Recent reports from Pfizer suggest that their latest COVID-19 vaccine is more than 90% effective at preventing infections. With news of several imminent vaccines in the works, many economists and business minds are posing the question, “What will this mean for remote work?”
Working from home and the technologies supporting this process saw a sharp increase in the wake of COVID-19. The pandemic pushed an estimated 80% of businesses to implement work-from-home policies, and software like Zoom and Slack became integral to organizations’ internal communication.
So will life and subsequently work return to business-as-usual, or is remote work here for good?
Many Believe Remote Work Is Here to Stay
Former IBM CEO Ginni Rometty was recently asked about this exact topic by CNBC anchor Karen Tso. She responded that she “actually doesn’t think these technology trends are going to reverse themselves.”
Although she does expect to return to some semblance of normalcy following the vaccine, “… a number of these things in the hybrid way of working I believe will remain, and the digital acceleration will continue because people have now seen what is possible.”
Many organizations seem to agree with Rometty, as 67% of businesses that have added remote work policies expect to keep them in place moving forward—some permanently.
Businesses Will Continue to Reap the Benefits of Remote Work
Being forced to adapt to remote work as a society has enabled us to recognize its many benefits. As organizations around the world have evolved through the pandemic to overcome the obstacles of implementing remote work, they’ve broken through whatever inhibitions existed previously.
Further, the main fear of remote work from businesses—lost productivity—has proven negligible, with reports suggesting an average loss of 1% in productivity from working from home.
On the other hand, organizations are seeing some of the many benefits of remote work.
- Access to a global talent pool: With the infrastructure to support work-from-home positions, employers gain access to a larger pool of applicants, which can improve competency, diversity, and hiring costs.
- Reduces overhead expenses: Overhead—rent, utilities, admin expenses, insurance, etc.—is typically the largest monthly expense for most businesses. As businesses moved to a remote workforce, they saw many of these costs drop drastically. No longer did they need to pay as much for electricity with employees working from home, and stocking the office pantry with snacks was no longer needed. These subtle savings add up over the course of a year, and many businesses are now recognizing the positive effect of remote work on their bottom lines.
- Improves employee satisfaction: Employers are seeing benefits from the move to remote work, but the clear winners are their employees who have more flexibility, reduced transportation time and costs, and increased freedom. One study from FlexJobs found that 57% of remote workers were more satisfied with their jobs while working remotely and experienced 80% less stress than in the office. Flexible schedules and remote work opportunities can be an excellent way to improve employee satisfaction and is an additional—non-financial—incentive for your staff.
More Growing Pains to Come
While it’s clear that remote work will play a role moving forward, there are still plenty of hurdles ahead. Many industries and business owners are already struggling with this transition—even if they see its value.
For instance, an apparel manufacturer selling T-shirts online will need staff physically on-site to print the blank shirts, fold and bag the finished products, and then ship to customers—however, they may also have a team of employees to handle the website, online marketing, or financials who could work remotely without issue. How can a business owner create an equal workplace that allows some—but not all—employees the benefit of remote work?
Balancing staff and employee expectations will be a hurdle that many businesses face moving forward, and if they offer flexible working opportunities, they may struggle with crafting a fair policy.
In addition to policy-related issues, many companies will have growing pains when adopting new systems and technologies. Zoom, Slack, Google Drive, and many other “remote-friendly” technologies require educating, training, and process-development. Once teams get the hang of the new solutions, it’s a breeze—but getting them up-to-speed will take time and commitment across the board.
Managing a business comes with a lot of hurdles—especially in 2020. While working from home is a solution to safety concerns related to COVID-19, you’ll likely need to find solutions to various other concerns related to the transition.
Still Many Uncertainties
Remote work and the technologies that make it possible have been a lifesaver for many businesses. As we look ahead, keep in mind that there is still a lot of uncertainty surrounding the vaccines and timeline for distribution.
If you’ve implemented successful work-from-home policies, consider keeping them as long as your business continues to see value. If you’ve yet to try remote work, look into it—you may find that it offers benefits to your bottom-line and your employees’ health and happiness.