Working remotely is on the rise, but is it here to stay?

Covid-19 has forced businesses to adopt remote working on a global scale, but will the move towards a more flexible work environment be adopted long term by small businesses and large scale corporations alike? Here are some of my thoughts...

In 2019 a survey revealed that 16% of global companies were already fully remote and that trend was growing quickly among start-ups and small businesses. But just one year later, the impacts of Covid-19 have caused major upheavals to the traditional work environment and huge sections of the global workforce have moved out of their offices and into their homes. These changes have been implemented with very little prior planning, red tape and risk assessment and with no definitive roadmap for how and when they will re-enter the workplace safely. Despite the devastating circumstances of a global pandemic, this sudden gear shift has proven that even the titans of the business world can be agile, dynamic and change policies in just a matter of weeks. So, what are the misconceptions of working remotely, why are some companies still reluctant to adopt flexible working and will we see a long term change post-pandemic?

Does remote working result in decreased productivity?

Without regular face-time with your employees, how can you prove they are working? This is one of the most common concerns when it comes to implementing a 'work from home' policy but it couldn't be further from the truth. In my experience, my own productivity increases when working from my home office, not only do I have more time to commit to work without the commute, I also avoid all the usual distractions of office life - be it small talk at the water cooler, meetings that could have been emails and that extra chatty co-worker who loves to tell you about what they had for breakfast, lunch and afternoon snack... but don't take my word for it, here are some other important opinions:

A study by Stanford, which followed the performance of 16,000 employees for 7 months, found a 13 percent increase in productivity from the people working at home.
86% of the employees say they’re more productive at their work-from-home jobs. (Owl Labs)

So it turns out remote workers do in fact wear pants and Netflix does not form part of their 9-5 routine... who knew!

What about communication and workplace culture?

Office camaraderie is important and can add to team morale, that is not in doubt, but you would be surprised at the potential benefits remote working can have on feelings of connection, loyalty and well-being if it is done right! By using technology designed to keep us connected - Zoom, Slack, Facetime and the hundreds of great project management tools on the market - you can find ways to feel like part of a team. Workplace culture is all about putting the well-being and happiness of your employees first which leads to staff retention, a happy workforce and, ultimately, happy clients. If these stats are anything to go by, you might find that remote working is a big win on the culture front!

Companies that allow remote work experience 25% less employee turnover than companies that do not allow remote work. (Owl Labs)
97% of workers say a job with flexibility would have a huge improvement or positive impact on their overall quality of life. (FlexJobs)
55% of remote workers would be likely to look for another job if they were no longer allowed to work remotely.(Owl Labs)
A study of 25,000 workers found that nearly 3 in 4 respondents say remote work helps them with work/life balance. (SHRM)

What are the costs of remote working?

Just imagine a world without office space... in central London, the average rent for just one square foot of office space is £112 per quarter! Not only would downsizing or scrapping your office space entirely save your business big money, but significant savings can also be passed onto employees. It's statistic time again:

Companies that offer even part-time remote work collectively save $44 billion per year (Fundera)
34% of U.S. workers would take a pay cut of up to 5% in order to work remotely. (TechJury)

And here's just one great example of the impact it can have on your personal life and expenses:

4 months of remote working:
  • £800 saved on train and travel fares.

  • £900 saved on food, coffees and unexplained little costs that seem to add up incrementally over time.

  • £200 saved on gym fees.

  • 270 hours not spent commuting.

  • 240 hours extra spent on a proper night’s sleep.

  • 100% of work projects delivered on time and on budget. (Linkedin)

Yes, there is no denying that remote working requires you to work a little harder to keep people connected, to ensure you have sufficient cybersecurity in place and a commitment to trust your employees and those you work with (not to mention investing in a comfortable office chair), but providing you stay focused on the benefits and avoid the pitfalls, then remote working can be a huge asset to you and your business. Not only can you choose from a much larger talent pool when it comes to hiring, but you can also contribute to the health of the people who work for you and our climate by reducing unnecessary travel and demand on resources.

Covid-19 has forced us all to reassess how we live. When we make it through to the other side of this paradigm-shattering event, I hope that we can find one or two silver linings in it all. I believe that an increase in remote working is the kind of silver lining that can benefit our working lives, our businesses and the world we live in for the long term.

If you are looking to take your team remote or you are struggling to structure your time between work and home-life and you would like some help implementing this new way of working then please get in touch!

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