Should remote work be a permanent strategy for your business?

Should remote work be a permanent strategy for your business?

The COVID-19 crisis forced several businesses to temporarily shift to a work from home (WFH) arrangement to stay operational. In June 2020, 42% of the US labor force was working remotely full time.

After several months of telecommuting and no clear end in sight to the pandemic, some companies are considering permanently adopting this work setup. If your company is also undergoing the same deliberation, then this blog may help you decide. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of permanent WFH.

What are the pros of permanent remote work?

When done right, a permanent WFH arrangement can help companies stay resilient, save money, and boost productivity.

1. Telecommuting can improve business resilience
The pandemic revealed how a flexible work arrangement is crucial to business survival. This setup allowed companies to service their customers even if their staff couldn’t go to the office. It also allowed employers to keep their staff safe from the virus. Permanent remote work can therefore help businesses weather similar crises in the future with minimal disruption.

2. The company can save on physical office-related expenses
A permanent WFH strategy means doing away with costs related to rent, utilities, supplies, furniture, and office maintenance and security. According to Global Workplace Analytics, the average employer can save up $10,000 per worker annually in real estate costs alone.

3. WFH arrangements have been proven to boost employee productivity
A Stanford study on remote work showed that:

  • Remote workers find it easier to concentrate and are less likely to get distracted at home.
  • WFH employees complete their full shift versus their office-based counterparts who sometimes show up late to work.
  • Remote workers take fewer sick and vacation leaves and shorter breaks.

In fact, Mercer’s 2020 flexible working survey revealed that 94% of employers said that company productivity stayed the same or was higher than it was before the pandemic, even though many employees were working from home.

4. Remote work can enhance the quality of life of many workers
Staff won’t have to suffer tiring and costly commutes to and from the office with a permanent WFH setup. What’s more, remote work offers flexibility, which is especially beneficial for employees caring for children or elderly or sick family members.

What are the cons of permanent remote work?

A permanent WFH arrangement may become problematic for some employees, certain projects and processes, and the company’s cybersecurity.

1. Work-life balance could suffer
For some employees, working at home blurs the line between work and home life. Household chores, family responsibilities, and distractions abound at home, which could negatively impact their productivity.

2. Teams may experience difficulty in collaboration and communication
Virtual meetings and instant messaging may be enough to keep everyone updated and on the same page. However, there are times when face-to-face interaction is critical, especially in some collaborative work. It's easy to misread body language or miss social cues during virtual meetings, making miscommunication very likely.

3. The decentralized work arrangement may make the company more vulnerable to cyberattacks and other cyberthreats
Remote workers access corporate resources using their home networks and personal devices, which are likely to have insufficient cybersecurity measures. This leaves your company data vulnerable to various threats.

Further reading: What COVID-19 taught us about cybersecurity

Should you make WFH permanent?

Weighing the above mentioned pros and cons is a good starting point toward determining whether you should make WFH permanent or not. Ultimately, however, the decision should be based on the unique needs of your company.

Look back at your WFH experience. What challenges did your employees encounter? Were your managers able to address these adequately? How did remote work affect your company culture? You must determine changes and investments you’ll need to make to improve your permanent WFH setup’s chances of success.

Gauge your staff’s interest in a permanent remote work setup. Is their current home situation conducive to work? If not, how can you help them? How proficient are they in the collaboration tools and digital technologies that the company will use for permanent WFH? Make sure your employees are willing and able to shift to the new work arrangement because at the end of the day, its success will rely heavily on them.

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