The “future of work” arrived sooner than we anticipated. With the catastrophic COVID-19 pandemic drastically impacting the global economy, a lot of us are adjusting to the new reality of working exclusively from home. For many, this change can be tough especially if you are used to the in-person meetings, water cooler talks, and access to resources that a physical office environment can provide. Given the competitive pressures we all face in business today, the ability to quickly adapt to this away-from-the-office reality can be the difference between success and failure.
So, the question begs, can your business adapt to a culture of remote work? Telecommuting, remote work, work-from-home is what every business is evaluating in this extremely disruptive economic period. The world has changed and so has the future of work. The future has arrived, and many organizations are embracing it as an opportunity. You should too or you might get left behind. In this blog, we will investigate key telecommuting workplace trends and provide recommendations on where to start your journey to establish an effective “work from home” system for your business, small or large.
Over the past decade, the trend of increased remote work has been on the rise even before this pandemic confined us to our homes. With the advancements of software, computing, and internet bandwidth technologies paving the way, remote work has increased 173% since 2005 (Global Workplace Analytics’ analysis of 2018 American Community Service data).
A recent Gallup workplace study has shown:
- 43% of all employees work remotely with some frequency
- 3.6% of all employees work remotely at least half of the time
The charts below from the Global Workplace Analytics shows the percentage of remote workers by industry. It is no surprise that the Tech and Pro Services lead the way currently with the highest percentage of remote workers employed by an industry.
As the stats illustrate, a wide variety of industries already allow their staff to work from home. However, there is room for growth, and more than likely, these numbers are going to rise significantly. The future of work is here. Are you ready?
Given the unprecedented measures taken by governments all over the world ordering people to stay home during this crisis, businesses are forced to adopt remote work without any time to plan, accelerating the trends that are redefining the “modern workplace.” As painful as this transition may be now, there can be long term benefits if the right approach is taken. For one, studies show that remote employees are more productive and happier. Even more, a significant percentage of them would take a pay cut to keep their current jobs in order to maintain the flexibility that comes with working from home.
Prior to COVID-19, 80% of the workforce had a desire to work from home at least some of the time according to State of Remote Work 2019, Owl Labs. Now that a broad segment of our population is getting a firsthand taste of it, they are likely going to want this flexibility to continue when things go back to normal. As a company, you should consider investing in remote work to not only deal with the situation of today, but more importantly because it promises to produce results for tomorrow.
For one, studies show that remote employees are more productive and happier.
Here are the top 5 reasons how a remote work strategy can benefit an organization long term:
- Efficiency and cost savings – If more employees are working from their homes, then businesses can reduce office space, amenities, and travel expenses. Also, employees themselves can reduce commute and even childcare costs so it is a true win-win. Global Workplace Analytics (work at home statistics) found that “companies save an average of $11,000 per year per employee who works remotely part-time.” This study was brilliantly depicted by CNBC and Sr. Producer Lindsey Jacobson in the video caption below.
- Sustainability – One of the interesting lessons we have learned through this COVID 19 crisis is the noticeable reduction of harmful gases to our atmosphere due to the restriction of movement since more people are working from their homes. By adopting more aggressive “work from home” programs, a company will reduce commuter travel, which is the easiest and most effective way to lower their carbon footprint. Refer to this BBC article “Coronavirus: Air pollution and CO2 fall rapidly as virus spreads.”
- Attract and Retain Talent – More workers today like to have the flexibility that comes with working from home. According to State of the American Workforce, Gallup, 2016, 35% of employees would change jobs for opportunity to work remotely full time (47% of Millennials and 31% of boomers). Furthermore, 37% would do so to work remotely some of the time (50% of Millennials and 33% of Boomers). According to State of Remote Work 2019, Owl Labs, more than a third of workers would take a pay cut of up to 5% in exchange for the option to work remotely at least some of the time; a quarter would take a 10% pay cut; 20% would take an even greater cut.
- Productivity gains – Remote workers put in 1.4 hours extra per day or roughly 17 more days of work per year compared to office workers according to Business News Daily, Working from Home Increases Productivity. Remote workers tend to waste less time on the job compared to when they are in the office. One of the biggest problems they tend to have is knowing when to “turn it off” and overworking and not the other way around as the perception used to be from managers who feared a loss of control and accountability. The research study by Global Workplace Analytics shows that employees give back about 60% of their commute time to work.
- Business continuity – COVID-19 is a great lesson for businesses to have a contingency plan to operate remotely. Unfortunately, far too many businesses learned the hard way that not having the flexibility to effectively work outside of the office can be catastrophic to the bottom line.
Companies save an average of $11,000 per year per employee who works remotely part-time. (source, Global Workplace Analytics)
So, prior to COVID-19, what was preventing businesses from having more employees work from home? The perception that remote workers are less productive is one. The fear of not being able to supervise, engage, and coordinate effectively enough with remote workers has been a deterrent for some companies to develop remote work strategies. Companies not believing they have the right technological know-how and security measures are the other reasons why companies resisted allowing more of their employees to work from home.
The good news is that remote technology has advanced tremendously compared to 15 years ago. Video conferencing, mobile devices, faster computers, and broadband access are making it much easier for businesses to adapt once they choose to go down this path. Also, cloud and identity driven security solutions have become important. You no longer need to rely on having a complex VPN solution or an unsecured and choppy remote desktop experience. With incredible new collaboration focused applications like Microsoft Teams and Windows Virtual Desktop, companies are now able to hold effective meetings, co-author documents, and workflows that help remote workers engage and communicate more effectively and efficiently than ever before, without compromising security.
But like anything in life and business, remote work must be done right for it to be effective. The key is technology and empowering people to use them effectively. Given the significant cost savings associated with allowing employees to work from home, companies should consider investing some of that savings into technology so employees have a great work from home experience. Luckily the technology is available, but it takes careful thought and planning to execute a work at home program successfully and security should never be an afterthought.
But like anything in life and business, remote work must be done right for it to be effective. The key is technology and empowering people to use them effectively.
Top 10 things to consider when designing a work from home program:
- Design a virtual workspace that your employees will love and that is in compliance with your company’s cybersecurity practice
- Laptop with a docking station plus monitor, keyboard, and mouse
- Touchscreen with digital pen/inking
- HD webcams for video conferencing
- Headsets for high end audio
- Cloud based phone system
- Cybersecurity (Zero Trust; MFA, identity, endpoint protection, vulnerability management, anti-phishing, continuous monitoring, awareness and adoption)
- Chat and presence for instant communication
- Cloud based document management with co-authoring
- VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure) technology like Microsoft’s Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD) for higher end computing needs and more complex server based corporate software/databases
Microsoft Teams is the most complete and feature rich collaboration platform for remote workers because it achieves 5 of the 10 considerations above in one single application. Since its release in 2016, Microsoft Teams has become the fastest growing app in Microsoft’s storied history because it was built for the increasing mobile way of modern business. Microsoft describes Teams as “a unified communication and collaboration platform that combines persistent workplace chat, video meetings, file storage, and application integration” and executives for the company have been labeling it as the “OS of the future.” Having regular and consistent communication with remote workers and the ability to see their presence (whether they are at their desk or not), is helpful for managers who supervise their remote workforce. Maintaining the proper connection and rhythm, is key to good teamwork and collaboration workflow with workers in different physical locations, whether it is in an office or home setting. There is no app in the marketplace that helps you stay connected with your remote workforce better than Microsoft Teams.
Besides technology, companies also need to adopt remote work policies and offer their employees with guidance on best practices from working from home. This will not only enhance productivity, but also keep employees happy via healthy mental and physical wellness concepts. By simultaneously investing in training, employees will gain the confidence necessary to make the transition to working from home a seamless one. Try to remember that it is not the technology that delivers the results, but rather the people using them. It certainly helps to invest in the right tools. But more importantly, empower your people by hiring the right consultants that are skilled at change management and deployment. Invest in the “future of work” so you can get ahead in the business of today!