As of December 2019, a “normal” workday for the majority of working professionals included leaving their homes, commuting to an office, working alongside others, and then going back home.
Yes, we understood the concept of ‘remote work’ at a theoretical level. Tech companies had ‘WFH: Work From Home’ policies. Some people used ‘flextime’ to pick their children up from school or go to doctors appointments during the work day without having to take a full day off. Some writers and graphic designers and other creative types worked entirely from coffee shops or fancy rent-a-desk office spaces.
However, for many of us, ‘remote work’ still occupied the same space on our mental bookshelf as stories about a relative who died before we were born, or places made famous in movies that we have never visited, or, Tiktok for anyone born before 1990. For over 90% of the workforce, ‘remote work’ was something we knew about but we had not yet truly experienced.
And then the world got a virus and everything changed. As one of our Shortlist engineers said during week two of WFH, “I had always wanted to Work From Home. And then I had to.”
Fast forward six months and a concept that was once as distant as long-dead Uncle Mahesh is now as familiar as the sound of colleagues saying “can you hear me?” as they test out the mic on the umpteenth video call of the day.
Along with a crash course in how to wash our hands, COVID-19 has ushered in a massive, unplanned, unexpected experiment in remote work for companies and employees around the globe. So far, this experiment has proven that people and companies can work (and interview, and hire) remotely.
Globally, companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Upwork have already announced work from home policies lasting through September 2020, January 2021, or permanently. Many are still trying to figure out what the next phase will look like.
Now, the big question for most companies is how ‘will we incorporate remote work going forward?’
We’ve assembled an overview of the key benefits and challenges based on research and industry experts. As you consider your team or company’s path forward, let us know what your thoughts are. We always welcome being part of your conversations about unlocking professional potential (remote and IRL).
There are many benefits of remote work:
Higher retention, job satisfaction
Employees place a high premium on the option to work from home. 99% of employees would like to work remotely at least some of the time for the rest of their careers, according to a Buffer survey. It is also evident from a Global Workplace Analytics study where 37% of remote employees said that they would take a 10% pay cut to continue working from home.
When companies offer these options, it leads to happier employees, who tend to stay on longer and report higher job satisfaction. Higher retention helps save on hiring and training costs.
In the long run, having a remote-ready workforce is important regardless of whether you’re remote full time. Remote readiness can ensure continuity of business operations (as evidenced during this crisis).
In view of the pandemic, as an employer, when you make plans for future work policies, it would be useful to ask your employees if they would like to continue working remotely for at least sometime in future and then take that into account as you make your decision.
A Chinese travel agency experimented with remote work arrangements for 9 months found that its employees reported a 13% improvement in performance (they took more calls per minute) compared to staff working from the office. The travel agency got almost an extra workday a week out of them. They took fewer breaks and days off and quit at half the rate of people in the office.
Employees who work remotely often report being able to concentrate more while at home compared to the office. Since they can spend more time in an environment conducive to deep work, it increases their productivity.
Remote workers tend to be happy because of their autonomy, flexibility, and freedom over their schedule and work. Happier employees are more likely to sustain higher levels of productivity.
Telecommuting during COVID-19 has taught leaders and managers who weren’t previously on board with remote work that operations can be just as productive as they were in person. Though it takes time and patience to reorient employees, for many companies the hard work has already been done over the last few months..
Access to best global, diverse talent
Now that companies have started working remotely, it is becoming increasingly clear that people don’t have to be physically present together at all times to do work. We believe that this sets the stage for companies to cast a global net as in order to recruit top talent.
Companies that are open to hiring not just from their local talent pools but from countries across the globe can tap into untapped talent pools. When companies hire remotely, they can access the best talent across the world and are no longer constrained by finding people from talent pools that live within reach of their office.
It also allows companies to scale fast and hire on-demand cost-effectively. Diversity is a significant challenge for all companies. When companies hire remote ready talent, it allows them to hire outside one’s immediate geography and community, allowing for more diversity. This is due to hiring requirements shifting from focusing on candidates themselves to concentrate on the candidate’s work.
Using remote talent serves to remove some barriers to women reaching top positions, research shows 42% remote companies have female leaders as compared to 29% women holding senior positions within companies overall.
Are there any roles within your company that you’ve struggled to hire for in the past? Is your company trying to reduce costs or move to a more variable compensation structure? Does your company support diverse hiring and have an interest in global talent? All of these are great reasons to consider global talent pools for open roles.
As we’re familiar with, remote work comes with Challenges, too:
One of the immediate challenges experienced by managers and employees alike as a result of this pandemic has been dealing with the isolation and loneliness that comes from not being around your coworkers.
According to the 2020 State of Remote Work report, employees report loneliness as one of the biggest challenges in remote work. This occurs mainly due to a lack of socialization, which otherwise happens in workplaces.
There is significant evidence that suggests social isolation and loneliness increase risk for premature mortality.
Companies should institute practices like “in-the-office” day where the remote staff is encouraged to come in office and work and other practices that allow for employees to get together on a quarterly, if not a weekly basis. This goes a long way in ensuring remote employees get a healthy dose of social interaction, eliminating loneliness.
A new Monster survey reveals half of employees telecommuting due to the coronavirus are experiencing burnout, yet 52% don’t have plans to take a break.
Separating work and personal life is challenging when it comes to remote work. A lot of employees struggle to preserve healthy boundaries. They feel that they have to work all the time to signal their productivity, loyalty to the company.
This makes it quite easy to work longer hours.
When you have coworkers in other time zones, the probability that they will ping you at a random time increases dramatically, making you work long hours frequently.
Employees should learn to focus on top priority issues while maintaining a schedule for their well-being and engagement.
Fewer promotions and salary growth
Traditionally, most remote workers report that fewer promotions come their way as they are not in the office, and their salary growth is pretty limited.
This is largely because of the “facetime” culture where managers tend to place importance on their employees being present in the office, where they can be monitored. And due to their doubts about remote workers being productive at home.
When remote workers try taking on supplemental work outside of work hours to combat this, they find the line between work-life balance blurring.
Now that we’ve started normalizing remote work, it’s possible that this trend will become reversed. As you consider how to make remote work part of your company’s culture going forward, remember to think about equity and access for all of your employees, whether they’re zooming in or sitting next to you.
It’s clear to us that remote work is here to stay and is not just a passing trend. We are keeping our eye on you to see how that trend develops in the coming months and years and remain ready to support unlocking professional potential for all companies – even via Zoom.
Shortlist is also trying to help individuals impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. We have started Talent to Tackle COVID initiative to help those who have lost their jobs with remote or virtual jobs, internships, and companies still hiring, find talent.