Although a contributing factor, the 2020 pandemic wasn’t the only driving force behind the rise of remote work. It may seem like a relatively new fad, but the concept of remote work actually dates back to 1972. That’s right. Jack Nilles coined the phrase “telecommuting” while working on a complex NASA communications system. It’s something that has picked up speed over the years.
COVID-19 accelerated the need for digital transformation technologies like unified communications (UC), contact center as a service (CCaaS), and cloud infrastructure. It also caused the share prices of video conferencing and collaboration platforms like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Slack to skyrocket.
Keeping businesses connected even during times of social distancing, work from home, and economic uncertainty ultimately became the priority of the day. Not only was it a mantra, but it was also a necessity. Many businesses accelerated network modernization, cybersecurity stance, and cloud infrastructure to meet the demands of a virtual workforce.
But what was the impact on the employer and employee?
In this article, I will be looking at the lessons learned from COVID-19 including the benefits of remote work for employers and employees. I will also look at how the pandemic has altered the business landscape forever.
1) Work-Life Balance & Productivity
Work-life balance, it’s a buzzword that gets circulated in recruitment and brand messaging but what exactly does it mean? Work-life balance can be summed up by the word flexibility. That flexibility occurs when employees are able to work around the demands of their life.
Think about it this way… A traditional setting may require employees to be in-office from 8:00 AM-5:00 PM, Monday through Friday. By the way, most jobs are no longer 8-5ers. They’re more like 7:00 AM-7:00 PM. With a flexible schedule, employees can work throughout the day, in between errands, exercise, and kid duties. Employees can work early morning, late nights, weekends, and whenever it works for them.
As long as the work gets done, the traditional 8-5 job really is no longer relevant. With a remote workforce, employees are happier and less stressed when managing school schedules, medical appointments, errands, workouts, and home projects. The result is that employees feel more accomplished and have more time to spend with family and loved ones.
2) Less Commuting & More Focus
How many of you like commuting to an office in rush hour traffic? If you answered yes, I want to know how you do it. Think about this… The average commuter spends 225 hours per year commuting back and forth to work. That’s over nine calendar days spent going back and forth to the office.
Studies have shown that commuting has a significant human and financial toll on employees. It causes considerable stress on employees who sit for hours in stop-and-go traffic. Not to mention anxiety caused by road rage, seeing and being involved in accidents. The side effects of commuting include fear, anger, and stress. This leads to lower energy levels, motivation, and morale. It also leads to the following medical conditions – high cholesterol, high blood pressure, depression, and increased anxiety.
The question for employers is – would your employees be more or less motivated and productive if they didn’t have to spend unpaid hours a day in their car? Would this lead to or detract from employee productivity and longevity? Would you retain your best employees longer?
3) Larger Talent Pool & More Opportunity
For employers, remote work expands your reach when it comes to accessing a larger talent pool. Quick question – how many candidates ignore your job posts for employment due to where you are located? Maybe you’re not able to tap into the local talent you need. Remote work is a major selling point towards attracting highly-qualified candidates from markets outside your own.
For employees, remote work means better opportunities and increased chances for career growth. Cities like San Francisco, New York City, and Los Angeles may offer great jobs in technology and financial industries, but the cost of living drives many applicants to look elsewhere. They may even settle for a job that they are overqualified for or not interested in within a different market.
For both employers and employees, remote work represents an opportunity on a global scale. It’s a concept that’s both exciting and intimidating at the same time. Instead of competing on a regional level for job opportunities and work, employees must now compete with candidates all over the world and at much lower compensation levels. For employers, this can also be a risky proposition. You never know what you are going to get when hiring employees abroad.
4) Promoting Diversity in the Workplace
This is a huge topic of discussion today – diversity in the workplace. Remote work can make it easier to hire employees from diverse socioeconomic, geographic, and cultural backgrounds. Major changes are taking place employers are quickly realizing the benefits of environments that promote diversity and inclusivity.
Remote work also makes it easier to expand into new markets whether regionally, domestically, or even internationally. It automatically encourages a diverse and inclusive environment. Imagine opening a new Asia-Pacific market and hiring a remote workforce in Singapore. Hiring locally can help your business align with cultural and language barriers that would have otherwise hindered operations and put market expansion success at risk. The hiring of a remote workforce could be the answer.
5) Employee & Employer Cost-Savings
This is a big one. You may not realize it but there are significant cost-savings associated with remote work and we’re not just talking about employer costs. A study showed that employees that work from home saved an estimated $2,000 to $6,500 dollars per year. This includes common costs such as fuel, vehicle maintenance, transportation, parking, and meals.
Are you ready for this? Another study showed that businesses were able to save an average of $11,000 per employee annually. What costs were included in the figure above? Office and real estate costs, office supply costs, transportation subsidies, and operational and personnel costs. This makes a lot of sense, right?
And when you scale it, the savings go parabolic. It’s estimated that US businesses saved $30 billion per day by allowing their employees to work remotely.
6) Environment & Corporate Responsibility
In addition to cultural diversity and inclusion trends, environmental impact is right there at the top of the list for corporate responsibility initiatives. Reducing the impacts of operations is a huge positive in today’s world. Most businesses are focused on making a difference by recycling, increasing renewable energy usage, and reducing their carbon footprint.
How does remote work fit into the picture? A recent study showed that by allowing 3.9 million employees to work from home at least half of the time, it reduced greenhouse gases by the equivalent of removing 600,000 cars from the road for an entire year. It was equal to a reduction of 7.8 billion miles and three million tons of greenhouse gases.
Think about this… The above statistics represent only one aspect of the environmental impact which is commuting. Remote work has also shown to reduce paper consumption, air conditioning, heating, and lighting use. Another study showed that the potential environmental impact of remote work could be the same as planting 91 million new trees.
7) Increased Employee Productivity
I spoke earlier about flexible schedules and work-life balance. The major lesson learned from the 2020 pandemic is that the work from home concept actually increased productivity. A study showed that 65% of employees think they would be more productive working from home than in a traditional office setting. 49% of respondents said that they rely on their home office when they need to focus and get work done. It makes sense, right?
Think about it… How much time do you spend in non-essential meetings and fraternizing with other employees, and carrying on non-work-related conversations? All of those minutes add up to hours and even days of wasted time throughout the year.
8) Accelerated Digital Transformation
You could say that the pandemic caused many businesses to advance their digital transformation initiatives by a few months or even years. COVID-19 many businesses by surprise and as a result, many were caught off guard for how to equip their employees to work from home.
If anything, COVID-19 has advanced or pulled the demand forward for new technologies and especially those that enable remote workforces. It’s no wonder an entire set of publicly-traded companies in the United States saw their stock prices surge by 100%, 200%, or higher as a result of increased demand for their products and services. It was called the “COVID” trade.
That’s not all. Cybersecurity also became a major area of concern for both businesses and IT departments as remote workers operated outside the comfort of their confines. Unsecured communications and access to systems, networks, and files became a major target for hackers. Bring Your Own Device, also known as BYOD, was also another target.
However, there was a silver lining for many businesses… They learned to prioritize and harden their IT infrastructure and adapt to a world where remote workers need access to systems and files outside of the enterprise network. Many businesses invested in and implemented new security practices that were needed regardless of the pandemic or not.
9) Happier & Healthier Employees
Here’s the bottom-line point. Remote workers tend to happier and more loyal employees. Why? Part of it is trust. Some of it is flexibility. However, it all comes down to the end result. Having time to balance work and life results in an improvement in life. Employees that have time for personal errands, hobbies and interests, and workouts have less stress and are healthier.
Why is employee health important? Employees that are healthy have the ability to reduce health insurance costs for the entire organization. In addition, healthier employees are sick less, recovery from illness quicker and have less of a chance of being injured on the job.
Conclusion: Remote Work is Here to Stay…
It’s easy to see the benefits of remote work from the employer and employee perspective. Some may say that the benefits are directly related to talent recruiting, employee productivity, happiness, and health. For others, it’s about corporate responsibility and the environment, diversity, and inclusion. Yet, others may focus on the financial rewards, bottom line, and cost savings.
I believe that remote work is here to stay and it’s a major turning point in how we all do business. We will see a huge shift in demand for commercial real estate and office space. In fact, we’re already starting to see it with the cancelation of large-scale office leases and the sale of newly constructed headquarters even before companies move in.
What are your thoughts? Will remote work adoption continue to accelerate in the post-pandemic, COVID-19 world?
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