No one thought it would take a pandemic to change the future of work. But here we are, with companies across the globe being forced to implement remote working strategies.
In an MIT early April survey, on 25000 American employees, 34.1% of commuting employees are currently working from home. Additionally, 14.6% of employees were already working remotely pre-coronavirus. Implying that nearly 50% of the workforce is now working from home.
Working from home has presented both threats and opportunities to businesses. Big tech giants like Google, Microsoft, and startups like Zoom and Slack are offering their remote work tools freely.
All in the hope that people will jump on board and continue using them when normalcy returns. Internet service providers like AT&T are now been forced to lift bandwidth caps to empower remote workers to keep working.
On the other hand, companies without remote working systems are creaking on the edges. Both employers and employees have been forced to invest some remote work support infrastructure.
It’s ushered in a new wave of policies that have changed how companies conduct business.
The big question is, will remote work be the new normal once social-distancing orders are lifted? With employees meeting their goals from home, they are questioning why they had to go to work in the first place.
Millions are now experiencing work without long commutes and other office inflexibilities. HR has already invested in new home desks for them. Will they say no to their work from home request?
On 30th March 2020, Gartner survey reported that 74% of CFO’s intend to have some of their employees continue working from home. Companies are already under pressure to manage costs and remote work is a cost-saving measure. 17% of the CFO’s said that 20% of the on-site workers will permanently work remotely. This is a clear indication of the lasting impact of the CODVID-19 pandemic.
Remote work is not a field trip but the future of work. Companies should be able to justify why they want to switch from remote work to having their employees commute.
Yes, remote work isn’t necessarily the best arrangement for all business hence the need to evaluate different components of your business.
The challenges companies face in remote work implementation
According to Laurel Farrer, a remote work strategist and CEO of Distribute Consulting, a smooth on-site to remote work transition take six to 12 weeks under less tumultuous times.
Currently, many companies are taking immediate and improvisational leaps forcing them to adjust on the fly. They have to deal with a lack of policies and equipment, remote work infrastructure, insufficient internet access, lack of or inadequate software, cybersecurity issues, work-life balance, among others.
Even the big boys like Facebook had some minor issues in the transition. Their employees were banned from DoorDash takeaway service as they were ordering deliveries from all over the Bay Area using the same IP address.
Major issues like internet connection availability have worried internet service providers. The whole nation is at home streaming on Netflix, others playing Fortnite, etc. According to Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince, “As more people work from home, peak traffic in impacted regions has increased, on average, approximately 10%. In Italy, which has imposed a nationwide quarantine, peak Internet traffic is up 30%.”
How to equip your company for remote work
For a company to be successful, employees need two elements. One, effective communication with each other and customers two, access to critical office systems and resources.
There has been tremendous progress on the communication front as companies like Zoom, Slack, Google, and Microsoft have offered free cloud-driven solutions. People can now effectively teleconference, hold meetings, share screens, white-boards, etc.
When it comes to accessing company resources like data and computer systems, companies are still catching up. Some companies have their systems only accessible on their premises from production to payroll and back-office systems.
Remote desktops have provided the perfect solution for this issue as employees can now access all the company systems and data on a remote computer. Resulting in all employees working on their own devices regardless of their location.
Companies have also turned to Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) to temporarily extend their networks to their employees. However, some issues might arise if all employees are using the VPN at once to access company systems. With the new reality companies need to analyze their capacity and prioritize their work to effectively work remotely.
However, to continue telecommuting, companies need to keep these steps in mind.
- Evaluate all the roles of your business functions and see if they fit teleworking arrangements. Afterward, create remote work guidelines based on your findings
- Update policies based on your remote work experience and work on the pitfalls you’ve experienced during this CODVID-19 pandemic.
- Prioritize accountability and transparency with clear expectations across all organizational units.
- Define the company culture, success, and measurable targets for employees in the telecommuting program.
- Have a flexible approach to remote work. Be ready for change.
The value of remote work to employers and employees
With remote work, employees are happier and more motivated to work. There is less commuting and more focus on work. According to a report by Owl Labs survey, 22% of full-time remote workers are happier than the on-site employees.
This results in reduced absenteeism. Now, even the asymptomatic employees and the mild COVID-19 cases are still productive while in self-isolation.
On the other hand, companies experience high employee retention. As a result, they can maintain consistent workflows, resilient reputation, and cut costs on recruitment and training.
Also, think of fewer business trips, reduced real estate costs, a more cohesive workforce, and new HR practices.
Retaining remote work policies will establish these benefits as the new normal in businesses. It may be too early to say what extent of the workforce will go back to commuting or whether companies will retain remote work.
However, for the business models that allow telecommuting, keeping the remote work policies in place after normalcy is a huge probability.
CODVID-19 has acted as a catalyst for employers to have more flexible work policies in case of similar situations in the future. Adapting to the changes now is much better than trying to figure things out under pressure.
The current business environment is very dynamic so it’s time for companies to prepare by embracing secure remote work infrastructure.