Remote Work: Temporary Fix or the New Normal?

Due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, employees have been working from home in unprecedented numbers. But how permanent will telework be? Will employees return to offices once the crisis has passed, or will remote work be the new normal post-pandemic?

Remote Work Extensions

While many states and localities have relaxed their stay-at-home orders, allowing employers to reopen their offices and bring employees back to work, numerous organizations have chosen to let employees continue working remotely during the pandemic.

Many have extended remote working into the fall or through the end of 2020, and some have already decided to carry it into 2021. For example, Google recently announced that it would allow employees to work from home until July 2021.

It seems inevitable that this trend will continue. As back-to-school time looms and many school systems across the country are planning to begin virtually, either entirely or in part, there may be an even greater need for employers to allow employees to continue telecommuting.

Permanent Remote Work

Other employers have realized the advantages of telecommuting and have decided to make remote working a permanent staple in their organization. Some of the organizations that have embraced more permanent work from home (WFH) offerings for at least some of their employees or offices include:

  • Facebook;
  • Twitter; and
  • Nationwide.

And more organizations may jump on board once they realize that employee demand for this option has skyrocketed. According to a survey from Global Workplace Analytics, a staggering 77% of the workforce want to continue working from home at least a few days a week when the pandemic is over.

Advantages of Remote Working

There are a lot of myths about telecommuting, but many of them have been debunked since the pandemic resulted in so much of the workforce moving to a WFH model. Now many organizations are seeing the advantages of remote working and are learning to embrace it.

One significant advantage may be an increase in productivity since telecommuters often work longer hours and are more productive than on-site employees because they:

  • Are better able to focus;
  • Have fewer distractions; and
  • Have the ability to work in their personal comfort zones.

Workers also often show higher engagement, loyalty and satisfaction with their jobs when they have flexible working options.

Additionally, employers may end up saving a lot of money with a remote workforce because they may see significant cost savings due to:

  • Reduced employee turnover and unemployment costs;
  • Less unscheduled absences and work unavailability due to minor illnesses; and
  • Lower costs of maintaining physical worksites, technology and security systems.

Employers may also be able to enhance their recruiting and hiring programs by significantly expanding their potential talent pool beyond the limits of their own local community.

Remote Work Considerations

So if remote work is going to be the new normal (whether on a temporary or more permanent basis), employers need to take a look at their organizations and determine how they can adjust their policies and procedures.

Employers considering, or moving to, a more (or entirely) remote workforce need to keep these key considerations in mind that go along with such a change, including:

  • Practical operations (e.g., physical office space changes and implementing emergency operations plans);
  • Adapting strategies related to talent management, recruiting, benefits and training and development; and
  • Legal compliance issues (e.g., wage and hour, paid leave and workplace safety).

Any organization considering or implementing a WFH program must make sure it is in compliance with all applicable laws and should develop internal policies to address it.

Consider implementing a telecommuting policy and agreement that communicate employer expectations in a clear and consistent manner to remote workers, including expectations with respect to which types of equipment would be provided. And always be sure to follow best practices when engaging in flexible working arrangements.

 

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