In early 2020, when COVID-19 forced many businesses to enable some or all employees to work from home (WFH), no one was quite sure what would happen. Would productivity dip? Would people have trouble focusing due to household distractions including others who were working or studying at home? Would customer service suffer?
As weeks turned into months — and now, well over a year and a half — businesses made adjustments to ensure things could work as seamlessly as possible. As a result, most companies consider their WFH experiment a success. Now, with fewer infections and more vaccinations, the light at the end of the COVID tunnel is getting brighter, so business leaders are asking themselves whether WFH arrangements should become permanent.
There’s no one right answer to that question. Each company is unique in its needs. However, given that productivity remains high among employees who work from home along with the many other benefits it brings, the question is worth exploring. Here we present some issues to consider before making a final decision.
For most businesses, financial matters are of top concern and WFH arrangements can raise the bottom line in 3 important ways. First, companies can save money on office space if employees are working from home. It might make sense to have a smaller office footprint for infrequent meetings, but many companies can do without even that limited amount of space.
Second, the resulting cost savings can be translated into lower prices for customers, who may, as a result, spend more per visit as well as over time.
Third, sales professionals report that online meetings, in place of taking the time to drive or even fly from one prospect to the next, enable them to fit more calls into a day or week. Given that a certain percentage of prospects will become customers, the more visits they can perform, the better. Online meetings translate into more sales and higher revenues.
Managing a remote team is different from managing an in-person team, so companies that want to go to a permanent WFH arrangement must have managers who know what they’re doing. A recent BairesDev blog post offers the following suggestions for leading an all-remote team:
- Communication is key. Use daily, weekly, and monthly meetings to keep on top of ongoing projects and issues.
- Manage expectations. Even more than in physical settings, team members need to know what goals the team is working toward and how they can help meet them.
- Provide needed resources. Managers must set team members up for WFH success.
- Stay organized. Using tools properly can go a long way toward boosting team effectiveness.
- Set a good example. WFH arrangements might be difficult to manage, especially at first. But managers should stay positive and focused on achieving stated outcomes.
- Have fun. Just as in a physical setting, it’s important to find ways to connect that aren’t directly work-related.
Advantages for Employees
The WFH model has many advantages for employees, including the following:
- For workers still concerned about catching the virus and getting sick — or not getting sick but passing the virus on to children who are not yet vaccinated — health concerns are reduced because the office is one less place they have to be around others who could be contagious.
- For many employees, home is simply a more comfortable environment than the office, and they can set up their office space in a way that they like and that doesn’t have to conform with company onsite policies.
- Employees can save thousands of dollars per year when they reduce their clothing, transportation, and eating out budgets.
For many workers, mental health improves with WFH arrangements because, with no commute, they get to spend more time doing things they enjoy, such as pursuing hobbies or being with family. They can enjoy the company of pets and leave behind many of the stresses of a central office, such as disruptive noise and frequent interruptions.
For others, working from home may feel isolating. Folks with more outgoing personalities enjoy the collaboration and back-and-forth water cooler banter and may feel less comfortable working from home. Some may also feel their careers will suffer if they don’t have immediate access to mentors and managers. Because there’s no one right answer for everyone, employers should consider a model in which employees can choose where they work.
Another way to find balance between WFH versus working at the office is the hybrid model in which team members are only expected to be at the office a couple of days per week. On these days, they can visit with clients at the office, have team meetings, and collaborate on ongoing projects.
Because of lingering health concerns, companies that choose this approach should consider additional measures, such as mask and/or vaccine requirements, frequent COVID testing, and the installation of air purifiers, sanitation stations, and no-touch entry methods. The following video explains more about the hybrid work model:
Access to More Potential Employees
Having the ability to consider job applicants from anywhere in the world is hugely beneficial. In the past, businesses have been constrained by the talent they had access to in their immediate area. However, a WFH arrangement allows you to find more people with the skills you need, bringing greater value to the products and services you provide. What’s more, you’ll be nurturing a happier workforce, as those who may have had a hard time finding work in their area can more easily find a good employment fit.
According to Business News Daily, “It also means your business can hire people with disabilities who can’t get to a physical office, single parents who are juggling families and work, and those who can’t afford a car, train, or bus to get to work.” The right people in the right positions means smoother operations, greater efficiency, and a higher bottom line.