Evaluating if Permanent Remote Work is Worth It
The pandemic has left an indelible mark on the priorities of many industries. There are always going to be negative consequences to a public health emergency, but it also allows businesses to examine whether their methods of working really are best suited to them, their customers, and the contemporary climate. A popular area for change and discussion at the moment is remote operations.
While working from home has been an immediate solution for some enterprises, for many this has developed into a more permanent part of the business. One recent report found that those businesses surveyed expect their number of permanently remote staff to double in 2021.
Indeed, there will be many staff, customers, and even industry peers that find this is both a more positive and responsible way to operate. Yet this presents a quandary for some enterprises, who are uncertain whether this approach is beneficial for them — particularly those companies who emphasize in-person interactions.
It’s not an easy decision to make, and there are various elements to take into account. Let’s look into some of the aspects that should factor into your evaluation of permanent remote operations.
One of the reasons that more businesses are moving to make remote operations permanent is that even those that hadn’t previously considered it an option are finding it beneficial. Some of the key advantages that are worth taking into consideration in your evaluation include:
- Improved Diversity
Having a workforce that operates from their own homes is not just convenient, it opens your business up to talent from around the planet. It minimizes location bias, allowing you to benefit from contributors from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds.
It provides new cultural perspectives that can improve your connections to a wider demographic of customers. Having a more diverse workforce is also known to be a driver of innovation, as you have a team that doesn’t all think or act from a culturally, educationally, or economically homogeneous position.
- Lower Overheads
Rent, utilities, insurance, cleaning — it all adds up, and it all eats into profits. You’ll generally find that few if any of these apply to businesses that have a remote workforce. It’s important to note that remote employees have needs, though.
You should be open to negotiating with your employees for the provision of elements such as office equipment and technology, and you’re likely to still need liability insurance as remote workers qualify for compensation if they are injured on the job. That said, you are likely to make significant savings.
- Employee Satisfaction
Yes, in-person teams can be good for morale. But so do flexibility, comfortable surroundings, and not having to spend hours each week on that commute into the office. Workers who operate remotely tend to have a higher rate of satisfaction in their jobs, as — when done correctly — can be more conducive to a healthy work-life balance.
In turn, this satisfaction positively impacts productivity and boosts employee retention.
While there are benefits to remote operations, that’s not to say that it is entirely without challenges. It is certainly not suitable for every organization.
It’s worth considering the cons in a way that both aids your decision-making and helps you prevent disruption if you decide to adopt remote practices in the future.
Issues can include:
- More Complex Administration
Onboarding and payroll for employees in a single location tends to be simpler. Indeed, when setting up payroll for a remote workforce from diverse locations, you also have to take into consideration the legal issues of doing so — there may be taxes that you need to collect based on their state residence or differing social security payments for the country they’re working from.
This is not an insurmountable obstacle; some tools and processes can optimize these elements to suit remote teams. However, it’s an important additional responsibility that you should bear in mind.
- Weaker Team Culture
One of the reasons some businesses prefer in-person operations is that they can feel more naturally conducive to a close team culture. All the workers are interacting in the same space, and there are generally more opportunities for them to forge deeper bonds with one another and the company.
Remote operations create more distance between team members and leadership, with a reliance on utilizing technological tools to communicate rather than having easy conversations. That’s not to say that it is not possible to have a strong and compassionate culture in remote teams, it just takes additional effort and planning.
Preparing for the Adjustment
Whether you’ve already decided to go ahead and adopt permanent remote practices, or you’re still uncertain, it’s important to consider how your business can adjust effectively.
There are some preparations that, with some additional investment and attention, can help you and your remote team to succeed.
- Onboarding and Training
The process of guiding new hires through remote practices is not necessarily the same as in person. Alongside sharing the usual handbooks, you also need to prepare documents that help them to understand what your expectations are for their productivity levels and working activities as a remote employee.
You must take time to discuss how they can fit into the overall company culture while not being physically present, too. It can be prudent to set up remote contract sharing and signing platforms.
You may need to establish ahead of time what tools you will use to guide workers through training — will you be screen sharing as you explain processes, or will you create a series of video explainers beforehand?
This is probably the most important element to prepare for any transition to remote practices. Without reliable, easy-to-use tools that are appropriate for your activities, there is likely to be serious disruption.
Wherever possible, utilize software that encompasses as many of your operating procedures as possible — platforms such as Microsoft Teams and Asana allow video calls, text chat, and project management in the same place.
Don’t just find tools for communications, but formalize protocols to ensure everyone is using them in ways that not only allow them to be productive but also strengthen team bonds.
Remote operations are an increasingly popular part of our business landscape. However, before leaping in, it’s important to consider how the relative pros and cons of these practices can impact your company.
Knowing what aspects of practices can be adapted to meet your needs, and some attention to preparations can set you off on solid footing.