The transition to remote work was abrupt, but some changes made during this time will be permanent.
The remote work boom necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic has revolutionized business virtually overnight. Businesses often had to make split-second decisions about whether to shut down and see what happens or ask workers to report remotely and also see how it plays out.
The result has been that businesses that went remote early on are still doing business as usual, while businesses that decided to wait it out had a lot of catching up to do. One thing is for certain, though: Remote work is here to stay.
The history of remote work
Before the pandemic, according to Vox, only about 10% of people were working remotely at any given time, including about 5% who were working remotely full time and 29% who had the option to work remotely once in a while.
Among office workers, remote work became more popular with the adoption of the internet and technology needed to make it possible. Once much of our daily work lives migrated to the cloud, workers began to realize they could access their work anywhere.
Disability advocates have long been in favor of remote work options as a reasonable accommodation for physically disabled people, who would have fewer accessibility issues with the option of working from their own homes.
Shifting to remote to keep business going
Businesses that had already migrated to the cloud and already had employees who worked remotely at least part of the time had the easiest and most obvious transition to remote work. Workers already knew how to do their jobs remotely and already had the equipment to do so indefinitely.
For the workplaces that had never before allowed remote access to work, the transition was a bit more rocky. Early on, companies were more concerned with productivity than with safety or work-life balance. But as it became apparent that this was going to be the norm for a while, companies began to make the adjustment as they sent workers home to keep the company going.
Benefits of remote work
Aside from the obvious and immediate benefits of remote work, which are that people get to keep their jobs and companies get to stay in business during the pandemic, there are many other benefits for workers and companies alike.
For workers, less commute time means more time in their days and less money spent on transportation. It also means they can live anywhere they want, avoiding high-cost areas where housing is at a premium and opting instead for any place with a good internet connection.
According to Vox, 99% of workers currently working from home would like to continue to do so for the rest of their working lives, if only for part of the time, and 95% say they would recommend remote work to others. The average remote worker saves $4,000 a year on things like lunches out, travel expenses and attire. Even those who work remotely just two days a week can save upward of $2,000 a year.
Remote work is also a boon for businesses. You can save money on office space, even eliminating it if your whole team goes remote full time. Employee turnover is lower with remote workforces, and people take fewer sick days when they work from home.
Remote work helps companies and employees alike avoid work interruptions due to weather, sudden school closures, child care issues, transportation problems and more.
What's more, companies that allow remote working can widen their talent pool to anywhere in the world, expanding far beyond the geographic boundaries of headquarters.
Challenges to the adoption of remote work
There are still obstacles to the mass adoption of remote work, however. Cybersecurity is one of the biggest challenges. Companies that already have BYOD (bring your own device) policies in place have a head start on adoption. Training employees on password hygiene and other security measures is a crucial step in going remote, but it's not the only challenge.
Seeing that employees have the tools they need to work remotely, from a solid internet connection to a work computer and a space for work, should be the responsibility of the company.
As a business owner, you should also ensure your employees have the tools they need to maintain a good balance between work and life. Make sure they can log out at the end of the workday and not continue to work. Otherwise, they will be living at work, not working from home.
The future of remote work
According to the Vox report, 70% of the workforce could be working from home by the year 2025.
Advances in technology, combined with economics and the convenience factor, are behind the rapid adoption of remote work. This trend was already starting to take shape before the pandemic made it a need.
Because of the transition to remote work during the pandemic, many people have realized how easy and beneficial it is. For this reason, remote work is likely to be one of the major innovations to come out of this pandemic and subsequent economic recession.
This also has the potential to reshape cities, giving them much-needed relief from overcrowding and high housing costs as people leave to work in suburban and rural areas.
Companies will also benefit from this arrangement in the long term, reducing or eliminating the costs of maintaining office space, including break room stock and cleaning fees.
Tips for employers to transition to remote work
If you want your business to transition to a remote workforce, you need to make the following considerations:
- Decide whether your workforce will be full-time or part-time remote. This will determine how much and what kind of office space you will need.
- Set a device policy that covers security. (Will you provide devices, or will employees use their own?)
- Transition to collaborative workplace tools like Slack, Teamwork and Google Drive. Train employees on how to use these tools in lieu of face-to-face collaboration.
Tips to find remote work
Despite the fact we are in both an economic recession and a global pandemic, there are still remote jobs to be found out there. Whether you have lost your job or are looking to make a transition to a remote position, take these steps:
- Work on your resume and social media profiles to ensure you are putting your best self out there.
- Look for remote positions through sites like Indeed, Nine2Five, WhatJobs and LinkedIn.
- When you do land an interview, check your tech ahead of time to ensure it is working properly. Dress as you would for an in-person interview, and ensure you are on time and prepared.
The future of remote work being shaped now
Necessity is the mother of invention, as they say, and the rapid adoption of collaborative technology has proven that remote work is a viable option for companies and their employees. As more companies make the transition, we are likely to see everything from work-life balance to cities reshaped for the future.
How will work look in the future as a result of these shifts? Now is the time to make considerations and prepare your business for the remote work future.