Working from home could become the norm, not the exception
It happened suddenly, as Covid-19 spread the decision to switch to home working for entire teams, even entire offices of workers was to an extent forced on businesses of all sizes. As governments began to describe the scope of the pandemic, and scientists made clear the risks of infection, social distancing moved from an idea to a necessity.
What has happened since could change the way entire industries function, as businesses of all kinds have adjusted to this new way of working. From sales teams finding zoom calls a more effective medium for showcasing products to the way groups are able to maintain work output and quality without the expensive infrastructure once thought essential, all levels of management are learning how viable remote working can be.
With so many positives coming out of the enforced work from home experience, many businesses will be wondering why they should go back to the pre-pandemic approach even when safe to do so, and if we take a closer look at those advantages it is easy to see why, and why you may be looking to build your own remote team sooner than you thought.
Changing the Sales Process
Sales are the lifeblood of any business, without continued sales, there is no reason to manufacture or supply services. With that in mind, taking a look at how the sales process has changed under remote working offers some detailed insight into why it has been so successful.
Traditionally a sales team have been out there visiting current and potential clients and customers in person. It has been this way since modern business began, and even the introduction of fast digital communications has had little impact to this basic approach. Management of both time and clients has become much more effective thanks to modern technology of course, but, visiting prospects at their place of business and events, demonstrating a product or service and discussing things face to face remain the backbone of your sales process.
The pandemic stopped that completely though, so what has happened since? With both sales teams and clients forced to adopt new methods, video meetings have rapidly replaced in-person visits, and all parties are seeing benefits. For the sales team, who can spend up to 80% of their time travelling, the ability to take meetings, make their sales pitch, keep in contact with clients from home has proven empowering. Morale is up, so are results, with higher productivity thanks to removing travelling times. This is why remote working teams are now in the spotlight for businesses in all sectors, as the advantages are becoming clear.
With as many as half of those in employment before the Covid-19 outbreak now remote working, up to 15% of the workforce as opposed to 5% just two years ago, it’s not just sales teams who are remote working and enjoying the benefits. All over the country, people have been thrown in at the deep end, using ironing boards as stand up desks, finding ways to work together even as a distributed team no longer in the same building. Software such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Skype and more allowed collaboration regardless of location, and despite management reservations, productivity did not fall. Across the country management teams are in fact reporting the exact opposite. Once teething problems were sorted in the first week or two, and workers have established a comfortable, practical workflow, productivity has actually risen in remote teams.
There have been several studies of this over the last few years, including one from Harvard Business School professor Prithwiraj Choudry, where it was shown that for those that chose remote working from home, productivity rose by 4.4%. A 2015 study from Stanford University found that in the case of a Chinese travel agency, productivity rose by 13%, adding an additional $2,000 per annum per employee, and that rate was still rising.
The reason behind such rises in productivity are twofold. Firstly, by removing the commute, the distractions of the office and so on, remote workers are able to focus on the task at hand in a more efficient way. There are no interruptions as someone comes to your office for a document, remote workers can instead deal with requests through email and other digital communications when it is convenient for them.
There are downsides
It’s quite easy to discuss remote working by looking solely at the advantages, and there are more we have yet to look at. However, nothing is ever so perfect, and before you go out to hire remote teams, it is important to look at the problems too. Working remotely does not suit everyone. We are all unique, and individuals need different levels of support around them to be at their best, the same is true when you look to build your own remote team.
Some may simply lack the suitable environment at home. Those with young children may struggle to find the uninterrupted time to be productive. Remote working provides flexibility certainly, but if a team member has a couple of young children, and overnight Is the only quiet time they get to work, you have to question whether that is sustainable.
There are other issues that you need to look out for if you are thinking about using remote workers too. It is easy for work to take over everything, encroaching on personal time and negating the benefits most remote workers enjoy. The risk of this can be reduced by using software that monitors hours worked at the computer, although some say this level of privacy invasion is an issue in itself.
If you are looking to hire remote teams, keeping a look out for such problems is essential to ensure both your team’s health and wellbeing and productivity.
The cost savings can be huge
While there are downsides, and they should never be underestimated, benefits to hiring distributed teams are spread across all stakeholders. We have discussed the benefits to individual workers, the increases in productivity that assist business, but there is another huge benefit to business. It is much cheaper to have teams working from home than it is to fund the real estate space to accommodate them all.
In their switch to remote working, the US Patent Office is estimated to have saved over $38 million just in the cost of its offices and other commercial spaces. That kind of reduction in ongoing overheads can make a dramatic difference to profitability for businesses today. But it’s not just money, the removal of locational restrictions means recruiters can find the best talent, not just the best talent who live, or can move, to the business. That opens up new possibilities when you set out to build your own remote team. Not just great talent from another state is available to you, but those from different countries. Setting out to hire remote teams means the world is your talent pool.
Is remote working the future?
If you look at this from a logical perspective, the answer would clearly be yes. Lower costs, higher productivity and more flexibility for employees deliver benefits for all that are hard to argue against. The question is, is the shift to remote working going to happen right now as a result of the pandemic?
That is much more difficult to break down. Social distancing, shielding and so on have made life at home a vastly different experience for all, while working from home has become part of daily life, that daily life is very surreal right now. That may affect how many workers are viewing the adoption of remote working. Surveys from several companies have revealed that, while many see and enjoy the benefits of working from home, they are still looking forward to getting back to the office where they can interact in person with others.
How much of that is driven by spending weeks or months isolated at home is unclear, and in a return to normalcy, would the ability to work from home while being able to go out, visit friends and so on during personal time make a difference.
This is still unclear, and as restrictions are lifted on our ability to operate in office environments again, there is no doubt that there will be many employees looking forward to it. Just as certain is that there will be others who will be uncertain about that return, whether through being vulnerable themselves, or having vulnerable family they wish to protect.
Whatever the immediate future, the benefits for business and those employees who choose to work from home are very clear. While today may not be the beginning of remote working as a majority approach, after the experiences of the last few months, it is certainly here to stay.