The ability to work remotely used to be considered a job perk or a privilege. No longer a nice-to-have, the ability to work remotely has saved many businesses during the pandemic and is quickly becoming the new normal. Luckily, there are many benefits of working from home, turning this necessary endeavour into something productive and lucrative for all.
The option for remote working positions was already growing in popularity pre-COVID-19 as people started to put more of a focus on work/life balance. The pandemic shone a light on the need for adaptable workplaces, however. What seemed like an annoyance, or a weird shift for those used to the traditional office set-up, is now catching on.
A CNBC and Change Research survey of US swing states found that twenty-four per cent of the people surveyed would continue working entirely or more from home, with sixty per cent claiming they were as or more productive when compared to the office.
Planning the Commute from Bed to Desk
One of the primary benefits of working from home is seen in our wallets and amounts of free time. As one UK-based worker noted after four months of remote working:
- £800 was saved on train and travel fares
- 270 hours saved not commuting
- 240 extra hours spent on a proper night’s sleep
The hours saved in this situation equate to over a month of full-time work. This, therefore, begs the question: How much is your time worth to you? In the words of Tony Stark, no amount of money has ever bought a second of time.
A Healthy Workforce
The benefits of a healthy workforce are more than just fewer sick days being taken. Encouraging employees to use the extra time in their day to exercise leads to a mentally and physically healthier workforce. This offers better concentration and focus, higher quality sleep patterns and more.
Many businesses are integrating gym memberships into employee wellness programs as “fringe benefits,” the expenses of which can be deducted from their corporate taxes.
The extended time and additional incentive to break for exercise all bubbles together for yet another positive. Remote employees are often 1.4 more days productive each month despite the at-home distractions of kids or a dog that places itself in your lap for extra pats at the laptop.
A Dip in Business Expenses
The working from home benefits continue for employers via lower costs associated with physical business operations. Some of the highest expenses a business can incur come in the form of office space, equipment and various reimbursements.
The Global Workplace Analytics Telework Savings Calculator states that roughly $11,000 per remote worker (depending on the size of the business) can be saved per year. If you funnel these funds into employee benefits or work from home set-up assistance, you’ll be looking at an even happier workforce and improved workplace culture.
The Challenges of Remote Working
It’s not all good news, however (if it were, remote working would already be the standard). To combat the following complexities, it is always a good idea to establish clear remote-work policies and, if necessary, training. There are specific steps managers can take to improve engagement and productivity, while also easing some of these issues faced by remote employees:
- The Lack of Supervision: Managers worry that employees will slack off, despite the research that indicates otherwise, and some workers have issues when managerial support or communication is lessened.
- Social Isolation: If you have a good office culture, the social aspect of coming to work can be profoundly missed by employees. Isolation can diminish a workers feeling of belonging, lowering job satisfaction.
- Home Distractions: As mentioned earlier, kids, pets, the TV, that pile of washing, all distractions that can pull employees from their work. The best way to deal with this is by ensuring the home has a dedicated workspace.
- Informal Structure: Some love working in sweat pants; others find it hard to get motivated. Just as a proper workspace is of benefit, so is a routine. Ensuring you get up, shower, get dressed and « start » your workday (even when you don’t have to) can help to provide a more regimented structure. The same importance should be given to switching off to ensure you don’t work well into the evening, diminishing your « at-home » time.
- Lack of Visibility: When your actions each day aren’t as obvious to management, it can make for a harder case when you want that new promotion, especially if you are in a role where your KPI is less measurable than something like sales figures.
How Managers Can Help Beat the Challenges of Working from Home
Just as it is essential in the office, excellent management is the way to ensure a successful remote team, especially when it comes to easing the transition. This all needs to be considered along with ensuring customer satisfaction is also maintained, but that’s a whole other blog.
From something as simple as a daily call individually or with the team to various communication technology options, making sure that there is adequate support is vital. Remote workers should have an abundance of technology available to them. Ensure video conferencing, workspace systems with mobile-enabled individual messaging functionality such as Slack or Microsoft Teams, and a set of rules of engagement to go along with them.
Set the frequency and ideal timing of communication expectations and keep an eye on the levels of communication among team members. It is also essential to ensure that not every interaction is all about work. This helps counteract the lack of social interaction missing with no office.
Above all, offer encouragement and emotional support, especially for those exhibiting signs of stress or anxiety. Acknowledge their feelings first, then provide affirmation, ensuring them they are not alone. Your team is no less a team due to distance.
Adapt or Die
It may sound extreme, but we love this saying. There is also a lot of truth in it. If our current situation has shown us anything, it’s that those businesses who are not able to exist with a flexible structure, ready for whatever strange things may come their way, they will not see any longevity.
The benefits of working from home are significant. They should be focussed on and embraced to ensure that the next time your business needs to survive in a strictly online space, it can. It may be required much more than you think.