We’re capable of change. If you need proof of that, just look at how companies responded to COVID. But making certain changes more permanently? Well, that can take more getting used to. The switch to remote work was easier for some than it was for others and will likely continue to be. But as the pandemic continues, remote work is a change to settle into. Companies holding out on making temporary set ups more permanent should rethink their approach in the following ways.
Some jobs require equipment and machinery so valuable and specific to the role that an employee cannot work anywhere except their employer’s physical workspace. That is not true of the employees working remotely from their home offices set up along bedroom walls, in the cleaner areas of the basement or the temporary perch at the kitchen table. Their ability to plug into the nearest outlet and plop down on the nearest available folding chair or sitting stool makes them flexible. That doesn’t necessarily make them more productive.
Working from home shouldn’t be about working wherever you can in the home because it’s your partner’s turn in the only spare room with a door that closes. Working from home should be the same as working in the office setting. A dedicated workspace helps employees focus on whatever the workday brings. When it’s done, employees can turn off that part of their day and move on to their personal lives. Instead of rolling out of bed minutes before a meeting, employees can maintain the routine of a typical pre-pandemic work week, minus the commute.
There are bound to be distractions the office never had: the pets, the kids, the things around the house itching to be done. Those will never truly disappear from a remote work setting. But they will take more of a back seat when employers share with their employees that working from home is likely to continue for long enough that they should consider their homes more like their place of work than a temporary office.
But what changes? After sharing that sentiment with employees, what can business leaders expect to see? Wild upticks in productivity? Through the roof growth? If only it were that easy. Accept and share that remote work is more long than short term. That’s step one. Step two is encouraging step one. How?
Let your employees grab a desk chair from the office. Offer them a work from home stipend so they can have a desk to sit at, instead of the kitchen table or the dusty card table. Enable them to feel comfortable in whatever office they can set up. Approving renovations for the building of new rooms or an awesome treehouse might not be tenable, but a work from home stipend that covers some of those bases will go a long way. Part of it might be comfort, another part is certainly focus, leading to increased productivity. Watch what happens when remote employees shift from temporary set-ups to functional workspaces.
If a work from home stipend seems like an unnecessary expense, there are aspects of remote work costs that cannot be denied. Employees that used to work 9 to 5 jobs remain at home. Those 40 hours each week where the home got a bit of peace and quiet are gone. And that brings additional costs. It’s unlikely that employers begin to pay part of their employees rent as though leasing office space. But employers should absolutely cover expenses vital to job performance. Besides, companies can free up a lot of capital by downsizing or eliminating office leases.
Businesses provided employees with certain office amenities: internet, space, a desk, a computer, a printer, snacks and more. As most businesses are not hosting their employees in office, they should continue to extend essential amenities. Employees using their personal WIFI for business purposes should be reimbursed. Employees using personal devices—laptops, phones, tablets—for business purposes should be reimbursed. It may be true that they are paying these expenses regardless, but it’s also true that without these mixed–use assets, they could not complete their work. In fact, that bare minimum makes the home office stipend seem like more than a frivolous expense. It could additionally keep your organization in the legal right.
No one can blame businesses for being under-prepared for the pandemic. Still, businesses cannot simply wait with crossed fingers for a return to normal. Companies that adapted when COVID took hold might not be meeting the goals they set at the beginning of the year, but if they continue to make the appropriate changes, they’ll make it that much farther. There aren’t any playbooks on how to make it through a pandemic and come out on top. We’re all writing our own. There will be a chapter about making unexpected changes. There should also be a chapter on enabling the workforce to be successful – an advantage for their organization.
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