The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many businesses to shift to remote work to ensure business continuity. The uncertainty of when it will be safe to return to work means many companies may need to continue remote operations indefinitely. Even before the pandemic necessitated remote work, however, the practice was becoming more popular. The last decade saw a 400% increase in the number of employees who work remotely at least one day a week. In fact, 99% of workers would choose to work remotely at least part-time for the rest of their careers.
Companies that had been hesitant to allow remote work may view this time as a sort of trial period, weighing the pros and cons. Let’s look at some of the benefits remote work affords both companies and their employees, tools that help keep remote workers connected, and tips managers can use to get the most out of their employees working remotely.
Benefits of Remote Work
For the most part, technological advancements result in valuable benefits for those who use them. Remote work is no exception. Working remotely benefits companies, employees, and even the environment in a variety of ways.
Perhaps the most immediate benefit of remote work can be seen during the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak. As shelter-in-place orders have forced many non-essential businesses to close their physical locations and their workers to stay home, companies have turned to remote work as a means of business continuity. Whether it’s shifting to e-commerce or providing virtual consultations, businesses are able to continue operations by utilizing a remote workforce. Even during non-pandemic times, remote work can allow many essential employees to perform their work from home in the event they can’t make it to the office. Be it inclement weather, illness, or some other challenge keeping an employee from being onsite, it can often be overcome with the proper virtual tools.
Global Workplace Analytics estimated how much both employees and business can save through remote work. Their estimates show employees can save between $2,500 and $4,000 a year due to reduced travel and work-related expenses. Businesses themselves can save $11,000 per remote employee. This total comes from several areas, including increased productivity, higher employee retention rates, and lower real estate costs. What’s more, these savings for employees and businesses assume only part-time telecommuting. Business that engage in 100% remote working can save even more for themselves and their employees.
Remote work also helps the environment and companies’ sustainability initiatives. According to the EPA, transportation contributed to 29% of greenhouse gas emissions in 2017. It goes without saying that the more people work remotely, the more that number will be reduced. In fact, Global Workplace Analytics concludes that if everyone who was able to work from home and had a desire to did so only half the time,
“greenhouse gas reduction would be the equivalent to taking the entire New York State workforce off the road.”
If that’s not impressive enough, Global Workplace Analytics also stated in 2017 that it would take the planting of 91 million trees to equal the 3.6 million tons of greenhouse gases reduced annually by people working remotely. Businesses that utilize remote work can highlight this practice in their sustainability efforts they promote to customers and shareholders.
Tools for Successful Remote Work
Remote work can be challenging without the right tools. Let’s take a look at some of the best tools for working remotely.
Cloud Programs and Storage
One of the most crucial elements of remote work is the cloud. Cloud programs allow workers to perform most of their essential job responsibilities anywhere they can access the internet. With limited storage on local devices like laptops, cloud storage ensures remote workers can save and access important files from anywhere. Here are some of the most important cloud programs and apps for every remote organization:
- Cloud CRM – Cloud CRM’s, like Salesforce, provide access to in-depth customer and contact information, insights, and reports.
- Cloud ERP – A Cloud ERP, like Acumatica, is essential for many remote workers to do their jobs, providing access to accounting, customer, product, and order info.
- Document Sharing & Storage – Document sharing platforms such as Google Drive and Dropbox streamline collaboration for remote teams.
Like the cloud, Virtual Desktop Infrastructure, or VDI, is essential to remote work. VDI’s provide remote workers with access to company servers, drives, and programs on their local devices. VDI’s allow desktop environments to be hosted on a central server, which can then be securely accessed by employees via the internet. Examples of VDI’s include Citrix and VMWare.
Just as important as providing access to storage, essential programs, and customer info are the various tools for facilitating collaboration among remote teams. From messaging platforms to conferencing tools, here are some collaboration tools every company should incorporate for remote teams:
- Conferencing Tools – For group calls or video conferences, businesses can use a variety of providers, including Go To Meeting, Ring Central, Skype, and Zoom.
- Messaging Platforms – In the absence of physical collaboration, remote teams should be able to seamlessly communicate. Messaging platforms such as Slack allow employees to collaborate and communicate with each other via online chat and video.
Managing Remote Work
Now that we’ve discussed the benefits of remote work and tools to facilitate it, let’s look at some tips managers can use to get the most out of remote employees.
Carry Over Traditional Office Elements Where It Makes Sense
Working remotely can seem a lot different to working at an office, but that doesn’t mean traditional practices can’t be carried over. HubSpot recently spoke with Slack VP of Business and Corporate Development Brad Armstrong on how he aligns his remote teams. Among other tips, Armstrong recommends having regular face-to-face interactions with remote employees to keep teams engaged. This can be accomplished through daily or weekly calls or video chats on Slack or Zoom, using Google Docs to share ideas, and encouraging casual conversations as a sort of virtual watercooler.
Similarly, Armstrong also recommends maintaining and emphasizing transparency to ensure teams are up-to-date on the latest company news and initiatives, as well as what people are working on. To accomplish this, Armstrong’s team utilizes announcement-only Slack channels and weekly meetings on Mondays and Friday for people to share their top goals and accomplishments.
In his interview with HubSpot, Armstrong also emphasizes the need for managers to be flexible with remote workers. With remote teams, employees may live in several different time zones. During conference calls, dogs will bark and neighbors will inevitably mow their lawns. At the moment, many remote workers have children at home due to school closures because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Even during normal times, remote employees will need to deal with things at home that wouldn’t occur in an office environment. This is also one of the benefits of remote work however; instead of taking a full day off work to care for a sick child or be home for repairmen to fix issues around the house, remote workers can still complete their work while attending to personal matters as they arise. It’s important for managers of remote teams to remain flexible and focus on the overall results, as opposed to every second employees spend at their desks.
Partnering for Success
While some businesses will certainly return to regular onsite operations once the COVID-19 pandemic is over, many may choose to continue remote operations in at least some capacity. After all, working remotely has benefits for businesses, employees, and the environment in the form of business continuity, reduced costs, and sustainability. Plus, businesses who already have protocols for remote work in place will be in a better position to pivot in the event of a future pandemic or other disaster.
For those who choose to continue remote operations, it’s important to not only utilize the right tools, such as a cloud ERP and VDI, but also to partner with vendors that have their success in mind. At iPro, our vision is to help every client be successful with our software solutions through quality services and support. Find out more about how we partner with you to realize your goals by reviewing the iPro Parternship Lifecycle. If you’d like to learn more, contact us. The iPro team is standing by to help with your business continuity needs.
For more tips on getting the most out of remote work, read our recent blog: “How Businesses Can Navigate the Coronavirus Pandemic.”