The ongoing pandemic forced businesses to be creative and learn how to manage remote workers, but the arrival of COVID-19 vaccines are changing the landscape once again.
As rules for social distancing and mask wearing begin to ease in some parts of the country, business owners are faced with a big decision: Do they call workers back into the office or shift permanently to a remote setup?
When the pandemic struck, necessity became the catalyst for innovation. Savvy business owners learned to use video conferencing to unite their displaced teams and employed apps like Slack, WhatsApp, Google Hangouts, and others to communicate directly and instantly face-to-face with employees.
As remote work arrangements in the U.S. jumped from 5% of the pre-pandemic workforce to over 60%, time management, scheduling, and work-life balance also came into play.
Employers got a taste of what worked and what didn’t. But for the most part, the arrangements were largely intended to be temporary.
Now many employees who have been working remotely don’t want to return to the daily grind of commuting into an office when they have proved they can produce the same quality of work from home.
Business owners have to decide what happens next.
Here are five things business owners should consider when deciding if their company should go fully remote.
REMOTE WORK EXPANDS YOUR TALENT POOL
Business owners whose workforce is entirely remote can hire employees from anywhere. The world becomes your oyster when your talent pool is global. If the perfect person for your team lives in another country in a different time zone, you can still hire them.
Working with a staff that hails from different geographic areas can provide a kind of diversity that produces fresh ideas and different views, and enable you to attract and employ the best talent available.
OPERATING REMOTELY CAN SIGNIFICANTLY REDUCE OVERHEAD COSTS
How much do you pay a month to rent or own your office space? The pandemic showed us that flashy bricks-and-mortar buildings are not what make a company great.
Business owners who switch to a fully remote business model can use the money they save on office space to further invest in employees, technology, and training to gain a competitive edge.
One study has shown that employers would save an average of $11,000 per employee if workers were allowed to work from home even half of the time. The primary savings come from increased productivity, lower real estate costs, reduced absenteeism and turnover, and better disaster preparedness.
But for some CEOs, giving up all office space is a hard sell. Some business owners find intrinsic value in a visible storefront that is visible to the public, or the collaboration that comes from being physically accessible.
RESULTS WILL MATTER MORE THAN CLOCKING IN, AND PRODUCTIVITY MAY INCREASE
Pre-pandemic, managers closely monitored employees’ comings and goings. Arrivals, departures, and breaks were closely scrutinized. The pandemic has shown that such watchfulness is often unnecessary. Many workers have proven they can manage their time and do their jobs from home.
Additionally, worker productivity is reportedly up. According to one study, remote employees work 1.4 more days more per month than their office-based counterparts, for a net result of three additional weeks of work per year. The bottom line? Working from home can be comfortable and profitable.
FEWER EMPLOYEES WILL GET SICK
Before the pandemic, employees were packed into workspaces where they shared germs with everyone with whom they came into contact.
When flu season arrived, employees dropped like flies as coughs and colds were passed around the office. But the coronavirus pandemic mandated an alternative reality and taught us there is a different way that works.
The pandemic restrictions kept employees from catching COVID-19, but they also reduced the occurrence of contagious illnesses like the flu and the common cold. Companies are more productive overall when employees take fewer sick days and remain healthy.
MANY WORK INTERRUPTIONS CEASE
Company productivity dips when employees fail to report for work because their children are sick, their cars break down, or bad weather snarls the roads. A remote workplace eliminates those excuses to forgo a day of work to handle personal business.
Employers who decide to go fully remote have already undergone a test run and largely found that it works. In addition, studies are confirming that remote work options can result in greater productivity and a more palatable work/life balance for team members. Plus it is easier than ever to stay connected thanks to video calling and a range of communication apps.
Moving forward, business owners who resist remote options without valid reasons are likely to face employee pushback and even risk losing good talent. The importance of flexibility may be among the biggest lessons learned from the pandemic, and an aspect of a job that is most valued by the team.