Remote working has been forced upon many employees and entrepreneurs since the COVID-19 pandemic started early in 2020. Whilst many would have resisted a switch to remote working in other circumstances; reports and anecdotes tend to suggest that the move to a work-from-home format has been a surprisingly successful one.
Twitter, for example, has stated that employees from specific departments will be allowed to work remotely for as long as they want (more information on Twitter and remote working in this Guardian article), whilst Google has stated that its employees can work from home until summer 2021. People are left wondering if this new work format will be permanent, and what will this mean for job opportunities, career advancement and the lifestyle of an office worker in 2021 and beyond…
Will Remote Working Become the New Norm?
The COVID virus went global. It has caused a slow down in supply chains, productions and for many it has changed the way we work.
Once business owners and company stakeholders have worked out that they don’t need to have everyone in an office, there are many after-effects very likely to occur.
Commercial real estate, for example, is a huge expense for some businesses and often a limiting factor in terms of business growth. If companies can operate successfully without a central work-space, then this whole expense could be questioned.
Not only can remote-working reduce business overheads, it can help companies to grow whilst mitigating financial risk. Companies may no longer have to invest in new computer equipment, desk equipment and office-space. With the ability to hire remote-workers, potentially from anywhere in the world, businesses can potentially start to use freelancers overseas without having to worry about contracts and employee benefits. Hiring overseas talent can often mean reducing the cost of salaries whilst opening up the talent-pool – resulting in better-performing contractors or employees for less money.
Travel expenses have also plummeted since the pandemic. With fewer face-to-face interactions, businesses will be able to examine the impact this has had on sales. A direct comparison can be difficult, as some industries may have been directly impacted by the virus. For example, any airline company will be unwise to compare perform year on year and expect the marketing team to perform just as well whilst working remotely!
The comparison could also be skewed but more positively, with chairs for home offices for example, likely to see a huge increase in 2020, regardless of home many B2B conferences employees attended!
Budgeting Set to Change
How marketing budgets and sales budgets are spent may also change as we look beyond 2020. Conferences, for example, are relatively expensive and are often questioned as to whether or not they produce a good return on investment.
The pandemic has provided an A/B test of sorts, allowing companies to compare their sales and branding metrics year on year – one year having attended conferences and one year – having not attended.
What Do You Need in Place for a Remote-Working Transition?
If your company hasn’t transitioned its ‘knowledge workers’ to remote working yet, you may be wondering what a move to working from home would entail.
For larger businesses, the process may involve several meeting of important stakeholders including I.T. directors, software engineers, finance directors as well as CEOs – due to the impact on business operations. It is important to weigh all the considerations and gain input and ideas from a range of people and points of view when looking to transition to remote working permanently.
Technology – most organisations will have to look at onboarding and offboarding, security and patching of computer hardware. Virtual desktops could be a solution. This essentially means hosting the work environment in the cloud – the desktop resides in the cloud and is then accessed by users using a device of their choice. This would make the transition to remote working much simpler for many employees. The Azure Virtual Desktop is a great example of a virtual desktop, so check that out if you’d like to learn more.
It is also an option to allow employees to log in from their personal computers. Again a virtual desktop environment could act as a centralised point to secure all the data that the company needs to protect.
Encouraging employees (or freelancers) to use their own devices, can save companies a lot of money in the long term. With no need to update and replace computers. This can add complexity to security issues however, with people likely to want to download things like video games on their personal devices.
Specific virtual terminals with email filtering and virus protection may still work robustly enough to take these factors into account.
Compliance can also be an issue. In the USA state requirements can differ. It is important to break down the different requirements for security and privacy.
Training may also be required. Employees are often described as “your best asset and your greatest liability” – this may be especially true when it comes to remote working, productivity and security concerns.
– Should you reimburse employees energy costs when working remotely?
– Should home internet be included as a company expense?
– Will employees have internet that is reliable and fast enough?
– What software will be required? E.g. video conferencing
– Will workers have an office space that will be suitable?
– Is their potentially a wellbeing issue for remote-working employees?
– Do you have company guidelines on correct device & asset use?
– Is a business-grade VPN available?
Before transitioning any employees to remote-working permanently, it may be worth conducting surveys in regards to some of the above questions.
In terms of security and compliance, it can be worth keeping all staff up to date in regards to new phishing attacks and scams that may be specifically targeting remote workers.
If you are self employed, the move to remote working could also require additional staff or contractors. You could for example, choose to hire a virtual receptionist or use a phone answering app to reduce interruptions whilst working from home. A virtual assistant may also prove a particularly good asset should your home-office space be limited
What will offices look like in the Future?
Those who want or need to work from an office will likely be ‘staggered’ in terms of their re-entry. Employees will want to feel safe before they go back.
There is likely to be more space per employee, more physical barriers, fewer tea runs and more people either working from home for a certain number of days per week.
Whilst many are predicting a downturn for the commercial real estate industry, it could be possible that there is an increase in some sectors – as businesses look to provide more space per employee.
Some workers maybe give the option of working from home. This tactic could be used to free up more space in the office. There will also likely be more investment in general hygiene and sanitation with hand-sanitizer likely to be available via multiple dispensers position strategically around the office.