If you’ve ever been caught up in traffic after a long day at work, the odds are pretty decent that you’ve fantasized about working remotely at least once or twice. Then COVID-19 came and that fantasy became true for most people when companies all over the world adopted new ways of working that left their workplaces empty. Remote work had its big moment.
As companies look forward to life post-pandemic, they’re choosing among three basic options for returning to the workplace: allow their employees back to the office, offer more fully remote opportunities, or adopt a hybrid model.
As an employee, you must have a set of questions regarding your return to work. Do I need to go back to the office? Will my job force me? Do I really want to go back to the office?
If you’re an employer, you must also have some concerns of your own. Should I make my employees come back? How do I set expectations and manage my team? Should I hire fully remote employees? What does a “hybrid approach” even mean?
Whether you’re an employee or an employer, whatever concerns you have are valid. However, the fact remains that remote work is no longer a trend – it’s here to stay! Here’s why, and a few ways to prepare.
We were already trending this way
Although remote work has been COVID-19’s most influential legacy, the concept of working from home wasn’t a foreign concept, at least not to some companies. Prior to the pandemic, telecommuting was one of the fancier words used for working remotely, and it was becoming a popular trend.
In April 2020, The Conference Board carried out an online survey targeting more than 150 U.S. HR executives, mostly in large companies. About 5% of respondents cited that prior to the pandemic, 40% or more of their employees were working primarily from home at least three days a week. Nearly 20% of the respondents projected that at least 40% of their employees would work primarily from home post-pandemic.
The Conference Board conducted a follow-up survey in September, which revealed that almost 50% of the 330 HR executives interviewed said that they expected at least 40% of their employees would work from home three or more days per week. A more recent study by Flexjobs revealed that the number of employees working from home at least part-time had increased by 44% over the last five years.
There are challenges, but we have the tools to face them
While the importance of having a remote workforce was apparent, the rush to get employees prepared for remote work was a bit, well, sudden for many employers. The massive, immediate shift to remote work was obviously hard to prepare for and both employers and employees faced several challenges, including:
1. Improper at-home set-ups
When it comes to working from home or from any place for that matter, a proper set-up is crucial. The essentials for an at-home set-up include a well-updated computer system, office equipment, ergonomic chair, working desk, desk lamp, speakers, and a plethora of online tools.
While it seems cool in movies to see remote workers working from just about anywhere, it’s not usually the case in real life. Improper at-home set-ups can not only hamper employees’ productivity, but it can also affect their health and work life. From neck and back strain to blurred vision and headaches, improper work setups can negatively affect remote employees in more ways than one.
2. Unstable/inconsistent internet access
Nothing sets back a remote worker more than an internet outage – it can set even the most patient remote worker on edge. Unfortunately, blips in tech services have plagued remote workers since the mass shift to remote work disrupted the workforce. A good example is the serious incident whereby a cut cable in Brooklyn, New York caused a Verizon Fios internet outage in cities across the East Coast, interrupting several other applications.
Investing in back-ups is a smart way to mitigate the disruptions that are caused by internet outages. For instance, companies could, invest in Wi-Fi hotspots for employees to support internet connectivity in the remote work environment. Preparing for worst-case scenarios, however, can sink a business’s bottom line.
3. Feeling of lack of culture and connection
Working in an office environment brings with it a certain camaraderie. From inside jokes to spur-of-the-moment after-work drinks, there’s a lot to enjoy when in an office with a group. That’s why it comes as no surprise that remote work, particularly for workers who live alone, can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness.
In their 2019 State of Remote Work Report, Buffer revealed that loneliness was the second biggest struggle (19%) with working remotely. For employees who work well when in a team and companies that pay attention to the need to interact with each other, remote work can prove to be one of their biggest challenges.
4. Office rent and other expenses
While working from home allows remote workers to avoid the costs and hassles of commutes, it attracts other costs. And it’s not only about making their own coffee and paying your heating bills – it’s about spending a bigger share of their income on rent or mortgages to pay for the extra space required to create a favorable work environment at home.
Unless employees are fully compensated, the burden of paying more rent and meeting other expenses will prove to be a huge challenge for remote workers. On the other hand, companies that don’t want to shift this burden onto their remote workers will not only pay extra in compensation, but they will still have to cater for office rent and other expenses.
5. Lack of in-person client meetings
Spurred by social distancing protocols, the COVID-19 pandemic caused a major slump in the use of face-to-face meetings. Since remote workers will likely continue to hold virtual meetings with their clients in future, they will miss out on the benefits of holding in-person meetings.
For instance, meeting clients in person demonstrates that you value their time and business. In-client meetings are also key to building strong business-client relationships. Most clients feel as if they have connected with a brand better if they meet its representatives in person over communication over the phone or via email.
So, the lack of in-person client meetings in remote situations will be a disadvantage to both the employees and the companies they work for as virtual meetings do not meet all the needs that in-person client meetings do.
Yes, the work-from-home approach has its challenges. Nevertheless, there has never been more resources and tools at our disposal to tackle those challenges head-on. For instance:
6. Fortified conference systems
While sustaining a remote workforce means that employees have to work from different locations, there’s still need for remote workers to collaborate and feel connected with their colleagues and clients.
Although virtual meetings are not as effective in-person meetings, there are different remote working technologies that remote workers can use to collaborate with their colleagues and clients. Fortified conference systems such as Zoom and Cisco are extremely useful for conducting meetings with remote staff worldwide.
7. Affordable shared work spaces
For those employees who don’t wish to rent more space to create space for their home office, they can avoid rental costs by renting co-working space. Luckily, co-working spaces have grown in popularity ever since remote work started to gain momentum.
So, try to find affordable shared work spaces in your location. Once you find one, working from a shared work space will not only minimize the expenses we highlighted above, but it will also enable you to avoid feelings of isolation and loneliness.
8. Remote recruiting services
Many employers are also wondering how they will be able to hire new employees when their operations go virtual. Well, good news is that companies can hire better talent as they are no longer limited to one area. Thankfully, there are recruiting agencies that offer remote recruiting services, which are an efficient and cost-effective alternative to on-site recruiting.
So, what now?
If you’re an employee, determine if fully remote work is right for you.
After weighing the pros of remote work against the cons, you’re probably still wondering – is remote work right for me? To determine whether remote work is right for you as an employee, do the following:
- Try going to an office once or twice per week for some time and see if you enjoy it.
- Calculate the costs of having a home office, verses going in.
- If you’re sure you want to be fully remote, make it clear to your employer.
- Consider finding a new job that caters to your wishes—there’s no shame in it. Employees across the country are seeking better benefits and work/life balance.
If you’re an employer, make a plan.
- You should face the fact that remote work is here to stay.
- Consider a hybrid approach.
- We recommend an anonymous survey for your current employees.
- Offering remote options can help you attract more talent.
- Consider the pros/cons of keeping an office space beyond just how many people are coming in. Does it help establish your company culture? Is it in a great location that gets a lot of exposure in your market? Can you occasionally host clients or employee gatherings? Even with a switch to remote, there may be factors that make it worth keeping.
Here at Epic Placements, we’ve pretty much drawn the conclusion that the remote workforce is the future. And we’re here to help you with it!