By Sanjay Khatnani, Managing Partner, J2 Solutions
When COVID hit, the entire world (quite literally) was caught completely off guard. Life as we knew it was forever changed, in the blink of an eye. Businesses coast to coast were forced to adopt a remote work model, which proved challenging for many. Sure, the work from home model had been around for a few decades; it wasn’t exactly a foreign concept in the business world. But the extent to which we were all expected to go remote (for many, it was 100%) took businesses large and small off guard.
But just because we weren’t expecting it doesn’t mean we can’t benefit from it. Just the opposite, in fact. The way I see it, the business community at large stands to reap significant rewards from a remote workplace model that’s likely here to stay.
Five accidental benefits of the COVID-forced remote workplace
1. Greater work-life balance:
In recent years (decades), work-life balance has grown increasingly important; gone are the days of the demanding boss who expects his or her employees to sacrifice their personal lives for the sake of the job. The fact is, employees’ satisfaction and ability to meet commitments in their personal lives significantly affects their success as a worker.
But knowing this and living it are two different things. The fact is, COVID forced business leaders and employees alike to embrace the work from home model, whether they were ready to or not. As a result, hundreds of thousands of employees have been able to incorporate more of their personal lives into their daily workday.
Think about it: Without a 30- to 60-minute commute, your employees now have an extra hour or two every day to hit the gym, walk the dog or eat breakfast (or even lunch) with the kids. Not only does this enhance work satisfaction and loyalty, but it keeps your workforce healthier—emotionally and physically—which translates to fewer sick days.
2. Better employee productivity:
Common sense might tell you that giving your employees the freedom to telecommute will breed laziness or slacking—but the opposite is true. Turns out, your staff doesn’t need you looking over their shoulders to ensure they’re getting the job done. Research tells us that flexible work hours are highly conducive to productivity. This was true even in pre-pandemic days.
According to research and consulting firm Global Workplace Analytics, more than two-thirds of employers report increased productivity among their telecommuters. JD Edwards, for example, cites a 20-25% increase in productivity, while American Express puts that number at 43%.*
Remote workers get more done than their in-office counterparts. They have more freedom to choose how and when they’ll complete their work. Some people thrive before the sun comes up, while others are at their best late at night. Without being confined to the traditional 9 to 5 work hours, employees can tap into their brainpower when it is strongest.
3. Larger talent pool
The remote work model opens up your geo-radius of talent. If you’re hiring for an in-person position, you’re limited to those willing to commute to that location. When hiring a remote workforce, you’ve got an entire country (or world) from which to choose the very best talent. And because millennials—who, incidentally, account for 50% of the workforce—want flexibility in their career, a remote workplace will increase your odds of attracting young, highly skilled talent.
4. Cost savings
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention cost savings as one of the many advantages of the work from home model. Some studies suggest that companies with a remote workforce can save as much as $10K per employee per year in real estate costs alone.* Many companies have begun downsizing their physical office space, while others are eliminating it altogether. Factor in the cost of furniture, energy bills and office supplies, and you’re looking at significant savings. Then there’s the benefit to the employees, themselves, who stand to save substantially on gas and vehicle wear and tear, not to mention the cost of regularly buying lunch!
5. Creates an environment of empowerment and trust:
The work-from-home model has forced leaders to trust their employees to do what is expected of them, without seeing it in person. The truth is, this is all employees ever wanted—to be trusted to do what they were hired to do. While this new leadership approach has been a difficult transition for many leaders, their employees—and the business—are benefitting from it. The “forced” flexible work arrangements of today, are giving employees the freedom to demonstrate accountability and individuality. As a result, employees feel better about themselves and the value they add to the organization, which breeds trust, loyalty, and, ultimately, retention.
If we all had our preference, we’d rather live in a world where COVID didn’t exist. Sadly, that is not reality—and we need to adjust. But by recognizing the positives that have resulted amid so much devastation, and embracing a more optimistic mindset, we’ll all fare better as we continue to ride the waves of the unknown.