“Remote employees. Distributed workforce. Telecommuting. Work from home. A virtual job. Work from anywhere.”
These terms, like many other words, have a broader impact and a new meaning for people this year.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of companies with employees who worked either 100% or partially remote had been growing significantly in recent years. Per Flexjobs.com, there was a 159% increase in remote work between 2005-2017. A 2019 survey conducted by a workspace provider, IWG, indicated that 80 percent of employees would opt to work for an employer who offered this flexibility over one who did not. To quote another term used quite a bit in 2020, remote work is becoming a “new normal” for many workers in the United States.
When the pandemic necessitated business shutdowns or modifications across the United States earlier this year, many employers were forced to temporarily close their offices or facilities to their employees. For many companies, it was their first experience having their employees work from their homes instead of onsite. According to research conducted at Stanford, 42% of the U.S. labor workforce is now working remotely on a full-time basis.
While many employers have embraced this change and are in no rush to revert back to having everyone in the office, there are others who are unhappy with it, and they wish to have their employees back in the office again. These employers are concerned about potential issues such as productivity slowdown, lack of oversight and management of employee activity, communication and team cohesion breakdown, and how to monitor technology use.
However, given the statistic mentioned earlier about 80% of potential hires choosing a flexible employer who is open to remote work over one that is not, employers need to think about the ramifications of being closed off to remote hiring. If companies aren’t receptive to allowing employees to work remotely, it will likely have a negative impact on attracting new talent, employee retention and morale, and ultimately the overall financial health of the organization.
How can employer concerns about remote working be addressed so they are open to the idea of a successful remote or partially remote workforce?
Here are some suggestions of practices employers can put in place to make remote work successful:
- Put together and implement a Remote Work Policy for employees to review and sign off on. This policy can address areas such as work expectations, communication with their team and manager, and technology use and guidelines.
- Investigate and consider investing in employee monitoring software. There are many options to consider, as there has been significant growth in this particular industry this year due to increased demand. However, companies should consider if going this route will imply that they do not trust their employees.
- Ensure that solid procedures are in place to track the hours for Non-Exempt workers.
- Look over the current Job Descriptions for all positions and ensure they are up-to-date and accurate. This is also an opportunity to modify accordingly for any parameters that have changed as a result of a role now being remote or partially remote.
Another factor that employers can focus on are the many positive aspects of remote work! They include:
- Access to a broader talent pool, companies will no longer be limited to those candidates within commuting distance of their offices.
- Less employee absences/tardiness/missed work due to illness, traffic or mass transit delays, inclement weather, doctor appointments, school closings.
- Monetary savings for company on real estate, electricity, office furniture, maintenance, cleaning and other costs related to onsite facilities.
- Less cars on the road commuting reduces traffic, and has benefits for the environment.
- Employees can be more productive at home due to having more control over their work environment: managing their own time, not having to factor in commute time to their work hours, reduced noise levels, less distractions, temperature of office.
- Employee stress levels are reduced by taking away commuting time and hassles, cost savings of taking away commute and not having to buy or make lunch, more work/life balance, more time for family and hobbies. When employees are less stressed, their level of satisfaction and loyalty to their employer greatly increases.
- The increase in resources for remote work including co-working space and video conferencing capabilities, which also saves money on business travel.
Despite the potential obstacles, it’s clear that remote work can be beneficial to both employees and employers in most areas of business and industries. While many of the current practices that are the result of the 2020 pandemic are likely temporary, remote work is likely only going to grow and is here to stay.
Click the link to view the recent blog: Leading with Purpose: Management’s Role in Acclimating New Employees or check back for more on human resources, payroll, insurance, and benefits.