With the help of communication technology and Wi-Fi, working from a traditional office is becoming increasingly less common.
There's no doubt that the pandemic completely altered and increased the adoption of remote work.
However, as the restriction of the pandemic has gone away, many businesses are opting to revert to their home offices.
If there's anything we've learned from the pandemic, virtual jobs are the evolution of businesses. The rise of remote means that workplaces can extend beyond the brick-and-mortar building and expand as far as the internet can reach.
Whether your business went remote or not during the pandemic, we believe it’s time to make remote the norm for every company that has the opportunity. It makes sense for your bottom line, employees, and clients. This article will cover the benefits of maintaining a remote workforce moving forward and how to build a thriving remote team if you haven't already.
Benefits of Staying Remote
Organizations must think strategically when it comes to big decisions. While it might seem logical to bring employees back into the office, you'll have to consider your strategic vision, goals, and all of the employees affected by the decision.
Here are the reasons why remote workforces outperform traditional in-office organizations.
Remote Opportunities Open the Labor Pool Availability
Studies have proven that hiring a diverse workforce drives better business results. One report indicated that a diverse management team generated 19 times more revenue than their fewer diver competitors. That's because adding remote workers from different geographic regions can add a fresh perspective to your organization. They can help you better understand consumer preferences and local cultures, which could impact your bottom line.
Workplace diversity has become more important to people conducting job searches. They want to know that the company they work with will be open to new points of view and ideas. Investing in a globally-centric team can make your company more attractive to job seekers.
Of course, this means you aren't only limited to the talent pool in your region. Organizations bound by their office location will only have access to a limited talent pool. That's because they can only hire people within driving distance of their office. Remote companies can recruit incredible people that they otherwise couldn't have gotten. This means businesses can bring in new talents with diverse skill sets to outperform their competitors.
There are plenty of talented workers across the globe, often much cheaper. That's because the cost of living in other countries is less expensive than in the U.S. Therefore, you can typically find a more qualified candidate at a lower cost. International employees typically make less if a company hires them from their country. Therefore, it'll be a win-win situation for both parties.
Decrease in Overhead Costs
Maintaining an office space comes with many costs. You need to pay for utilities and office rent each month, hire personnel to clean the space regularly, stock the break room with snacks, keep the water cooler and coffee pots filled and purchase the necessary furniture for your employees.
However, running a business fully remote eliminates the overhead expense. You'll need to pay subscription fees for various cloud services to maintain your workforce's communication.
You can simply rent a coworking space if you need in-person meetings with employees or clients. Even if teams work from home part-time, companies can save much money in the long run. Flexible work can reduce the rising costs of healthcare in the U.S. [insert stat here]
If you're paying for employee health insurance, your premiums can also decrease over time.
Boost In Productivity
Most team leaders and managers don't realize how distracting the traditional office space can be. It's impossible to stay focused with interruptions such as loud coworkers and water cooler breaks.
Instead, people can spend time in a controlled environment tailored to their needs. With remote work, meetings are beholden to a set schedule. There won't be any unnecessary impromptu non-essential meetings or brainstorming sessions that take up your worker's productive time. With less dis, your team will get more done, especially since they aren't spending any time commuting. Remote workers can achieve more without facing the dreaded traffic in less time.
It gives them autonomy to set up their environment and schedule, maximizing their productivity. Employees who build their schedules will feel encouraged to work during their most productive hours.
Some people are early risers, while others tend to be night owls. Either way, remote teams tend to be more productive since remote workers can complete projects based on their preferences.
Better for the Environment
Consumers want to support environmentally friendly businesses. Lowering energy consumption by not having less office space is the easiest way to lower carbon emissions.
A remote workforce can be more eco-conscious than an office business model. Your employees won't need to commute to work daily, thus reducing carbon footprints. This saves trees, and your papers don't need to be printed paper reports only to end up in the trash.
Of course, the food and drink waste of disposable coffee filters, cups, napkins, and other goods won't be necessary.
And of course, you won't spend large amounts of electricity and space.
As a business owner, it's in your best interest to do everything in your power to boost your company's bottom line. You'll increase your profits by lowering operational costs and increasing your employee's work output. As a business owner, it's in your best interest to do everything in your power to boost your company's bottom line. You'll increase your profits by lowering operational costs and increasing your employee's work output.
Better Work-Life Balance
One of the best advantages for employees is that they get to achieve a better work-life balance. Employees will manage flexible working schedules to balance their professional and personal lives. People can work from a coffee shop, home office, or coworking space.
They can also tend to their personal needs without worrying about taking time off or affecting their productivity. For example, scheduling doctor's appointments or picking up your children from school are common activities that need to be done during the day, which can be an issue for in-office workers.
A healthy work-life balance leads to long-term benefits for organizations and employees. Remote workers will be happier and more motivated to produce high-quality work, given their increase in flexibility.
Increased Employee Retention
Providing employees with the opportunity to work from anywhere is a great incentive for many job applicants and new hires. Remote jobs will motivate individuals to stay in their current roles, increasing the company's employee retention rates. When employee retention rates improve, this impacts other areas of the business. Companies will see a drop in onboarding costs, reduced acquisition and training time, and increased productivity.
Expand to New Markets Without Investing in Brick-and-Mortar Expansion
Gone are the days of needing to rent an office space and staff employees in a particular region to expand your brick-and-mortar business.
When you have perfect remote team management and remote delivery, you can scale your business to new regions without the expense of new office space.
If certain aspects of your business can't be done remotely, consider outsourcing the areas that can be done remotely. For example, a chiropractor needs an office or location to treat patients. However, certain aspects of their operations and marketing can be outsourced or hired through a remote staffing company.
Debunking Myths of Moving Back Into the Office
While there are plenty of reasons to choose a remote workforce, you may be skeptical about going fully remote. Perhaps you believe returning to the office will hurt productivity, or your clients may need you on-site.
Productivity is Down
You might fear that staying remote will cause your team to be less productive. First, you have to define what productivity looks like for your business. Productivity is how efficient your team is at completing tasks. It's tied directly to the effectiveness of the capability of producing the desired results.
The productivity benchmarks measured for your team depend on the position that they work in. It's all about the driving activities that move the needle for your business.
A salesperson is considered more productive if they can make more sales calls. Developers would be productive if they could write a certain amount of clean code. There is even remote workforce analytics software to gain in-depth insights into your team's performance.
A 9-month study conducted by a Stanford professor and other scholars found that a Chinese travel company with 16,000 call center employees found a 13% increase in performance. 9% of the increase was accounted for due to working more time per shift, meaning fewer breaks and sick leaves. Another 4% was because workers took more calls per shift.
A different US-based study demonstrates a 35% increase in remote employee productivity. Best Buy introduced a flexible work program for their employees, and their performance increased significantly.
According to the research performed by ConnectSolutions, 77% of remote workers will get more done in fewer hours thanks to fewer distractions like noisy coworkers, conversations, and meetings.
While these studies point to remote workers' productivity, effectiveness isn't a given. Instead, it also depends on your organization's individual structure. Some industries might be more conducive to face-to-face meetings. Also, it depends on the individual. Some extroverts work better with others, while some are introverts and produce better work while alone.
In this case, you may decide that a flexible work program is better suited for your company. You can rent a smaller office or coworking space and leave your office as optional for employees to come in.
Your Clients Need You On-Site
Unless you provide in-person service, there's no need to meet in person with your clients. Most clients are very understanding that businesses are transitioning to remote. It might even be inconvenient for clients to meet you in person when meeting on Zoom is more time-efficient.
Your clients aren't working with you because you have a physical office. Ultimately, they care whether you can deliver the results they're looking for in the form of a product or service.
Challenges of Switching to Remote
While there are many reasons to switch to remote, there will inherently be some challenges. It’s important to be aware of these challenges to decide whether it’s right for your specific company’s needs.
The Challenges of Remote Company Culture
Establishing a remote team has many advantages. Organizations save on office management costs, a major win in pricey markets like Los Angeles, New York City, and any other major city. They can also source top talent from around the world. Employees avoid long commutes, improve job satisfaction and gain flexibility.
Unfortunately, remote work programs have a downside: they can impede companies from building and solidifying their company culture. Company culture is typically fostered by workers coming together and engaging in company-wide meetings or team-building activities. Needless to say, disjointed teams can make fostering a company culture hard to accomplish.
Company culture is meaningful in affecting employee productivity, satisfaction, and retention. When workers identify with the company's values and mission, they're more likely to engage with their work.
Fortunately, there is a solution. Whether you offer flexible at-home work days or run a fully remote staff, there are some best practices to help you retain or enhance your company culture, even with no face-to-face interaction.
● Have consistent, scheduled check-ins: The exact cadence will depend on the team leader. However, offering consistent updates to expectations, priorities, projects, and tasks is important. This ensures that nobody feels lost or neglected.
● Set explicit expectations: Setting clear expectations is vital for remote teams. Employees who understand their responsibilities and deadlines know what they need to do to excel at their job. You may even talk about ways they can have more autonomy in their role or potential ways to receive a promotion in the future.
● Add a personal touch: Encourage workers to share a little about themselves. Small talk can help build personal connections and strengthen work relationships.
● Train your remote employees: Proper onboarding and training need to be done. Leaders need to show employees how the tasks should be executed. Training guides, SOP, and continual feedback can help your employees become more efficient. This also builds a bond between the employee and the manager.
With that said, it will be more difficult to establish a company culture without the physical interaction of being with your coworkers daily. Though, often company culture shouldn’t be mistaken for productivity. Remote teams can be just as productive, if not more, if the right tools, systems, and leadership are in place.
Home Environment Might Not Be Conducive to Productive Work
Making your home a productive environment might not be possible for all employees. Employees with children, pets, or other potential distractions can disrupt an employee’s work if not managed properly for focused working time. Some people work better with a physically present manager who holds them accountable and provides guidance throughout the day. Extroverts may be more productive when they’re around social peers.
Also, some jobs might be better suited for working in an office than at home. Creative and technical jobs like writers, engineers, developers, and marketers may find that an isolated space would help them to focus on producing high-quality work.
Conversely, sales jobs might be different. Sales reps could use feedback from their managers or gain insight from their peers, allowing them to perform their roles better.
Some notable businesses have pushed back on going remote. Tesla believes its workers are better suited for working in an office to prevent workers from doing tasks unrelated to job duties.
However, keep in mind that forcing employees to work in an office could attract a smaller talent pool and potentially cause some employees to look elsewhere.
Potential Tax and Benefits Challenges
While remote work can benefit businesses in many ways, such as boosting employee satisfaction, lowering overhead, and reducing workplace liabilities, some potential tax and benefits challenges can come with it.
Payroll laws will vary based on where employees perform their work. There can be occasions when a remote employee chooses to work from a different state. If that employee establishes residency in the new state, the employer must adjust where they have state tax accounts to ensure payroll sends the correct amount and follows specific tax and benefits laws for that new region. The amount of payroll tax won’t change, but the employee will be subject to different state income tax withholding requirements. Always track where employees work and consult with a professional about payroll or benefit concerns.
Some companies prefer to hire remote contractors since they have fewer tax and benefits implications. This has advantages, as the company only has to set up a contract, confirm work progress and send payment, and the worker takes care of their taxes and contributions as they are self-employed. Some workers prefer this or are already set up this way, but many are not prepared to be independent or understand how to handle the shift in tax liability.
The downside to hiring contractors is that there is typically less control by the company, and the worker may not feel as loyal or connected to the business. Moreover, the worker could be re-classified by authorities as an employee if they don’t meet self-employment criteria. This would mean payment by the company of back taxes, contributions, and in some cases, penalties for misclassification.
Tips on Building and Managing Your Remote Team
Building the proper remote team can be a challenging task. It requires having the proper operations and systems in place so that your company runs like a well-oiled machine. Without project management software, proper leadership, and training, things can quickly go awry.
1. Find an Outsourcing Partner
Since a remote workforce isn't limited by geographical location, you can pick the cream of the crop, no matter where the talent comes from. However, building the right remote team can take time and energy.
If you're searching for a remote team but aren't sure what to look for in each position, you can outsource the work by hiring a service provider, consultant, or freelancer.
Depending on your company size, hiring an agency rather than a team of employees may be more beneficial. For example, a startup may get more value from hiring an agency compared to a team of full-time marketers.
An agency will cost less since it won't require healthcare benefits and training. Additionally, the agency will work on a performance basis. Therefore, they're expected to deliver their promised results. Professional agencies continually update their knowledge and skillset, making them more likely to know the latest trends, technologies, and strategies best suited for your industry.
2. Leverage Communication and Project Management Tools
Today, there are hundreds of software that can help with managing your team. Rather than give you the specific tools, it's better to talk about the functionality and types of tools that every remote team needs.
Some work is best done with collaboration. Just because we're physically separated while working remotely doesn't mean we still can't work together. These tools let you perform real time meetings like Zoom and Google Hangouts.
Identify which tasks and talking points are needed for group discussion and then leave the rest for employees to work independently. Typically, synchronous collaboration is best for feedback, training, and creative discussions that involve generating ideas. Also, these meetings are a great place to address current obstacles in their projects, what's on their plate for the week, and feedback on how they can speed up their existing tasks.
Workforces can still collaborate on projects and share information even if they're not in real time. This is where team members congregate in chat channels like slack to discuss projects, share files, answer questions and celebrate wins.
Although you can't see your team members working, you can see what they're working on with a productivity tracking tool. Implementing a project management system lets managers create projects, assign tasks, track progress, and monitor productivity within their departments, no matter when they're working. They're also a good way to receive project status updates and ensure that everything is moving forward.
Sharing files via email attachments can cause a lot of unnecessary clutter that gets easily lost. Switching to cloud-based solutions that can host and organize files in one place lets remote teams collaborate, edit and update in real time. For example, simple tools like Google Drive and Dropbox lets people share files. This applies to project deliverables, employee paperwork, company records, meeting notes, and anything else important to share.ct status updates and ensure that everything is moving forward.
3. Have Onboarding Systems
The reason for onboarding is to help your new hires get familiar with your company, its values, and missions, make them feel welcome, provide them with the tools and training they need, and facilitate connections with the team.
The only difference between virtual employee onboarding and in-office training is that it's accomplished through video conferences, pre-recorded videos, webinars, instant messenger, resources, and interactive online training.
You may have to set up your team members with the necessary home office equipment for some companies. Teleworkers may need a Bluetooth headset to handle a larger volume of calls. You'll also need to give access and guide them on using all business-critical tools.
4. Write Out Roles, Processes, and Workflows
Working with remote teams can get convoluted fast. As you shift your operations to virtual, there are a lot of items and steps that may fall between the cracks. The best way to ensure everything flows smoothly is to map out everything in your business.
Write physical documents that lay out step-by-step instructions on how things should be done, who should do them, and when they should get done.
These documents may include the following:
● "Playbooks" that go in-depth on processes and protocols
● Checklists for each component of a project or assignment
● Templates like reporting, outreach scripts, or branding guidelines that team members can easily follow
● Flow charts illustrate what to do in different situations
Place these documents in your project management or shared drive so all team members can access them anytime. Additionally, many project management platforms allow you to link documents directly to the tasks, so team members can know exactly when and where to reference those documents.
For example, a blog post must follow specific brand guidelines or use company product images. The project manager can link the necessary documents or files to those tasks or project templates so they are always available conveniently.
These handy remote team management tools can go a long way to ensure your remote team isn't waiting for the information that has already been prepared.
Many enterprise companies like Facebook and Github have created a new role called "Head of Remote Work." This executive-level role leads the transition and methodically manages the remote workforce. They're focused on onboarding new talent and maintaining company culture.
If you're worried about the productivity of your remote workforce, you can create this new role to ensure a smooth transition. Ideally, this person will be tasked with the following:
● Documenting all processes
● Auditing existing tools
● Upskilling and training
● Re-evaluating company values
● Celebrating small wins
● Transforming expectations from leadership
● Building a visible talent brand
● Education employees on best remote practices
Support employees with remote work issues
5. Implement Cybersecurity Best Practices
Knowing who is accessing your files and network is extremely important with a remote team. Multi-factor authentication supplements your password requirements by adding a second layer of identity verification before permitting someone access to your files and apps. It uses a combination of user and passwords, tokens, or something to generate pins or a face ID.
Also, you could set up a VPN on your employee's home network. Home networks don't offer much security. If they work at coffee shops, someone can easily tap into their network, hack into the company's portal, or access their important files.
A VPN provides a secure private network that your workers can use when handling sensitive data. Many VPN tools are easy to set up and cost-effective. Cloud services also should be used since they automatically back-up information and are accessible to anyone with permission.
Wrapping It Up
While the pandemic was catastrophic to many industries, there is a silver lining. It did prove that many organizations could function and succeed with an entirely remote workforce. As discussed, there are plenty of reasons your business should continue to stay fully virtual during the post-pandemic era.
It's proven that remote workers have higher job satisfaction and are more productive than their in-office counterparts. You'll save money and keep your overhead costs low. Not to mention, remote businesses are more eco-friendly and help you grow your profits. Considering all of these benefits and that we already have the technology, it only makes sense to keep your business remote.