The Rise of Remote Work
Once considered a luxury, remote work has swiftly become a global necessity due to the rapid spread of the coronavirus COVID-19. Companies, large and small, are encouraging or even mandating their employees to work remotely as part of social distancing measures. Even tech giants like Amazon, Google, and Facebook have joined the remote work movement, with Twitter making it mandatory for all employees. However, the truth is that remote work was already on the rise before the pandemic hit.
According to a special analysis by FlexJobs, telecommuting grew by 7.9% between 2016 and 2017 in the US. Over the past five years, it increased by 44%, and in the previous decade, it saw a staggering 91% growth. The overall increase from 2005 to 2017 was 159%. Currently, around 5 million US workers (3.6% of the workforce) already work from home at least half of the week, according to Global Workplace Analytics.
The Benefits and Preferences of Remote Work
The rise of remote work is not just a response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Many employees have shown a strong preference for working remotely. In a survey conducted by Buffer, 99% of respondents expressed their desire to work remotely at least part of the time for the rest of their careers. The flexibility that remote work offers was identified as the most significant benefit by 40% of respondents.
Other advantages include increased happiness (83%), a sense of trust (82%), improved work-life balance (81%), and heightened employee loyalty. In fact, 78% of respondents would be willing to accept a pay cut in exchange for the privilege of working remotely. These findings indicate a growing demand for remote work options and suggest that remote work is here to stay.
The Potential Savings and Benefits for Employers
Employers stand to gain significant benefits from implementing remote work programs. Global Workplace Analytics estimates that a typical employer could save an average of $11,000 per half-time remote worker per year. These savings result from increased productivity, reduced real estate costs, decreased absenteeism and turnover, and improved disaster preparedness.
The current COVID-19 pandemic is also expected to save US employers billions of dollars each day due to remote work initiatives, according to Kate Lister, President of Global Workplace Analytics. Beyond the crisis, Lister predicts that remote work adoption rates will continue to rise. Managers will witness firsthand that remote work does not hinder productivity and collaboration; in fact, it can enhance them. This realization, combined with potential cost savings and environmental benefits, will drive increased remote work adoption in the future.
Overcoming Challenges in Remote Work
While remote work offers numerous benefits, it also presents challenges. Cybersecurity is a particularly crucial concern, as remote workers may not have the same level of protection as office-based employees. Companies must ensure that their employees have the necessary tools and training to maintain cybersecurity while working remotely.
Another challenge is effective project management and collaboration. Managers need to leverage various tools and technologies to facilitate communication, task monitoring, and deadline management. Fortunately, abundant collaboration tools are available today, such as Slack, Trello, and Zoom Videoconferencing, to ensure efficient remote collaboration.
For employees, remote work may bring about struggles such as difficulty disconnecting from work, feelings of loneliness, and challenges with collaboration. Maintaining clear communication channels and fostering a sense of culture within remote teams is vital to address these issues. Dedicating time for virtual team gatherings, like what Conosco does with its “OurCafe,” helps remote employees feel connected and included.
The Post-COVID Future of Work
The COVID-19 crisis has accelerated the adoption of remote work. However, remote work was already on an upward trajectory, and the pandemic may act as a tipping point. As leaders witness the benefits, cost savings, and environmental advantages of remote work, they will likely continue to embrace it beyond the pandemic.
The future of work may be one where a significant portion of the workforce, up to 25-30%, opts to work remotely multiple days a week. Reduced fear among managers, increased focus on disaster preparedness, cost-saving opportunities, and environmental concerns will all contribute to the growth of remote work.
Though remote work is not without its challenges, organizations are increasingly recognizing its potential and are investing in the necessary policies, procedures, and technologies. Remote work is not just a trend; it is becoming an integral part of how we work and live. Before rushing back to traditional work setups, organizations should evaluate their experiences during the COVID-19 crisis and consider how remote work can offer ongoing benefits for both employers and employees.
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