The Covid-19 pandemic forced 1.5 billion people to stay home due to social distancing measures — many of whom transitioned to working remotely, with technology and online communities proving invaluable in helping people retain a sense of normalcy and routine.
While the current scale of remote work is unprecedented, in the US, 43% of people had been working remotely in some capacity before the pandemic struck. What Covid-19 has done is force a large-large-scale experiment, testing how businesses and employees can adapt to working as a distributed team on a full-time basis. If the successful, remote work looks set to be the new normal.
And as companies and workers are realizing, remote work has significant advantages. Here are a few.
Increased productivity & creativity. A 2015 experiment conducted by Stanford professor Nicholas Bloom found that employees who worked from home were more productive than those in an office, took fewer sick days, shorter breaks, and less time off.
Meanwhile, other reports show that being alone can actually boost creativity. Unlike an office setting where employees are surrounded by people, ‘the manager of one’ concept fosters autonomy in individuals, which makes them feel more trusted and capable, as well as more motivated. By creating a personalized, solitary space at home, remote workers have more opportunities to grow, structure their own pathways, determine their value, and control how projects they’re involved in evolve.
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Streamlined workflows. Teleconferencing tools and platforms for project management, design, and cross-collaboration are making daily tasks faster and smarter for distributed teams. Online, employees can brainstorm, make decisions in real-time, get feedback, and act on fixes or updates immediately. This type of digital workflow is often quicker than in-person meetings where logistics can be overly complicated and slow.
Similarly, tools like Slack, Google Hangouts, Skype, and Zoom are facilitating clearer communication, empowering remote teams to chat, share materials, video call, record meetings, and host virtual events like webinars and conferences.
Elsewhere, VPNs (virtual private networks) are providing remote workers with secure access to company networks and portals, meaning resources are always available. VPNs also reduce the risk of malicious attacks within potentially unstable personal WiFi connections, protecting employee activity and corporate data – something that is more at risk as remote work becomes standard practice.
Competitive edge. Despite the majority of businesses having to implement remote policies, companies that learn from the experience of Covid-19 will be most successful in the future. Those who are prepared with guidelines and the technology for remote work will not only be better protected from unexpected events, they will also have an upper hand when recruiting.
Pre-Covid-19, 81% of employees said that the option to work remotely would make them more likely to recommend their company to job candidates. Now, it’s safe to assume that more people will actively search for remote-only positions.
People are what drive business success, and companies that use Covid-19 as an opportunity to get human feedback on remote processes and further optimize them will have a greater competitive edge. By being open and ready for remote teams, employers show that they prioritize skill, work ethic, and ambition most in employees. Not to mention, companies are more likely to attract top-tier talent by having progressive, flexible working policies.
Both employers and employees gain financially from remote work, giving it an additional competitive edge when compared against the office-based model. Professor Bloom’s study also revealed that companies with remote teams saved up to $2,000 per employee on office space costs. Meanwhile, recent data shows that not having to commute to the office lets workers save more than $4,500 on average per year in fuel costs. Additionally, employees have an extra 17 days’ worth of free time when not traveling to and from the office.
The New Norm
Among all the uncertainty of the ongoing outbreak, Covid-19 is actually demonstrating the value of remote work. New doors are being opened for employees and businesses alike, as people explore ways to support remote workers and tailor remote processes to business needs.
No doubt, the businesses that embrace being remote are best poised to survive harsh times, while simultaneously saving money, boosting employee happiness and productivity, and developing a competitive edge in their markets. As remote work becomes the norm and people adjust to not being in an office, the benefits could even be more profound.