Since the start of 2020, companies worldwide have been forced to adapt rapidly, sending workforces home to set up their new offices at home. For those who don’t have a dedicated office space at home, this has meant that their kitchen table, spare bedroom, or living room is now their workspace.
Many businesses quickly realised that changes need to be made throughout every element of their organisation for complete remote working to be implemented successfully. This runs from infrastructure to company culture. Many businesses have had to:
This has been a challenging time, to say the least. However, this spotlight on remote working has shown many businesses that have overcome these challenges that there are some benefits to be had from a remote workforce and in recent weeks we have been flooded with articles about how it will be the ‘new normal’ in a post-pandemic world.
Remote working is nothing new, but remote working on this scale certainly is. With those enormous office blocks standing empty but work going ahead, some businesses are starting to rethink the traditional office model and adding remote working elements to their ‘normal’, post-COVID structure.
Tech giants are certainly not in a rush to get back to the office. Facebook is to allow most employees to continue to work from home through to the end of the year and Google has said that the majority of employees will WFH until 2021. Twitter has announced that most employees will be allowed to do so permanently.
In fact, a recent Gartner survey of CFOs and Finance leaders revealed that 74% of companies were planning to keep some of their staff working remotely post-COVID-19.
Under such extraordinary circumstances and with such upheaval to our usual way of life and our working lives, it is important to keep track of how employees are adapting.
JobAdder conducted a survey of 100 of its staff to see how they were coping with their new working environment and what the business could take from this moving forward. The article is quick to qualify that this was a quick survey meant as a ‘temperature check’, however, the results are clear.
While 80% of employees stated that they were looking forward to coming back to the office, a huge 90% of employees said that they are experiencing positive benefits from working from home. And these benefits are being felt on both sides of the work-life balance.
Employers will naturally be worried about the impact working remotely will have on productivity with all the distractions available at home: the kids, the pets, the never-ending YouTube holes, the fridge. However, 78.08% of employees reported that they get more work done while only 2.99% said it is harder to get work done at home. A clear plus for productivity, from the employees’ perspective anyway.
And far from getting in the way of collaboration, 57.53% of employees said that they were communicating better with their colleagues, with just 13.43% saying the opposite.
There were still some negatives reported, so it’s not time to shut up all the offices just yet as it won’t work for everyone. Missing colleagues was by far the biggest negative for employees, with missing the gym and less comfortable working conditions also having an impact on over a third of the workforce.
With 82% of employees favouring working with more flexibility, the folks over at JobAdder are being proactive about these findings and implementing a range of changes in their post-COVID offices. These changes will include flexible working options for all employees and they will aim to only have 50-60% of employees in the office on any given day.
Here are a few ways remote working can help your recruitment goals:
You immediately increase the number of candidates in your pool because geography becomes less of an issue. Even if you’re not offering a 100% remote working role a candidate might be willing to travel further if it’s only a few days a week.
Offering flexibility such as remote working will be seen as attractive to many candidates and will give you more of a competitive edge in securing the top talent.
And once you’ve secured your ideal candidate, your new remote working policies are better for business and better for your employees.
The benefits of remote working are starting to emerge for many companies and as businesses start to improve their remote working set-up, these will become more clear.
Here are three benefits of remote working for businesses that already have the data behind them:
A study carried out by Gallup in 2017, long before anyone had heard of COVID-19, showed that employee engagement improves when they spend some time working remotely. In fact, the optimum engagement occurs when an employee spends between 60% and 80% of time working remotely. According to Gallup, highly engaged workplaces see 21% higher profitability and 40% fewer quality defects.
As attitudes and working habits evolve, offering some sort of remote working benefit to staff may soon be key in retention strategies. Writing for the World Economic Forum, Judy Oh, Director of Strategy at BrightHouse, says that “younger workers are looking for more decentralized environments where they can decide how work gets done”.
With Millenials and Generation Z making up most of the workforce in 2020, businesses need to adapt to their needs if they are to have happy employees. If they don’t, they could risk losing out on some of the top talent.
Along with the increase in profitability that comes with higher productivity from your workforce, there are some significant savings that come with offering remote working.
Research conducted by Global Workplace Analytics estimates that a typical employer in the US can save an average of $11,000 each year per employee who spends half their time working remotely. This includes the impact of a reduction in office space, absenteeism and voluntary turnover.
This research also includes data on the positive impact remote working has on the environment and local communities. Less time spent travelling means a reduction in greenhouse gasses and fewer traffic accidents.
According to a 2019 study carried out by Lloyds Bank, the average British worker will spend £37,399 getting to work over a lifetime. Cutting down on this cost, or even eliminating it will have a significant impact on most workers’ finances. And it’s not just the financial cost. The study estimated that we spend 492 days of our lives commuting. Reclaiming some of that time would contribute to a better work-life balance.
In a survey of nearly 2,500 remote workers conducted by Buffer in 2019, 40% said that a Flexible Schedule was the biggest benefit to remote work. This allows employees to plan their day around the kids' extra-curricular activities or nip off to the dentist without any hassle. If you work better in the evening, or you like a lunchtime gym session, you can shift your day around. Even if you are still expected to work ‘traditional’ hours, or have set core hours, the time you reclaim from the daily commute allows a greater degree of flexibility, as less of your day overall is spent dedicated to work.
Both of the points above can contribute to improved employee well-being both physically and mentally. You won’t be as tired as you were after a long and stressful commute and you now have more time and flexibility to make exercise part of your routine and for spending time with family and friends. You’re also limiting exposure to potentially sick co-workers.
In a poll of 1,002 UK workers currently working from home due to COVID-19 carried out by Hanbury Strategy on behalf of StarLeaf, 60% said they would like to work from home more often than they did. Crucially for recruiters, 84% of respondents said that it was either ‘very important’ or ‘quite important’ for an employer to offer people the option of working from home.
For those employers still on the fence due to their experience of remote working in recent weeks, it’s important to understand the distinction between the remote working situation many have been forced to quickly adapt because of the COVID-19 pandemic and ‘normal’ remote working.
A remote working set-up wouldn’t usually have to cope with the fact that schools are closed, childcare unavailable or the fact that the house might feel uncomfortably full all day. Or perhaps the opposite is the problem. For those living alone, there’s a high possibility that the isolation will take its toll and loneliness kick in.
Once we’re back to normal, or have reached the ‘new normal’, those who work remotely will be able to do so much more effectively. For many, a remote working set up, whether that be at home, a local shared workspace or a coffee shop, is free of the distractions of the office.
RescueTime carried out some research, acknowledging that many of the issues that get in the way of productivity are emotional, such as lack of motivation and procrastination. They asked more than 850 workers, both office workers and remote workers, about how they feel about their work. While only 39% of remote workers say that they work for 8 hours or more per day (compared to 60% of office workers) they are 20% more likely to say they complete their daily tasks every or most days. This leads to a higher sense of accomplishment, key to combating those emotional issues that block productivity.