Remote working has now become commonplace across the world, with many working remotely for the first time this year, predominantly as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the UK alone, almost half of all British workers worked from home for at least some of the week in April 2020, according to data published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Of those in the UK who were in employment working remotely, a staggering 86.0% did so due to coronavirus.
Meanwhile, in the US, statistics show approximately 62% of employed Americans telecommuted during the pandemic. Comparatively, just 25% did so in 2018 (source: McKinsey).
But whilst the coronavirus crisis has meant many employers and employees worldwide have had to adapt to new working practices (this includes using work from home software for the first time) is this likely to continue?
Yes, for the foreseeable future at the very least. This is largely down to:
- No COVID-19 vaccine becoming readily available yet
- Safeguarding employees safety
- The inconvenience of changing office environments
- Changing attitudes to remote working
Below is what we will be covering in this article. Feel free to skip ahead to the section most relevant to you at any time:
Working Remotely as a Safety Measure
One of the main challenges of introducing employees back into the workplace is the issue of safety, which may well be one of the reasons why businesses continue to work remotely. With a lack of available vaccine for COVID-19, this presents a safety challenge for employers – how can you guarantee the safety of staff at work? A June 2020 study by ONS suggests it’s a concern for employees – 15% surveyed said they were concerned about their health and safety at work.
Changing Office Setups
Having to change office setups to accommodate social distancing and safety measures could be another reason why many continue to work from home.
For large companies, having to entirely transform the office to accommodate a post-pandemic world, could be a particularly costly problem. For example, without a vaccine readily available, companies who want their staff to return to the office will need to think about:
- How many staff members they allow in the office
- How many people are allowed in the office at any one time
- Whether the office layout needs to be rearranged to ensure adequate social distancing
- If the airflow is sufficient
- How frequently the office is cleaned
- Needing to provide disinfection products to employees (hand sanitiser, etc.)
The inconvenience of such measures is likely to encourage many companies to continue with remote working practices, at the very least until it’s possible to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
And with the utilisation of work from home software now becoming standard (with workforces finding them easy to implement) this will likely facilitate the rise of remote working.
Changing Attitudes to Remote Working
As previously mentioned, many employees during the pandemic worked from home for the very first time in their working lives – and developed a taste for it. For example, recent McKinsey research shows that a whopping 80% of people surveyed during the pandemic said they enjoyed working remotely.
This is likely going to have an impact on people’s working expectations in the months (or even years) to come, as telecommuting as an employee perk was already a big draw for staff prior to the pandemic. For example, a study showed that 72% of employers said offering remote working opportunities had a significant impact on employee retention.
The Benefits of Remote Working for Employees
In a recent study by getAbstract, over 43% of people said they would like to telecommute more often, following the pandemic. It’s not hard to see why. Telecommuting provides workers with a number of benefits, including:
- Flexible schedules: greater choice over their working hours, enabling them to structure their day as they wish
- No commuting: less travelling and greater productivity due to not needing to spend time travelling back and forth
- Spend more time with family: in a CNBC/Change Research survey, 47% said time spent usually commuting is now spent with their family instead
The Benefits of Remote Working for Employers
Telecommuting is gaining popularity amongst employers and employees alike, especially since the coronavirus crisis. But what exactly are the main benefits of having a remote workforce?
- Fewer costs: remotely working saves costs for employers (and employees), making it a win-win situation. It removes the need to spend money on renting or purchasing office space, office supplies, equipment etc.
- Expand talent pool: companies do not have to limit themselves to hiring talent in the local area. When you have a remote team, you can hire the right staff from anywhere in the world.
- More productivity: whilst it’s a common fear among businesses that productivity will be compromised if staff are not in the office working, statistics show the opposite. 41% of employees stated being more productive working at home than they had been in a traditional work environment.
- Better employee health: if employees are stressed out, this will greatly impact the work they produce. 82% of telecommuters state being less stressed on average than office workers, according to a recent study.
How to Manage a Remote Team Successfully
Look After Your Team
By using work from home software (such as the Working Den platform), that takes a holistic approach to remote employee wellbeing.
Why is this important? By looking after the health of your remote staff, you can help to reduce absenteeism, as well as increase staff retention. Happy staff equals a happy company in the long term by reducing rehiring costs at a later date.
The Working Den platform includes features that not only help to boost remote employees productivity (such as the productivity timer, which follows the renowned Pomodoro technique) but also maintain high levels of wellbeing. For example, features include:
- Reduces eye strain problems: employees Receive a gentle reminder on their laptop or computer every 20 minutes, encouraging them to take a 20-second break from the screen. Known as the 20-20-20 rule by optometrists, it can help prevent eye fatigue.
- Prevents body stiffness and pain: With daily stretch videos specifically designed with remote workers in mind.
- Checks for burnout: With the platform’s burnout test. Created by renowned organisational psychologist and wellness coach Aylen Gomez Ovejero and research psychologist Sofija Vojvodic, the test is inspired by Working Den’s co-founder Daniel’s own struggles and lack of support with crippling burnout when starting out as a freelancer.
Simply put: investing in your remote employees now can help to alleviate potentially much bigger problems later.
It can be difficult to maintain the same levels of communication with remote workforces as you would in an office environment. Especially, if employers have not outlined communication expectations from the very beginning. This can cause problems further down the line, and may cause disagreements.
However, it can be easily tackled by following our tips below:
- Consider using instant messaging tools (such as Slack) for daily communication
- Establish regular work check-ins for task updates
- Think about using a project management app (such as Trello or Asana) to effectively manage workflows
Outcomes Are Important, Not Hours
It can be tempting to try and micromanage remote staff, out of the fear that they may not work efficiently otherwise. But this is likely to have the opposite effect – removing motivation entirely.
The focus should be on outcomes and trusting your staff to produce the work expected of them. Managing a remote workforce requires flexibility. Should the problem arise that a remote employee fails to consistently meet deadlines, the issue can be tackled head-on, but in the mean-time – have faith that your staff will do the right thing, as this will encourage them to do better work.