It’s no secret that the novel coronavirus has completely changed the way we work. As waves of executive orders and stay-at-home advisories roll out across the states, employers and employees alike must quickly find ways to adapt to our new normal. Some businesses have temporarily furloughed employees or shuttered altogether. Others have switched gears, abandoning brick and mortar facilities in favor of a company-wide telecommute model.
That said, remote work didn’t begin with COVID-19. And we certainly won’t see the last of it even as the world begins to recover from this global pandemic. In fact, telecommuting has become an increasingly popular option for employees across industries, with the share of remote workers having more than doubled over the past decade.
But moving to a full-scale telecommute model isn’t as simple as sending everyone home. In fact, remote work introduces new benefits and drawbacks for both employees and employers; and the decision to transition to remote work, even if only in part, will look different for each business.
We all know the benefits of having a collaborative workspace well. After all, brick and mortar facilities have been the standard of work for decades. Small businesses and startups often consider moving into an office or retail space a milestone, and it can be a critical step toward meeting their growing demand.
But the benefits of a shared space go beyond capacity. First and foremost, offices enable us to connect. Whether your office consists of cubicles, bullpens or sprawling island tables, cultivating a suitable shared space for your employees can build community, promote professional development, and sustain morale when the day gets hard.
There’s also the benefit of shared resources. In an office setting, we don’t have to account for certain variables that might prove challenging with a remote workforce. For example, reliable high-speed internet is a given in an office setting, as are printers, paper and other standard office out-fittings. Employees can access these resources without incurring additional cost or logistical challenges when operating out of an office space.
For an employee, transitioning from a traditional office to a home office can offer a wealth of opportunities. For one, remote workers must take more ownership over their work. That means communicating more proactively, which can ultimately deepen their engagement. Working apart from peers requires a different kind of internal motivation than working from an office. But for those who can push through? The flexibility of telecommuting can offer bursts of creativity that more structured work environments might dampen.
As an added bonus, remote workers save time and money by curbing commuting costs for either part or all of their work week. In fact, telecommuting full-time can save employees over $4,000 annually as result of these reductions.
Transitioning to a remote workforce isn’t all sunshine and roses. Businesses should keep a few things in mind when deciding on transitioning to this model, whether in part or in whole.
For one, moving to a remote format can make it difficult to create a well-defined company culture. Developing company traditions or hosting events without a designated home base can be tough. For employees, while telecommuting is often seen as a perk, it can also lead to feelings of isolation. To that end, managers will need to think creatively about how to foster collaboration and build community in new ways, knowing that these strategies will likely continue to adapt throughout the lifecycle of the business.
Remote work can also highlight inequity if not executed properly. Sending employees home assumes that they have access to a suitable at-home workspace and the resources to complete their work. That’s not always the case. However, companies can overcome this challenge by equipping employees with the tools they need to be successful when telecommuting. Those might include an additional monitor or a monthly allowance to subsidize expenses like electricity and Wi-Fi.
If you’re up to the challenge, choosing to provide flexible work options has quantifiable benefits. For one, allowing employees to work remotely can help reduce overhead by eliminating the need to lease huge office spaces that carry significant costs like insurance, utilities and office supplies.
Furthermore, flexible work options allow employees to quite literally enjoy the comfort of their own home. This means that, for the in-house recruiter in New York, the California-based software engineer they’d been eyeing won’t feel pressured to leave the beaches behind to accept an offer. Additionally, their organization won’t have to pull together a relocation package.
Providing flexible work options can attract new local talent as well and increase overall workforce participation. Consider a stay-at-home parent, an employee with a disability or even an employee looking towards retirement. While over three-quarters of the US workforce would like the ability to work remotely at least part of the time, more than half of potential job candidates consider work-life balance critical to their decision to accept a job offer. Offering flexible options enables candidates (and current employees) to work in a way that makes the most sense for their life.
Studies have shown that working from home can increase productivity and reduce attrition. Companies with flexible work options have seen employees take fewer sick days and unscheduled absences, with remote workers clocking an average of almost 17 more active work days each year than full-time office employees. And as we noted before, many employees see the ability to work from home as a perk. Many rank the impact of flexible work options highly on their overall job satisfaction. In fact, 8 out of 10 employees on remote teams report feeling more valued as a result of their employer’s flexibility.
Transitioning your employees from the office to their homes is a big undertaking. But you don’t have to go it alone. With Remote Work Reimbursement, Motus can help simplify the process of reimbursing your remote workforce while setting your employees up for success as they telecommute. Learn more about our offering here.