Remote work in a post-pandemic world isn't going anywhere. Should your company adopt a permanent remote work policy, too?
It’s not a stretch to say that modern history will forever reference 2020 as a turning point.
Just like the industrial revolution of the 18th century or the more recent technological revolution brought forward by the mobile internet, we’re going through a massive revolution in a post-pandemic world:
A work revolution.
As millions of people lost their jobs and millions more were forced to abandon their once customary cubicles and offices, the remote work revolution jettisoned to the surface of everyday life.
Suddenly, nearly all of us were "remote workers," whether or not we wanted it.
Remote Work Is Here to Stay
While many of us are anxious to get "back to work," the truth is, the traditional workplace office—with its many cubicles, long commutes, and overhead neon lights—may never look the same.
In fact, many enormous companies like Amazon, REI, and Microsoft have already announced they intend to lean into a "remote office" setup post-pandemic.
One thing is clear: Remote work is here to stay.
So how can you and your company learn from the recent revolution and prepare for the future? We'll address a few key post-pandemic solutions, help you prepare to ramp up remote work, and tell you how you can make your efforts more efficient and successful in the coming months and years.
Remote Work vs. Working From Home
Before we continue, however, it’s critical to point out the difference between working remotely and simply working from home.
While very similar in many ways, remote work is not the same as working from home.
Remote Work Is Permanent; Working From Home Is Temporary
When we talk about "remote work," we’re not talking about staying away from the office until it’s safe to return post-pandemic.
We’re not talking about working at home a few days a week to get things done.
Remote work fully replaces at-office work—turning your home office (or wherever you choose to work) into your permanent office, where you’ll continue in your job for the foreseeable future.
Remote work isn’t "a break from the usual" and isn’t a change of scenery or a productivity hack.
It’s simply a location change. Instead of getting work done in a cubicle or an office downtown, you’re at home.
What Have We Learned So Far About Remote Work?
The year 2020 was a "baptism by fire" for all of us when it comes to working away from the office.
So what exactly did we learn in 2020 about remote work?
First of all, employees seem to be happier and getting more done.
One recent study indicates "higher levels of job satisfaction and reduced levels of burnout and psychological stress" in employees who work remotely.
Plus, in a recent FlexJobs survey, 95% of respondents said they have a higher or the same productivity level while working remotely.
More satisfied employees AND higher productivity?
It’s no wonder 78% of CEOs agree that remote work is here to stay. It’s a win-win for everyone.
How to Prepare Your Business for Post-Pandemic Solutions
If remote work is such a good idea for your business, your employees, and your bottom line, then what exactly should you be doing to ensure your business is ready for this work revolution?
Entire bookshelves could be filled with ideas for "next steps" and "best practices," but allow us to enumerate some of our best advice on preparing your business for a post-pandemic remote work revolution.
Talk About Remote Work at the Highest Levels
If you haven’t been making remote work conversations a priority at the highest levels of your company, you’re behind.
In a post-pandemic world where things are beginning to get "back to normal," the longer you wait, the more opportunity you’ll miss to address remote work at your company and make real, lasting, impactful change.
Learn How Your Employees Feel About Remote Work
Of course, these conversations can’t happen in a vacuum. If you want to do what’s best for your company and your employees when it comes to remote work, you’ll need to have frank conversations with employees at every level.
Ask them how working from home has affected their productivity and job satisfaction. Ask how they see the future of at-home work impacting their job. Listen carefully as they explain their situations.
Consider Hiring a Remote Work Expert
Depending on the size of your company, you may also want to hire a remote work expert to aid your business in this critical transition.
A hire of this nature could be as simple as bringing in a consultant to help devise a plan for the transition to a post-pandemic remote work situation. Or you could hire a full-time Director of Remote Operations to coach managers and employees on this "new normal."
Don’t Overlook Technological Hurdles
While your employees and the company’s bottom line are the two most critical elements likely to be affected by a change in remote work at your company, it’s important that you don’t overlook the technological hurdles that exist for any company adopting more remote work.
Where employees (and their confidential work product) may have been previously tethered to a desk or protected behind a company firewall, there are many more risks involved in widespread remote work.
Not only that, but slow at-home internet connections can cause delays in work or frustrate managers and coworkers. Addressing these and other issues with your IT team is critical at this stage, before we hit critical mass in a post-pandemic workplace.
How to Help Employees Be More Efficient and Productive When Working Remotely
As mentioned previously, all signs indicate employees are naturally more productive when working remotely.
But that doesn’t mean there won’t be hiccups.
Establish clear expectations for communication response times, which are scaleable as more workers in different timezones join the team. Set clear boundaries for work time, such as important meetings or project deadlines. And be considerate to employees who are transitioning to remote work. A perceived slip-up could have external factors such as receiving an incomplete brief that undermined the quality of the eventual output.
The more cohesive your company can be when using technology solutions like project management software or time tracking software, the better. This leads to less training, less confusion, and fewer cross-departmental frustrations.
Help managers understand the difference between managing a group of people just outside their office vs. managing a group of people located potentially all over the world—including in different time zones.
Embracing Remote Work Is the Best Choice
While some people continue to push for the avoidance of remote work as a long-term solution (Netflix co-CEO really hates the idea), the fact is, millions of us continue to work remotely while more and more companies consider their long-term plans.
If there’s one thing we know about business, it’s this: You adapt or you die. By the time Blockbuster realised streaming was the future of video, it was too late for them. Netflix – and companies in the same boat – must set personal preferences aside and acknowledge not only the inevitability of remote work as the ubiquitous future of globalised working, but the talent poaching power they’re handing their competition on a silver platter.