Should I Keep a Remote Working Policy Once the COVID-19 Vaccine is Available?
January 4th, 2021
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many employers to reimagine the notion of the traditional workspace. In efforts to keep employees safe and stem the spread of the pandemic, many businesses have been forced to implement a remote working policy over the last nine months.
While there were some initial growing pains as companies had to adjust to new processes and technologies on the fly, the result has been overwhelmingly positive for many businesses. In most instances, levels of productivity have been maintained and often improved. As a result, it has been an eye-opening experience for many business owners who now realize that their employees can in fact thrive in a remote work environment.
Over the next six months, the majority of Americans will gain access to a COVID-19 vaccine. As a result, it’s time for business owners to begin planning for post-pandemic life. One of the most important decisions will involve whether to bring employees back into the office or continue with remote working policies moving forward. The answer to this question largely depends on the needs of your business and the preferences of your employees.
Benefits of Remote Working
Remote working offers many benefits to business owners and employees:
- Reduction in overhead costs – A remote workforce eliminates the need for expensive office space and many of the other overhead expenses associated with running and maintaining an office. For some companies, this cost savings can significantly boost profitability.
- Improved productivity – Happy employees are typically the most productive employees. Remote working provides greater flexibility and improved work-life balance, which generally improves employee satisfaction and morale. Eliminating a long, arduous commute each day can reduce employee stress levels and give them more energy during their work hours.
- Access to a broader talent pool – When employees must be present in the office, you’re limited to the talent pool in close proximity to the location of your business. Remote working allows you to hire individuals who live all over the country, and potentially all over the world. This gives you access to the most talented and experienced candidates, and this can significantly elevate the quality of your team.
- Collaboration works well – One of the biggest concerns employers had about switching to a remote working model was the ability for employees to successfully collaborate when they’re not physically present in the office. However, technology innovations such as Zoom video conferencing, Slack, Microsoft Teams and Google Hangouts has made collaboration much easier to navigate in a remote working environment.
- Improved employee quality of life – Remote working offers many quality-of-life benefits for employees, including the ability to create more flexible hours, the elimination of a long commute and the ability to work from just about any location. This last benefit may be especially valued by employees who live far away from their families, as it gives them the opportunity to visit with loved ones more often without having to take time off from work. Due to these benefits, many employees have come to embrace a remote working lifestyle. In fact, 98% of employees have expressed a desire to continue working remotely, at least some of the time, for the remainder of their career.
Drawbacks of Remote Working
While there are many positives associated with remote working, there are also several potential drawbacks that must be considered:
- Reduced ability to monitor employees – Letting employees work remotely gives them much more autonomy, and you must trust that your team can handle this responsibility. For employers who have a very hands-on approach, it may be challenging to accept this reduced ability to monitor the progress and productivity of your team.
- Potential for greater employee distractions – Some employees are ideally suited to thrive in a remote environment. Their home life may provide a greater ability to focus on work without distractions. However, other people may find this more challenging. Whether it’s due to the presence of children vying for your attention or an inability to tune out the many distractions in the home, some employees may find that it’s actually easier to focus on work when they’re in the office. In many ways, the ability of your employees to thrive in a remote environment will depend on their ability to tune out distractions at home, and this may vary from person to person.
- Work-life balance may suffer – For many employees, remote work offers greater work-life balance. However, this requires an ability to effectively set boundaries. A potential drawback of remote work is that the line between work life and home life becomes increasingly blurred. Some employees may feel compelled to work longer hours which may improve productivity, but increase the risk of burnout.
- More challenging to foster a tight-knit team – While collaboration can be successful using the technology available, your employees will be more siloed and isolated. There is an inherent ability to foster a stronger team when people spend time together in-person. The break room conversations build camaraderie and creates a more supportive, team-oriented environment. This potential issue can be mitigated by planning thoughtful team-building activities that give your employees the ability to get to know one another on a more personal level.
Important Considerations When Evaluating a Long-Term Remote Working Policy
It’s important to evaluate the pros and cons listed above. You may find that for your business, the benefits significantly outweigh the drawbacks and remote work is desirable. In other situations, you may find that the drawbacks make you hesitant to move forward with remote working.
In addition to considering these pros and cons, you should survey your team to get a more accurate perspective on how remote working has been going for them. Their insights can help guide your management team as you determine whether you want to continue with a remote working policy. This information can also help you determine the best way to ensure the policy sets your team up for success.
How Did Your Managers Cope with Remote Working?
In order for remote working to be successful, your managers must embrace the policy. Before determining whether to implement this long term, you should assess the impact of remote work on their performance during the pandemic and ask how they feel about continued remote working once the vaccine has been distributed.
Items to evaluate include:
- How they’ve interacted with their teams in a remote environment
- How well they’ve set their teams up for success working remotely
- What has worked well for employees and what problems they have encountered
- Whether productivity been positively or negatively impacted
- Whether the challenges associated with remote working been overcome
Remote working occurred out of necessity during the pandemic, and your managers were forced to adapt in real time to unexpected changes to their processes. By now, they will have a better understanding of what needs to be done to ensure remote working can run smoothly as a long-term policy. It’s also important to ensure that they feel comfortable managing their teams remotely as a permanent change to their processes.
How Do Your Employees Feel About Remote Working?
Your desires and your management team’s preferences are one half of the equation. The other half relates to how the rest of your team has adjusted to remote work. Your employees handle a variety of tasks on a daily basis, and they understand what is needed to do their jobs properly. Their perspective can provide important insight as to how the process is going and what improvements need to be made.
Some questions to ask your employees include:
- Do they prefer working remotely?
- Do they feel they can do their jobs just as effectively in a remote environment?
- What additional support, technology or processes are needed to ensure remote working goes smoothly?
- How has remote working impacted their quality of life? Do they experience greater balance and satisfaction or do they struggle with the isolation?
- Did they feel eliminating their commute resulted in an increase in productivity?
- Were there any challenges to staying focused in the face of potential distractions at home?
How Does Remote Working Impact Your Profitability?
Any careful evaluation of remote working must assess the ways in which it can save your company money. Remote working has the potential to significantly cut your operating costs. If you can save this money without sacrificing productivity or employee morale, a permanent remote working policy may make a lot of sense for your company.
For many employers, removing rent and other office-related expenses can have a massive impact on profitability. If this occurs, how can you use the money you save to grow your business?
If you’re locked into a lease for several more years, what would it cost to break the lease? Would this make financial sense? If you’re stuck paying for office space that isn’t being used year after year, it may serve as a deterrent to a permanent shift to remote working. That being said, if all of the other factors you evaluate favor remote working, you may still want to consider it in some capacity.
Full-Time Remote Working vs. a Hybrid Remote Working Policy
Remote working doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing proposition. Once it’s safe to bring employees back into the office, you may want to consider a hybrid working model that provides the benefits of both in-office collaboration and remote working flexibility.
With a hybrid model, employees would come into the office several days a week and work remotely several days a week. This would allow you to experience the collaboration and camaraderie that occurs when employees are in the office. It would also allow you to provide certain training opportunities in person, making it easier to ensure your team gets the support they need as part of these trainings. At the same time, your employees could experience a better work-life balance that comes with spending several days working at home. The hybrid model may also reduce feelings of social isolation that may potentially arise from remote working, and this can improve the overall happiness of your team.
You’ll have to evaluate which model works best for you. If you’re interested in unlocking the potential associated with hiring candidates that live around the country, a full remote working model may better suit your company. If you truly believe that being together in the office provides benefits that can’t be achieved remotely, then a hybrid model may offer your company and your employees the best of both worlds.
Premier Employer Services Can Help You Navigate the Changing Workplace Environment
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced companies to re-envision the way their employees work. Remote working policies had to be created on the fly and for many businesses, the experiment has been quite successful. Once a vaccine has been deployed, the changes that have occurred due to this increase in remote working will have a lasting impact. There are both challenges and opportunities associated with remote and hybrid working policies. The time to formulate your plan is now so that you’re ready to thrive in the post-pandemic work environment.
Premier Employer Services can help you navigate these challenges and leverage the opportunities presented by remote working. As Denver’s leading employee engagement firm, we can help you evaluate the important factors necessary to determine whether an in-office, remote working or hybrid working policy best meets your needs moving forward. Our team will take the time to understand the intricacies of your company, and we’ll work with you to provide the best possible employee experience in order to position your business to thrive.
Our unique Elevated Engagement Plus™ approach focuses on providing you with the tools to successfully navigate the unique challenges and opportunities facing your business. We accomplish this by:
- Working with you to learn about the specific workforce dynamic at your company
- Creating a customized plan to address your needs and help your business grow
- Being there for you and your employees every step of the way
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