The Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in the largest “work from home” experiment the U.S. has ever seen. At first, when many organizations scrambled to transition to this unanticipated remote landscape, both employers and employees were faced with navigating technology issues, adapting to a new way of communicating, and learning how to manage their teams while also juggling home life distractions.
However, after a period of adjustment, many companies have now overcome these initial challenges and the effectiveness of remote work has surpassed expectations for many labor force segments. A growing number of organizations are beginning to rethink where business will be conducted in the future, with many betting on the most likely outcome of a hybrid remote workforce.
For example, Siemens, the largest industrial manufacturing company in Europe, has just announced that because of further development of corporate culture, improvement of the company’s performance capabilities, and positioning themselves as a flexible and attractive employer, its staff may work from anywhere for two or three days a week, effective immediately.
Corporate Benefits of Teleworking
Siemens is not alone in seeing the value of a remote workforce, and recent studies have detailed numerous benefits for a shift towards teleworking, including:
- Increased Employee Productivity – A recent study by Gartner indicated that 60% of employees working either partially or fully remote felt more productive than their peers, with many citing reasons primarily due to fewer interruptions, a more flexible schedule, and eliminating commute time.
Companies who have implemented a telework program saw a 63% decrease in unscheduled absences due to personal matters, non-debilitating medical issues, and stress (a Global Workplace Analytics survey cited that 78% of non-remote employees call in sick for these reasons, which can end up costing employers $1,800 per employee, per year).
- Improved Corporate Culture – The Gartner study also indicated that 48% of people planned to stay with their current organization as a result of a work-from-home program. Employees believe that remote work offers a more flexible and positive experience, which improves engagement, recruitment, and retention.
- Diversified Business Continuity Risk – Disruptive events are more commonplace in today’s world. Having a hyper-connected, mobile workforce is hugely beneficial to ensure that work can get done anywhere.
- Cost Reduction – With more employees working outside of the office, companies may be able to downsize their physical operations, leading to major cost savings from a reduction in real estate and facility management costs. According to the Global Workplace Analytics survey, six out of 10 companies reported significant cost savings, with average real estate savings of $10,000 per employee, per year.
- Environmental Benefits – Companies can help reduce their carbon footprint and environmental impact by having less employees commuting to and from work, traveling for business, and reduced heating and cooling of office spaces.
Disadvantages of a Work from Home Program
While a remote workforce program has numerous proven benefits, inevitably there are some adverse consequences of this new digital environment. Like many others, Microsoft quickly moved to a forced remote strategy at the beginning of the pandemic and have been transparent about the disadvantages of their work from home program:
- Longer Workday - Employees worked an extra four hours per week, on average.
- Crammed Schedules – Because of additional requests, employees spent 10% more time in meetings.
- Blurred Work-Life Boundaries - More work was being done on weekends, and the volume of instant messages increased 52% between 6:00 p.m. and midnight.
In order to avoid these pitfalls, organizations will need to put counter measures in place to ensure that work does not override its normal boundaries. The key to making remote work successful for all will require organizations to strike the right balance between home and office-based work.
Organizations should offer employees a range of options: sufficient collaboration time in the office as well as the opportunity to work remotely when necessary. Providing the ability to transition seamlessly between the two environments will be the ultimate test. Getting this right will have a positive impact not only on organizational performance, but on the employee experience, as well.
Next, we will discuss how to approach changing existing policies, process, and technologies to enable your workforce of the future.
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