As lockdown restrictions ease and businesses begin their recovery from the devastating effects of coronavirus, it is clear that life is going to be different. Resilience is the new buzzword with companies who survived the pandemic bolstering their continuity plans to ensure they get through a second wave.
There are some positives to come out of the situation we found ourselves in. Many organisations discovered they could implement change quickly; air pollution has reduced; and employees working from home have benefited from a better work/life balance.
Despite being forced to implement remote working and generally being unprepared for it, companies and employees have realised it has many benefits. Remote working is one of the incidental outputs of coronavirus, which will become a permanent part of the way we work in the future.
One of the most attractive benefits of remote working for both SMEs and their employees is the cost savings it brings. If fewer people are coming to a physical workplace, companies can downsize and save money on rent and overheads.
They can also save on unscheduled absences. Employees who work remotely and can be flexible with when they work won’t have to take time off for childcare emergencies or appointments.
Employees will save on travel and incidental work costs such as buying lunch and coffees while at work. Their clothing costs and dry cleaning costs also reduce as they won’t have to buy a work wardrobe.
With workplace distractions like chatty colleagues and back-to-back meetings removed, productivity improves. Employees working from home are affected less by the negative aspects of a working environment like politics and being micromanaged, which also increases productivity.
Not having to commute has a significant effect on productivity. Having more free time means employees can adopt a healthier lifestyle and give them more energy, which has a knock-on effect on work productivity. People are also more likely to start work earlier.
Remote working also reduces the spread of bugs and sickness between employees, so they take fewer sick days.
Happier, more engaged employees
Remote working is not a new concept. Traditionally it has been a perk enjoyed by those in more senior positions rather than a general working practice. Even before coronavirus hit, remote working was highly sought after. Research shows that 54% of employees would leave a job for one that lets them work remotely.
The primary reason for engaging employees is to drive better business outcomes. Engaged employees are less likely to leave a business, resulting in reduced hiring costs and improved staff retention.
Employees are most engaged when their development and relationship needs are being met. Remote working makes employees feel empowered and trusted. This increases loyalty and performance levels.
Many people have been able to redress their work/life balance during the pandemic, which has a massive effect on engagement. Reduced commutes have given them back time to exercise and see more of their families. Being able to work flexible hours has taken the pressure off regarding childcare. A bonus of this for employers is they’re able to provide a better service to their customers during hours they’re not usually available.
Access to a broader talent pool
Having a remote workforce opens up a wider talent pool for organisations. With no geographical barriers in place, organisations can employ people from all locations. They will also be able to hire people who previously struggled to either travel to a workplace or need to work flexible hours. For example, caregivers or people with disabilities.
Employing a more diverse workforce also improves employers’ reputations and helps attract talent to their organisations.
A hybrid approach to remote working
It is unlikely that there will be a wholesale move to remote working. Many businesses will adopt a hybrid approach where employees can choose to work flexibly between home and the office.
The panic of setting up remote working infrastructure is gone, with home offices already set up and working practices established. Children will be at back at school so parents will be able to work without being interrupted.
However, some people don’t benefit from working from home. Those who rely on work for social interaction are likely to feel isolated, which will have a detrimental effect on their mental health. The line between home and work can become blurred for some employees. When this happens, their productivity reduces, and they risk burning out.
Finding the right balance productivity with employee wellbeing will enable businesses to operate successfully. Ultimately, flexible and remote working is effective, and both employers and employees will want to continue to reap its benefits.