?
Studies have shown that remote work can be significantly more effective for many employees. A FlexJobs study showed that employees believe that remote work would help them reduce their stress and improve their productivity by:
- Reducing distractions (75%)
- Reducing interruptions from coworkers (74%)
- Less commuting (71%)
- Minimizing office politics (65%)
- Providing a quieter working space (60%)
Is working from home more productive?
Studies have shown that employees are more productive at home, depending on their job. For example, the Harvard Business Review saw that remote work was positive for knowledge worker productivity.
Will remote work continue?
Many employees are pushing for more work-from-home time, with 3 in 5 workers in a Glassdoor study saying they are confident in their ability to work remotely, even if that means indefinitely. Remote work is also being supported by larger companies as places like Target, Google, Facebook, and Twitter push towards more remote working options.
Do remote jobs pay less?
According to a Flexjobs study, the annual income for more telecommuters is $4,000 higher than non-telecommuters.
Are remote workers happier?
Studies show that remote workers are 22% happier than non-remote workers but more likely to stay in their jobs longer.
Do remote workers have trouble communicating?
With the right tools in place, such as Zoom, Teams, or Slack, remote workers should have no trouble communicating. Without these supplemental tools in place, communications can fall apart as they become less convenient.
Are remote workers "always-on"?
There is concern that remote working means that companies will expect employees to be "always-on," which every company will have to combat individually. Ensuring employees balance work time and home time can prevent workers from feeling the pressure to work beyond their scheduled hours.
Do remote workers actually work when out of the office?
With studies showing that remote workers are more productive, it is essential not to doubt that your employees are working just because you aren't looking over their shoulders. Instead, consider changing your success metrics from time spent in a chair to measurable accomplishments.
How remote work has evolved
Remote work has transformed as it has gained popularity through software and technological advancements. The more that companies start embracing the idea of virtual teams, the more incentive there is for these technologies to continue to advance. While things have already accelerated due to the pandemic, consider not only the recent advancements but the ones that will continue to change over time.
More technology makes it easy to stay in touch with colleagues
Slack, Teams, Zoom, Jitsi, Asana, Skype, Discord, Google Hangouts - the list of possible communication and collaboration platforms goes on and on. If you are confused about what platform to go with, look at what is popular within your sector. Every platform has its own strengths, so think about what features are suitable for you and your team.
Smartphones mean employees are "always-on"
More than ever, employees are connected to work 24/7 due to smartphones. This problem was growing increasingly before the popularization of remote work and only has room to continue to expand. Consider enforcing specific "off-time" for employees where they are not required to look at or respond to office messages. By developing a healthy work-life balance through company policy and culture, you can combat the "always-on" burnout.
COVID accelerated remote work
Technology platforms and tools are popping up constantly now that there has been a dramatic shift to remote work. While virtual workplaces were already trending, they now have suddenly become a norm. With this trend, new software has developed quickly, and companies are prioritizing their collaboration tools.
Tips for making remote work easy
Remote work can work for your company. Here are some tips on how to make remote work easy for your employees.
Set processes in place
A stable set of best practices is key to ensuring employees aren't overworking from home, are appropriately measured for productivity, and follow preferred company workflows. Writing these processes down and keeping them available for employees to access easily will help the transition to remote work by clearly conveying your expectations and policies.
Check-in with team members a few times a week
It is much easier to get a read on how employees are doing when you walk by their offices a few times a week. Keep up this trend by checking in through either video call or chat throughout the week to ensure that everyone has what they need to be successful.
Temper your team's expectations
As you roll out remote work, clearly convey what your expectations are from the beginning. If you expect them to be in the office three times a week, express that upfront so there is no confusion. Tell the team your expectations for measuring productivity, and remind them of their work requirements.
Implement tools that make communication & collaboration easier
Pick a tech stack for your team that will help them communicate and collaborate with coworkers seamlessly. Look at what other groups in your sector are using, and ask the team about which parts of their workflow would benefit from special collaboration features.
Keep your focus on your goals
Write out your company and team goals and make them easily accessible to workers. Keeping your short-term and long-term goals in focus will keep employees from forgetting vital projects in the shuffle.
Just because you are working remotely doesn't mean you can't have in-person meetings occasionally. Leverage your workspaces by renting out spaces for check-ins or team meetings to discuss upcoming projects when needed. Take advantage of the remote working environment by meeting up at cafes and specially-tailored rentable meeting spaces.
Working remotely? Treat yourself with WorkChew
WorkChew allows you to rent some of your city's most exciting hotels and restaurants so you can work in a reserved and specialized environment. Refuel while you are working by picking out space at one of your favorite local hot spots so that you can work away from home while staying productive and uninterrupted.
WorkChew facilitates discounted menus, as well as exclusive events and products. Join now to see what local favorites you can turn into your part-time office!
Whether working at a local cafe or from the comfort of their home offices, remote work provides benefits for employees and employers alike. There are many benefits to remote working, such as happier employees, reduced costs, and a bigger talent pool. Consider if remote working is right for your team so that you can make the shift before your competition!