Remote work, telecommuting... 2021 has brought some significant shifts to the way that companies work. If anything, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is (among other things) an interesting exercise in telecommuting. Up to nearly half of US workers are currently working from home, remotely, and telecommuting. This is more than double the amount that worked from home (even on an occasional basis) in 2017 and 2018.
While telecommuting has been around for years before the pandemic, companies have been slow to offer their employees a more flexible, remote work option, despite the hype around the concept. But, as we have seen in the last year, things have shifted significantly. In a past blog, we remarked on the shift taking place around telecommuting and its impact on workers. Now, in the COVID age, we’ve here and ready to embrace a full-on change towards this new work style.
Once hesitant companies are now offering their employees more flexible work arrangements are finding themselves switching gears in the hopes of providing their employees safer working conditions. This burgeoning telecommuting or remote work revolution doesn't look like it's going anywhere soon.
So what is telecommuting, exactly?
Telecommuting is not a new term but rather precedes some of the more recent, flashier terms around working from home that has popped up in the wake of the pandemic. Telecommuting goes under many names, including telework(ing), remote work, flexible work arrangement, virtual work, mobile work, and e-work.
Generally, telecommuting refers to an arrangement where employees of a company can work from home one or several days a week and communicate with the office over the phone, and collaboration tools such as Slack and even via video conference.
This arrangement provides the employees with benefits, including better work-life balance and more, but it also helps employers since it reduces the need for office space. Telecommuting may also give employees other perks, such as a flexible schedule. While positive, to gain the most out of telecommuting and remote work, you must shape it accordingly. Read more about effectively managing remote teams in this article.
Note: This term does not commonly refer to arrangements where employees sometimes take work home or cases where a job involves a lot of travel or off-site work (i.e. sales roles).
What can we expect from a permanent shift to telecommuting?
To start, it saves companies money on office space, IT and reduces the time their employees spend commuting. Overall, reducing time spent commuting has proven beneficial environmentally and because those who commute have reported overall lower happiness levels. By cutting commuting times, employees may experience higher job satisfaction and overall happiness in their day-to-day work.
Beyond that, here are some key ways that telecommuting can be beneficial for your company and employees.
Telecommuting: saving office space and reducing costs
One of the most apparent upsides to remote work or telecommuting is the cost savings argument. Companies can easily save on office space, parking and all the extras that come with running a physical office. From extra costs such as water and electricity, employers must consider other things such as recurring office supplies, including food, company vehicles and more.
Additionally, if employees are remote working from home or another location where travel is limited, they save on travel expenses.
Ridding yourself of the need to work from one physical location can have more significant, broader benefits for a company's growth. By being remote or allowing employees to telecommute, you can hire from and operate the business from anywhere in the world -- as long as you're adhering to appropriate tax and labour laws, of course!
Ultimately, shifting to a telecommuting model can bring a company many cost savings, all of which can flow through the company in various ways. Keeping track of those cost savings can be easier than you think.
Increased productivity and better work-life balance
There are undoubted benefits that come with telecommuting. By giving employees more options for work, you can help enhance their overall productivity. Studies have shown that 77% of workers have reported an increase in productivity when working remotely.
Telecommuting allows employees to find more profound productivity thanks to fewer disruptions throughout their working day. While positive for building close work relationships and collaboration, a traditional office environment comes with many distractions. Telecommuting Employees can be more productive working remotely because there are fewer work-related distractions, less socializing (which can be a double-edged sword), less micro-management and potentially less stress.
Remote workers also generally have a greater sense of autonomy regarding their work, which effectively contributes to better work satisfaction.
It's important to note that all of the benefits of telecommuting can only be realized if employers can help enforce specific boundaries and workflows for their employees. Leadership has a greater sense of responsibility when dealing with remote teams, especially during a pandemic, to ensure that they can truly achieve a work-life balance. Remember, avoid micromanaging when possible, as it can sap the motivation and autonomy of a team.
Bringing in diverse talent -- and keeping them
By going remote or allowing employees to telecommute, you effectively are open up your company up to a diverse range of new talent.
A year into the pandemic, companies recognize that remote work makes it easier to attract and hire underrepresented talent. When you can remove geographical barriers for prospective talent and existing employees, you can tap into a pool of candidates that might not be abundant where your physical office is located.
Equally, underrepresented groups are now praising work-from-home as the necessary step in achieving diversity and inclusivity in the workplace. By reducing geographical barriers and allowing employees to work remotely, companies can help each employee to bring their whole, authentic selves to work without facing obstacles. This, in turn, will have a positive impact on your employee's overall happiness but also allow more diverse voices to come to the table, increasing innovation and collaboration.
Now, once you’ve brought in that incredible, diverse talent, how do you support them? With Knit Payroll and HR, we provide your talent with the best onboarding experience and ensuring you have the correct HR systems in place and the perks need to help you retain that talent.
A culture of communication
Through the pandemic, when your primary method of communication tends to only be via text and video calls, over-communication has become the norm. As in-person conversations and connects have mostly been eliminated, being transparent and adding more context is necessary. Setting clear expectation and outlining job roles is more important than ever.
Smart and effective remote teams must learn to communicate, communicate and communicate again. Communication during this time is vital to a company's health and a team's overall success. When a team goes from working together, in person, to working solo in their homes for eight or more hours a day, isolation can come quickly. If employees believe that they're out of the loop, they will feel disengaged and unsatisfied with work. This is where good leadership can make all the difference and lead the way to better, stronger communication while telecommuting.
When you enable your employees to telecommute, you are fostering a culture of communication. Whether it’s building guidelines for remote work days or relying on a Canadian HR software like Knit HR to track benefits and even hours worked, it’s essential to set out clear workplace boundaries and expectations from the outset. Practices such as this will lead to a strong culture of communication.
Telecommuting is here to stay
The pandemic has pushed millions into telecommuting, and now employees don't want to go back. A recent study revealed that up to 65% of respondents look favourably towards working remotely full-time following the pandemic, and 31% are seeking a hybrid remote work environment.
Companies need to embrace this. Providing this kind of flexibility will likely become the 'new norm' for employment, and companies will lose great talent and productivity if they impose too much rigidity.
Making the switch to telecommuting? We’re here to help! Knit HR is here to help answer any questions you may have as you grow your remote teams. Try Knit Payroll free for 30-days and join over a thousand small businesses that manage their payroll and HR with Knit People.