Should remote work be the new normal?
One of the ways Covid-19 changed the world was in redefining how we approach our working life. As the surging pandemic sent most of the workers home from their physical places of work, companies had to shift their focus to remote work wherever possible. For some sectors and industries, it is impossible or impractical. However, we discovered that many jobs were adaptable to remote work, and it could even improve the employee experience. Once we had all the right processes, technology, and systems in place, we discovered that remote working possibilities were far greater than we could have imagined.
Since we have returned to ‘normality’, whether or not companies want their employees back in the office full time or not has varied greatly. Some organizations decided to go fully remote while others have stuck with a hybrid model. And some companies are now saying they want a return to pre-pandemic working conditions with all employees back full time. Conversely, many employees are keen to keep working either remotely or on a hybrid basis: the call for workers to return to the office has not been met entirely with enthusiasm.
Remote working has brought many benefits to our lives and our environment, both for employees and employers and it’s what many employees want. Can it be the new normal, and why?
Remote work during the pandemic
At the start of the pandemic, remote work was difficult for many. Companies and individuals were often not ideally set up for it, so it was a steep learning curve. Some organizations already had the necessary technology in place and could supply their employees with hardware and software needed to work efficiently and effectively, giving them a huge advantage.
One of their biggest challenges was supporting employees who may not have had ideal home-working conditions. Some found it harder to adapt than others. Many had connectivity and technology issues, no quiet, dedicated place to work, or children to home school, for example. Organizations with little or no technology in place to enable a smooth transition to remote working prior to the pandemic struggled.
Over time, however, people and organizations adapted. Some found the lack of social connection or frustrating working conditions difficult to cope with, but we also discovered the many benefits remote working could offer.
With the pandemic behind us, the lack of social connection is now less of a factor: we may not be interacting with work colleagues in person, but we can still spend time with other people apart from work. Remote work is, and will be, an increasingly significant part of everyday life.
What are the benefits of remote work for employers?
A greater talent pool to choose from
Remote work allows companies to tap into a larger talent pool, as they are not limited to hiring employees living near their physical office location. Therefore, they can hire the most suitable talent, regardless of where they are in the world. This can lead to a more diverse and skilled workforce.
If employees have the flexibility to work where they prefer, they can potentially experience fewer distractions and interruptions. If employees can concentrate better and focus more, their efficiency and productivity is likely to be higher. They may also end up working longer hours if they can cut out the commuting time from their day (within the limit of their schedule). Owl Labs found that ‘55% of employees work more hours when they’re working remotely’.
Better employee retention and morale
Many employees are saying they value the opportunity to work remotely and will actively seek this when looking for work. A Good Hire survey of remote work in 2022 found that ‘68% of Americans would choose remote working options over in-office work’ and ‘74% of Americans need a continued remote working arrangement to stay at their current job’.
Offering remote work as an option is now often seen as a highly desirable part of the employee experience and can improve employee satisfaction and morale. This can lead to increased loyalty and retention. It is much more cost effective to keep an employee than to hire a new one. Gallup research found ‘the cost of replacing an individual employee can range from one-half to two times the employee's annual salary -- and that's a conservative estimate’.
Not only can a company save money by retaining employees rather than having to rehire, remote work can also lead to reduced overheads. For example, if your employees work entirely remotely you will not need office space and all its associated costs. If your workforce is mainly remote and employees occasionally come into the office for meetings, you can reduce the amount of space you need.
After all, you will no longer need a desk, computer, chair, and so on per person as not everyone will be in the office at the same time. You will not need as many printers, or as much stationery, either. Utility costs will be lower.
We saw the damage not being able to access the office can cause when the pandemic started. Remote work can serve as a business continuity strategy, enabling organizations to keep their operations going unhindered when there are unexpected problems. Natural disasters, pandemics, and other emergencies can disrupt normal office operations: remote work gives companies the flexibility to continue as usual, even in highly challenging circumstances.
Increased employee autonomy and engagement
Remote work can give employees more autonomy and control over where, when, and how they work. This increased autonomy can improve the employee experience, leading to greater engagement and job satisfaction. Employees who feel empowered are more likely to be motivated and committed to their work, resulting in better productivity and performance.
Better environmental credentials
Remote working practices help with environmental sustainability. With fewer employees commuting to a physical office location, and a smaller workplace using fewer resources, companies can reduce their carbon footprint. They can also demonstrate corporate social responsibility by promoting eco-friendly work practices amongst their remote (and in-office) workers.
What are the benefits of remote work for employees?
Remote work gives employees the flexibility to choose where and when they work, and this can lead to an improved work-life balance. Employees can work from their preferred location, whether it is at home, a co-working space, or a coffee shop, for example. This can be important for those with young children or elderly relatives to care for, for example.
Better work-life balance
When employees have the flexibility to better integrate their work and personal lives, such as caring for family, pursuing hobbies, or even just being able to go for a walk in nature when they choose, this can lead to an improved work-life balance, greater efficiency, and improved overall wellbeing.
There is a lot of time and stress associated with commuting, and remote work also gives more opportunities for physical activity and healthier food choices. This helps contribute to improved physical and mental health.
Remote work can lead to increased productivity, and this is good for employees as well as employers. Without the distractions of a traditional office environment, employees can often create a more ideal work environment for themselves and therefore focus better on their tasks while working at their own pace.
Research by RingCentral found that 51% of people they surveyed in 2022 felt ‘more productive when working from home’. They are also cutting out any commuting time that might otherwise be necessary. If an employee can get their work done with greater efficiency, they can end up with more spare time to themselves, or they can produce more for their company.
Increased job satisfaction
Remote working allows employees to have more control over their work environment and schedule which can help increase job satisfaction. Reducing the time and money spent commuting - and all the associated stress - can also contribute to overall job satisfaction.
Professional development opportunities
Remote workers may have access to a wider range of learning and networking opportunities than might be available for workers based in an office. These include online training, webinars, and virtual conferences, which can aid professional growth and career advancement.
Remote work can also expand job opportunities for employees, as it eliminates geographical constraints. They can work for companies located in places much further away than normal commuting distance. They can potentially work in different cities, countries, or even continents: this gives people access to a larger job market and more diverse career options.
What improvements would we see in the workplace with remote work as the new normal?
Increased flexibility for employers and employees
Remote work means that employees can have greater flexibility in terms of when and where they work. It also gives employers more flexibility in who they employ and on what basis. Geographical location need no longer be a constraint and employers do not have to worry about finding the right person in the right location for the job they need done.
If employers need 24-hour cover for certain business areas it may mean they no longer need a night shift: they can find employees in a different time zone who can work a day shift instead, for example.
Greater opportunities for employment
Having access to a wider talent pool allows employers to hire employees from different locations, providing access to diverse skills, experiences, and perspectives. This can lead to increased creativity and innovation in the workplace.
Equally, employees have better employment prospects as they can apply for jobs much further afield. They are not forced to live in specific area or type of place to be able to do certain jobs. Not everyone wants to live in a large city, or in a particular area only because of their job.
Remote work can eliminate the time and stress of commuting and give employees the opportunity to work in their preferred environment. This can lead to greater efficiency and improved productivity. Employees can spend less time travelling to meetings while producing the same amount for their employer, or they could work the same hours and achieve more in the time.
Cost savings can be made by both employees and employers with remote work. Employees can save on commuting costs, and other things related to going into an office, like smart work clothes and takeaway food and drinks.
Employers can save money on things like premises, utilities, and employee expenses. Reduced spending will lead to increased disposable income for employees and improved profitability for employers.
Remote work can provide opportunities for employees who might have challenges with commuting or working in a traditional office environment. This can lead to a more inclusive workplace where employees from diverse backgrounds can participate fully. Again, this can lead to a greater pool of talent being available and improve the chances of creativity and innovation in the workforce.
Reduced environmental impact
There are lower carbon emissions associated with remote work. With people travelling less and a smaller amount of office space and other resources required, the carbon footprint of both individual employees and their employer should be reduced.
Improved business continuity
Remote work gives businesses the ability to continue operations during times of crisis, such as natural disasters or pandemics. Organizations can continue to work as normal which is important for their profitability, and employees will not risk losing pay because they are unable to perform their job outside the office.
Increasing productivity with remote teams
As long as employers and employees have access to the right tools to improve productivity and teamwork when they are working remotely, there is no reason why both should not benefit and thrive.
Here at Klaxoon we have tools like our online whiteboard and useful Templates to help remote and hybrid workers become more efficient. Why not check out our resources to see how we can help your business work better?