With a pandemic changing the world of work and employees realizing they can have their own work / life balance, businesses have had to respond. Remote or flexible working has been a topic high on the agenda for both employees and employers since lock downs eased and life as we know it began to return. But what does it really mean for payrollers and for businesses that are being asked to adapt?
According to a Gartner survey 70% of employees wish to continue some form of remote working, the term “remote jobs” is searched for 18,000 times a month and 1 in 5 Brits want to work full time remotely. Big businesses like Twitter, Oracle and Google have all given their employees permission to work remotely and there has even been a book written by Tsedal Neeley of the Harvard Business School “Remote Work Revolution”. Neeley’s research found that when people have the opportunity to work virtually and the flexibility to arrange their own job tasks, there is an increase in commitment to their companies and in performance and less likelihood of attrition.
All these stats make remote working sound like a slam dunk, but let's look at the real pros and cons of a hybrid, remote working model.
Remote working means no sitting in traffic, no train delays and no long commutes. It means as an employee you are able to create more time; for work and suddenly your personal life has greater flexibility, you have more time to spend with family and more time for exercise and mental health. All of a sudden you’re able to create a lifestyle that isn’t driven by your working day, whilst still being as productive as you always were.
For a business an employee’s ability to work remotely means their talent pool is significantly increased; rather than only being able to cast the net within a 20 mile radius for example, businesses could potentially have the whole of the UK and beyond to source the best, most appropriate talent for their business.
Other than the obvious time wasted in a commute, employees find they are more focused when working without all the typical office distractions.
More than half of UK bosses felt their teams are more productive when at home and 75% of all workers say they are more productive at home.
Employees have found they can both attend scheduled meetings and preserve quiet time, thus creating more time for their schedules and increased attendance in meetings. In a remote world, you could happily attend 4, 5, or 6 meetings in a day, rather than 1 or 2 if travelling between locations.
For the typical employee, remote working means less money spent on commutes, fancy sandwiches and skinny lattes, which prior to the pandemic would have formed part of their weekly spend but lockdowns and working from home showed us all what we could save by not going into an office.
For businesses, there are the obvious cost savings of having less employees in an office full time. UK businesses with a partially remote workforce are saving at least 45% on office cleaning & 36% on catering, rent and utilities. Some firms have gone fully remote and have seen tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of pounds, put straight on the bottom line…increasing profitability, Director / shareholder earnings and ultimately the value of the business!
But perhaps an area where companies hadn’t expected to reduce costs was sick pay.1 in 5 companies claim that remote working has reduced absenteeism, reducing their sick pay spend.
So life’s a beach right? Flexible or remote working enables a better work / life balance, greater productivity and significant cost savings for both the employee and the business. But where there are Pros, there are always cons, so what are they?
Studies have confirmed the benefits of in-person communications. Trust is harder to develop online - remote employees must make a point of sharing their personal side and building trust.
Can collaborations that happen naturally in an office environment be replaced remotely? Teams, Zoom and virtual whiteboards are just some of the technology we’ve seen emerge to help enhance communication between teams and individuals, but can this be a replacement for face to face? 67% of workers say they feel less connected to their colleagues.
Many leaders rely upon the informal, spontaneous interactions that occur when employees “wandering” around. They learn more from this than formal meetings and this is hard to replicate remotely.
That “osmosis learning” that a less experienced employee can get from just sitting in an office and listening, is suddenly not there in a remote environment.
So which is best, a workforce that works from an office full time, a workforce that works remotely full time or a hybrid, remote working model? The answer it seems lies with the particular business or indeed the employee. There will always be individuals that work best and get the most out of a full time office environment and likewise a fully remote environment, so for businesses, it may prove difficult to accommodate different working models. But a business needs to transcend remote versus in-person trade offs by setting out norms everyone can participate in.
The Future of remote working
According to the BBC, 50 of the UK’s biggest firms have no future plans to return all their staff to the office full time.87% of UK businesses have adapted to hybrid working.
According to Adzuna, although online job ads for remote work have increased by 307% since the first lockdown, they still only account for 8% of total job adverts.
So it appears remote working is definitely here to stay, but it is down to individual businesses to create an environment that works best for them.
“A CEO who can adapt rapidly by creating their ideal environment will build stronger, more committed talent” Bill George, Havard Business School professor.