The big benefits of remote work for many companies are seen in the medium to long term, so you shouldn’t expect to see everyone rushing back to the office when we finally move into a post-crisis era. While many businesses initially turned to remote work as a short term solution to some of the many challenges of working throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, they are starting to reap the benefits of this way of working as it becomes a more permanent fixture of modern work.
A survey of almost 1,000 businesses carried out by the Institute of Directors (IoD) showed that the majority were planning to make use of remote work after the pandemic. In fact, 74% of businesses were planning to maintain the increase in home working and more than half planned to reduce their long-term use of workplaces.
A report carried out by McKinsey found that there could be between four and five times more remote work after Covid-19 than there was before the pandemic. The report found that when looking at work that can be done remotely without a loss of productivity, “about 20 to 25 percent of the workforces in advanced economies could work from home between three and five days a week”. It certainly looks like remote work is here to stay and organisations should now be looking at their remote working policies as we consider the future post-pandemic.
Here are some of the reasons big businesses all over the world are looking to retain elements of remote working that have been trialled over the last year.
With a well-structured remote working policy, businesses can make big savings on things like office space. Even if a full-time remote working policy is not right for your business, the chances are that not all of your employees need to be in the office all the time. You might even find that most members of staff only need to be in the office one or two days a week to attend meetings and sessions with their team while working remotely the rest of the time. Switching to a new system such as a rota where certain teams are in the office on certain days or a hot-desking policy where staff come in when they have meetings or when they want a change of scene from the home office frees up a lot of office space. Moving to a smaller office can reduce costs significantly for a business.
It seems that many organisations are thinking along these lines. The report from McKinsey mentioned above also revealed that a survey of 278 executives found that, on average, they planned to reduce office space by 30 percent.
There are many benefits of remote working for employees, even if they aren’t working remotely full time. The traditional 9-5 is becoming an increasingly out of date model and less attractive especially to the new generation of workers who are just starting out in their careers. The option to work remotely means that they spend less time and money commuting, gives them greater flexibility in their busy modern lives and it can improve their overall wellbeing, to name a few benefits.
All of this can lead to happier employees. These benefits for the employees translate into benefits for the employer as happier staff tend to be more driven and productive.
A recent report carried out by Mercer, a firm that consults on HR and workplace benefits, surveyed 800 employers to find out more about Covid-19’s impact on the global workforce. 90% of respondents said that productivity had remained the same or even increased when working remotely. Additionally, reports from the last year seem to suggest that employees are less likely to take days off due to illness when working from home.
When staff are given the right tools to do their jobs, being freed from the distractions of the office can sometimes be a real help. We now have the technology readily available for a wide range of jobs to be done from anywhere with an internet connection. We can participate in meetings, work on the same documents as our colleagues at the same time, quickly check some figures or details with a team member via chat, all without stepping foot in the office.
Remote workers are free to design a workspace that really works for them. They can choose or create an environment where they are most productive, whether that’s a silent home office or a library or the buzz of a coffee shop or a shared workspace. After all, once Covid-19 restrictions have been lifted, remote working won’t necessarily mean working from home. A whole new range of possibilities will be open to remote workers to find their ideal working environment.
The option to work remotely is becoming a more common perk on job listings and a benefit that more and more job seekers are looking for. Candidates from the younger generations, in particular, are starting to expect remote working benefits in certain industries and you may miss out on some of the top new talent by not offering this.
Remote work also allows you to greatly expand your pool of job candidates. For certain roles, you might find that you don’t need your staff to come into the office at all, or only very rarely. This means that you don’t need to recruit from your local area and can consider applicants from much further afield. You may find that this helps you secure some of the top candidates out there.
Companies were forced to adapt quickly when the first ‘stay at home’ order was given back in March 2020. Those that couldn’t do this effectively quickly found themselves in trouble. A flexible working structure gives businesses an extra element of adaptability should something like the Covid-19 pandemic ever happen again. Remote workers have the tools they need to do their jobs wherever they might be and the technology to support remote work has been advancing rapidly. A well-structured remote working policy gives your organisation additional flexibility that may well help you weather future storms.
The points above clearly indicate that businesses have recognised the many benefits of remote working over the last year or so. However, that’s not to say that there is no longer any value in having an office as many jobs naturally require a physical presence at least some of the time. For example, certain meetings or collaborative exercises may be much more productive in person. Or those mentoring less experienced staff may find that their charges benefit from more in-person support. Some workers just may not have access to an appropriate workspace at home.
The solution that many organisations are turning to is a hybrid option. Retaining some sort of central office, perhaps on a smaller scale than before, while introducing a new range of remote working benefits. This is a best of both worlds scenario, where organisations can enjoy the advantages listed above while retaining a physical central hub for tasks and meetings less suited to being conducted remotely.
While we are certainly not back to ‘normal’ yet, news that vaccines are being rolled out across the world suggests that we could be nearing that stage soon. If you haven’t already, it is now time to start thinking about how your business will operate ‘post-Covid’. It’s clear that the future of work features a lot more flexibility for employees in terms of when and where they complete their work. Considering the benefits listed above, if you work in an industry that’s embracing remote work, your organisation should be thinking about doing so too. Not only could you see the economic value from less physical office space and higher productivity levels from staff but you could also see improvements for your recruitment strategy.