As social distancing practices become requested and required of Americans in major U.S. cities, we see a dramatic increase in the number of companies transitioning to remote workforces.
Though this development may be a temporary measure for most companies, it may be worthwhile for some businesses to consider making remote work a regular part of their operation. Read on to learn why remote work is a smart move overall and how it can help employers attract more accomplished candidates.
What is a remote workforce?
A remote workforce consists of employees scattered throughout different locations. Some companies that enlist remote workforces also have a central office “headquarters” where some managers and employees work, while others carry out their job responsibilities from other places. The current pandemic resulted in a massive increase of remote workers, but according to CNBC, a full 70% of workers around the world worked remotely at least once a week, with the numbers steadily growing in the years since.
Why and how do people work remotely?
Remote-work policies may be established for a number of reasons. In certain instances, a company may wish to expand their employee roster beyond one specific geographic region, but don’t want to invest in setting up a dedicated workspace in another city or country. In others, employers recognize that they’re able to attract more skilled and competitive workers if they provide location flexibility. As technologies advance and the ability to remain productive even when working remotely continues to grow, more and more companies are finding that remote capabilities work in their best interests.
Remote work proves especially useful and viable for industries that don’t require regular hands-on action or face-to-face communication. For example, doctors and nurses, construction workers, police officers and hospitality employees can’t feasibly perform their jobs without traveling to a particular location. However, plenty of other businesses find it entirely possible to conduct virtual meetings using video-chat technologies, to have regular daily dialogues via Slack or Google Chat, and to set up intra-web programs for the submission of deliverables.
Remote-work-friendly industries include (but are certainly not limited to):
- Tech, particularly IT and software engineering
- Healthcare (with doctors and nurses as crucial exceptions)
- Higher education (as more and more universities establish online “campuses”)
- Corporate training
- Customer service
- Financial services (like accounting)
- Case management
- Nonprofit administration
Why are remote workforces better for business?
Aside from businesses that absolutely cannot operate without on-site employees (like restaurants, hospitals and event venues), companies that allow for remote work often reap major benefits from this decision, like the following:
1. Talented and in-demand candidates frequently value flexibility.
If your company has a vested interest in attracting and retaining the best-possible employees, then they’ll likely find that the ability to avoid a commute and the freedom to work from wherever these employees choose will appeal to many of these skilled candidates.
2. Permitting remote work can save companies money.
As we previously mentioned, remote workers give companies the opportunity to expand their reach without the enormous financial burden of opening a satellite office location. These businesses can instead invest their funds in other essential aspects of their operations while still employing high-quality individuals in desirable markets.
3. Existing employees will often be more productive and maintain a better work-life balance if they have the option to work remotely.
Remote work is inherently more conducive to a healthy work-life balance than office-based employment, as it eliminates the stresses of commuting and offers the employee more freedom to manage their own time. In many cases, this leads to higher productivity; without the distractions of constant workplace interruptions and in-person meetings, employees can better prioritize their tasks and, ultimately, produce a higher quantity and quality of completed work.
What are the most popular misconceptions of remote work?
The benefits provided by a remote-work structure seem like an obvious incentive for companies to give this style a try — but due to commonly-held misconceptions, many employers hesitate to make remote work a part of their regular business model. Two of the most popular false impressions held by companies about remote work:
1. It’s harder to manage remote employees than on-site workers.
Some managers worry that leading employees located remotely will prove a more challenging task and will result in less-effective team communication. While managing remote employees does require abundant organization on a supervisor’s part, modern technology makes it easier than ever to keep your messaging consistent and to stay fully apprised of your remote employees’ productivity and progress. Workflow platforms like Trello and Asana are designed to help managers and employees collaborate more effectively, even if they’re located in different places.
Managers may also have concerns about "team building" when they employ remote workers, as the lack of day-to-day, in-person contact could, in their minds, compromise unity and limit inter-office friendships. Luckily, there are easy ways to get around that, including regular video meetings, occasional team "retreats" and a regular chat flow on Slack/Google Chat.
2. If employees are allowed to work remotely, they won’t get as much done.
This (unfortunately common) complaint about remote work really speaks to a lack of trust between a manager and their employees. If you believe in the diligence and integrity of your reports, then there’s no reason to doubt that they’ll be able to accomplish their necessary tasks even if they’re not sitting 10 feet away from you at the office. Work environments that encourage micromanagement and fastidious nickel-and-diming related to break times aren’t typically considered desirable to high-performing professionals, so if that’s your company’s overall attitude, then it’s worth striving toward a pivot.
A related concern about remote workers involves at-home distractions, especially those involving children. Some employers worry that their work-from-home employees who have young kids will decide to no longer use separate childcare, since they’ll physically be present in the house all day. However, it’s common practice for companies who employ remote workers to require said employees to secure childcare for their kids during regular work hours, and an employer worried about those distractions can clearly explain their conditions and ask their remote workers to sign an agreement to that effect.