Although there was a lot of skepticism at first about allowing employees to work remotely, especially in terms of what can be achieved when teams work virtually without actual face-to-face interaction, organizations soon realized that telework doesn’t bring with it a lack of productivity and that if they leveraged the benefits of virtual teams, they could actually get more things done, without sacrificing the company culture or employees’ work-life balance.
That being said, remote work isn’t a universal solution either. Each company has its own needs and, if planning was a problem when teams worked together at the office, chances are that it will become an even bigger problem when they move online. When addressed properly, remote work can free your organization from many costs and boost its agility, but it would be unrealistic to see remote work as the band-aid that can fix every business problem. Like most things, remote work comes both with opportunities and challenges, and it’s important to have a clear overview of both before you come to a decision.
According to Microsoft research, people who work from home at least some of the time are 22% happier with their jobs. At the same time, companies that have successfully transitioned to remote or hybrid work schedules said that this option offers essential perks, such as:
Access to a wider pool of talent
When working exclusively from the office, you are limiting yourself to the local workforce – which isn’t a problem if your company is based in a well-known business hub, but could be a challenge if it’s based in a small city. By hiring a remote team, possibilities are endless. You can hire people from anywhere in the country or even the world. One team member can work remotely from the UK, another one from India. You can hire employees that meet the job description to the letter, which ultimately translates to shorter training times and higher quality services.
Lower business expenses
The total cost of an employee who works at the office is much higher than their salary. You’re also paying for the office space, office furniture and equipment, snacks, and much more. In time, all of this can add up, which can be a real problem for startups that are already struggling to balance costs. But, by hiring remote employees, you no longer have to worry about costs other than the salary. You don’t have to worry that your current office is too small to accommodate extra people, that commercial rents are getting higher, or that you have to buy new desks and chairs. Once you hire remote workers, they’ll get started right away, allowing you to meet your bottom line.
Remote work isn’t a pandemic thing. Some companies allowed it before 2020, but there was a general skepticism towards it. Managers believed that remote workers weren’t that productive, that they slacked off, and that projects would be delayed. But none of that happened. According to an extensive study, productivity levels were actually higher during the pandemic because workers no longer wasted time commuting, and they didn’t have the usual office distractions. Remote workers also worked 1.4 more days than their office-based counterparts and found it easier to manage their time.
Remote work has its perks, but it’s not perfect. To enjoy the best it has to offer, you also need to manage its potential downsides:
Things can easily get disorganized. Even though your team works remotely, processes such as time tracking, expense tracking, client billing, and project analysis still need to work together like well-oiled cogs in a machine. However, what many managers discovered during the transition to remote work is that things can easily get disorganized, leading to delays and misunderstandings. To avoid that, use tools like Timesheet Portal – it’s a timesheets solution for businesses that can improve efficiency in your virtual office so that you can speed up processes.
There will be communication barriers. Physical closeness doesn’t guarantee that all your employees will get along or that they’ll be in sync. However, it’s generally easier to communicate in person than virtually, where emails can get deleted by mistake, and the tone of a message can be misunderstood. There’s also the problem of time zones or employees who work at different hours, so if you want something to be done on short notice or the entire team to get together for a video conference, you’ll need to have excellent time management skills.
Building a corporate culture will take more effort. When employees don’t see each other every day, it will be harder for them to be engaged with the company’s culture. Working from home, interactions with team members can easily become formalities, and employees can forget about the goals that the company is striving towards. To address this challenge, schedule time for (virtual) team building sessions where employees can get to know each other better and one-on-one time with managers, where they can voice their concerns.
How to make sure your remote workers stay engaged
Remote work has its benefits, but to reap all of them, you need to adapt it to your organization’s unique needs. Apart from making the most out of business process management tools, you should be flexible and try a few things until you find the recipe that works for you. Going 100% remote might not always be a good idea. In fact, many companies find that a combination of in-office and remote work is best. Also, remember to ask for feedback from your team from time to time. Ask what they love most about remote work – what works best for them and what could be improved to boost communication and efficiency. When you don’t see each other face to face, it’s easy for managers to be out of the loop, but it’s easy to fix this by scheduling regular meetings over Zoom or Skype.