As a business owner, it’s natural to be concerned about the shift towards remote working; after all, it’s a dramatic change from the 9-5, office-based, traditional working model. Does allowing staff to work remotely mean you’re wasting money on office space? Is it going to be harder to make employees feel part of the same team, with a strong sense of workplace culture? And ultimately, is allowing remote work going to be bad for business?
This doesn’t have to be the case, but to make remote working work for your organisation, you need to take the time to understand what your workforce wants, and find ways to bring your team together - whether that’s physically or virtually - to create a successful hybrid workforce.
What Is Remote Work?
The term ‘remote work’ refers to work that is carried out by an employee outside of the traditional workplace. This could be at home, in a cafe, or even in a co-working space.
Although the term often refers to remote work from home, working from home is typically used to describe a more temporary solution. For example, you may be based in an office full-time and be working from home while you wait in for a delivery. In contrast, remote workers will work outside of the traditional office space at least some of the time.
With the Covid-19 pandemic leading many people to reassess their priorities and their work-life balance, remote work is surging in popularity. And this is having a knock-on effect on businesses, who are having to reevaluate their working model to reflect workers’ changing preferences.
Back in summer 2020, a BBC News report found that 50% of the UK’s biggest employers said they weren’t planning for their staff to return to the office full-time after the pandemic, while Office for National Statistics data from 2021 showed that 32% of businesses weren’t sure where their workforce would be based in the future.
This indicates that remote work is here to stay, and that businesses that don’t embrace this could find themselves left behind in a pre-pandemic mindset that is no longer widely reflected.
Why Some People Prefer Remote Work
There are so many reasons why some workers prefer remote work, with the opportunity to create a better work-life balance a big one. With more awareness around mental health and with a big shift in people’s lifestyles since the start of the pandemic, the modern workforce is increasingly seeing this as their right - business leaders need to catch up to keep existing employees on side and to attract the best new talent.
These are some of the main reasons people prefer working remotely:
No commute - not having to commute is a big benefit of working from home, saving workers time spent travelling, potentially helping to prevent burnout, saving people money on fuel and tickets, and it can have benefits for the environment too
Work-life balance - by removing the need to commute, workers can create a better work-life balance, which can again have mental health benefits, helping to prevent burnout. Remote work from home can mean more time to spend with loved ones and on hobbies, as well as more time for exercise and self-care
Flexibility around other commitments - remote work that allows flexible hours means workers can get to appointments close to home more easily, and do the school run or nursery drop-off before restarting work later in the day
A chance to create the ideal working environment - not everyone thrives in an office. Some people are introverts and prefer their own company, while others are simply more productive very early in the morning or late in the afternoon. Some people prefer to be close to their pets or benefit from background radio noise, or even from having none at all so it’s easier to make calls and get their head down
The Hybrid Workforce
Hybrid working is a model that requires workers to divide their time between working remotely and working in the office. Typically, this will mean that part of your workforce is physically present each day, while others will be working from home.
Research carried out by the University of Southampton found that 97% of respondents who had previously been primarily office-based supported the concept of hybrid working. Similarly, figures from the Office for National Statistics showed that 85% of those questioned wanted to be part of a hybrid working model in the future.
Hybrid working offers a way to balance remote working with a requirement for some time spent in the office, which means businesses can cater to different workers’ preferences fairly. As a result, an organisation may be able to attract talent from a wider pool, both geographically and in terms of skills.
A successful hybrid working model cannot work without remote working being embraced, so it’s important to get out of the mindset of believing that working from home is bad for business in order for your workforce to thrive post-pandemic.
6 Ways Businesses Can Support Remote Workers
It’s natural to be worried about the impact of remote work on your business and workforce, but there are so many positives to be gained from facilitating a hybrid model. It’s important to change your mindset so you’re not missing out on talent and progress, particularly in the midst of the so-called Great Resignation, when so many workers are reassessing their priorities. Read on to discover how you can best support the remote part of your workforce:
1. Accept That The World Of Work Has Changed
The first step to supporting remote workers is to accept that the world of work has changed since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. Our training course The Post Pandemic Leader is designed to help equip you with the skills you need to manage a post-pandemic workforce, wherever your staff are based.
This workshop looks at how to facilitate communication, engagement, and motivation to support the workforce’s changing needs. It will also explore how leaders can build trust, empathy, and resilience when managing a post-pandemic workforce, so the whole organisation is able to work well together.
2. Encourage Open Discussions About The Future
When you’re establishing what your organisation’s remote work policy should be, make sure you’re encouraging open discussions about remote working. Perhaps send out a staff survey that can be answered anonymously to see how everyone feels about it. Some workers may prefer to come into the office, while others may want to be fully remote, so use these findings as the basis for your remote work policy and see if you can reach a compromise.
3. Show Your Team That They’re Trusted
Just because you can’t physically see all of your team if some people are working remotely, it doesn’t mean that they’re not working. Sure, in the first lockdown of 2020 when some workers had to homeschool their children and severe restrictions were placed on our way of life, people may not have been at their most productive. But more than two years on, businesses would have noticed by now if their staff were still being unproductive - you can trust them.
Show remote workers that they’re trusted; don’t micromanage and trust that work is being done, unless there are clear red flags that this isn’t the case.
4. Facilitate Collaboration
Make sure there are regular set times to bring the whole team together to facilitate collaboration, whether this is via daily check-in calls or quarterly in-person social events. Encourage team members to share their achievements perhaps via a virtual channel, from both inside the office and at home, and factor an extra 5-10 minutes into each meeting to allow for small talk and a little non-work-related chat before getting down to business.
Our Remote Not Isolate - Close, Collaborative Teams Whilst Remote Working training course is designed to equip you with the skills needed to facilitate collaborative working wherever your team is based, understanding their preferences so you can maximise contribution. Read more about how to maintain your company culture while working remotely.
5. Prioritise Wellbeing
If your team isn’t physically present all of the time, it can be more difficult to spot when someone’s struggling or needs extra support, so make sure you’re checking in with them regularly. Schedule regular 121s and team meetings, and consider giving everyone a ‘wellbeing hour’ to do what they like with every week, or offer access to a counselling service.
Offering flexible working hours can also help, as it allows workers to reorganise their working day to suit their needs or if they’re struggling one day.
Try to create an open culture where workers know they can talk about how they’re feeling, and make sure they know that they won’t be judged but instead supported if they share they’re having a bad day. Encourage people to take mental health days too, just as they would take a sick day if they were feeling physically unwell.
6. Don’t Stress About Your Office Space
If you’re worried that having a smaller proportion of your workforce in the office when you have a hybrid model will be a big drain on your resources, it may be time to consider downsizing, or perhaps using a co-working space - something that could give you the opportunity to collaborate with other businesses.
Try not to worry about the future of the space that you’re currently using. Businesses are leaving large commercial spaces in droves, but there’s lots of discussion taking place about the future of these and what they could be used for, from co-working spaces to hotels to escape room experiences.
Remote Work: Bad For Business, Or An Opportunity?
Remote work is only bad for business if you’re not open to it. It’s clear that remote work is here to stay, so you should see this as an opportunity. Offering the option of remote or hybrid working means you’ll be at the forefront of the future of business, and you may be able to attract candidates you wouldn’t have otherwise been able to hire.
Creating a hybrid, partially remote workforce may mean a period of adjustment as your organisation’s culture evolves to the hybrid model, but there’s absolutely no reason why remote work has to be bad for business - you just need to make it work for you.
Don’t disregard the opportunities it could present to you and your leadership team either; the chance to carve out a better work-life balance could be transformative, both professionally and personally.