Remote working as a concept has been gradually gaining traction in recent years, as more businesses wake up to the idea that offering staff a good work/life balance could actually have benefits for their bottom line.
However, when the Covid-19 pandemic forced thousands of office-based companies to make an abrupt switch to partial or full homeworking, in some cases the culture shock was still acute.
After several months of this enforced global experiment, the sheer number of companies announcing they will not be returning to full-time office attendance suggests that a lightbulb has gone on somewhere. Yet some business owners still can’t see a place for remote teams in their future.
If you’re not quite on board with the idea of the virtual workforce, here are a few reasons why it makes sense to consider a remote team.
Talent without borders
When job searching, most people will look for companies whose premises are within a reasonable commute of their home. If you’re advertising for new team members who don’t need to physically be in the office all the time, it makes no sense to write off a huge percentage of your potential talent pool just because they don’t live in the geographical area.
By opening up positions as fully or partially remote, you’ll attract the interest of a much wider group of candidates who aren’t excluded by the location. When you’re looking to hire only the cream of the crop, with the best skills and experience, that’s got to be to the company’s advantage.
Happy staff are loyal staff
No one is suggesting that your star striker will stay with the club forever, whatever the perks, but studies show that quality of life is one of the biggest factors in staff retention. People who enjoy a good work/life balance have a greater incentive to stay with their employer for longer. A recent study by the CIPD(1) revealed that 61% of survey participants felt their work/life balance had improved since working at home due to the pandemic. So, if you’re looking to retain your rock stars, flexible working options could be worth their weight in gold.
Technology is your friend
If the Covid-19 crisis had happened 20 years ago, our professional and personal lives would be in far worse shape right now. But the technology that offers us smooth video conferencing, instant messaging, screen sharing and countless other communication channels has been invaluable this year.
Some employers fear that reduced in-person meetings will result in poorer collaboration, but with good management, this doesn’t need to be the case at all. The same CIPD study claimed that nearly half of businesses felt their employees’ collaboration had improved since the shift to homeworking. After all, relaxed, contented staff are more likely to be engaged and inspired staff.
Make new friends – with new skills
Ever thought that your business could really do with a little bit of this or that, but it would be too costly or complicated to employ a whole new person just for that niche task?
By exploring the thriving community of freelancers in the UK (and beyond), you could add that extra skill set to your team for just a few hours per week, month or year. Freelancers have been around forever, of course, but working remotely – without the dead time and unnecessary expense connected to the commute – makes very small contracts more feasible for the self-employed in many industries.
Being more flexible with your expectations could open up a whole new goldmine of affordable talent that you can tap into, as and when you need it.
No compromise on productivity
Some employers are inherently set against remote working due to concerns about whether staff are ‘really’ working when at home.
There are two things to address here. The first is that statistics reveal home-based staff often show greater productivity. For example, California tech company Prodoscore(2) saw its team’s productivity soar by 47% after shifting to remote work this spring.
The other… Well, this may not be what you want to hear. But if you have no way to monitor whether or not your staff are achieving their objectives, that’s a management problem, not an employee problem.
How do you ensure that your team are doing their jobs efficiently right now? If you have a good management system in place – everyone knows what their goals are, there is clear and regular two-way communication, you would quickly notice if anyone fell below standard – then congratulations, you’re already well on your way to effective remote team management!
Managing remote teams does require some extra skills, of course. But if the thought of not seeing bums on seats in the office genuinely fills you with a sense of helplessness, it’s probably time to overhaul your management style in general.
Keep the personal touch – while saving money
Remote doesn’t have to mean disconnected, in either the physical or psychological sense. Rather than being forced to choose between fully remote and 100% office-based, there is a myriad of options in between, which you can tailor for each business, team or individual employee.
Regular office days, location meetings or other in-person interactions can retain those connections, without throwing away the benefits of homeworking.
Also, working at home is not right for everyone for a variety of reasons, from mental health impacts to a lack of suitable workspace. So, retaining access to a reduced form of office or coworking space is a smart compromise, which will also save you money on one of your biggest overheads.
Have you experienced any additional benefits of employing remote workers or having your staff work partially from home? Get in touch and let me know!