Some things can only be learned by experience, and our recent opportunity for widespread remote work will forever change the office landscape. It’s not surprising that workers prefer workplace flexibility, but it may be surprising to understand the expected impact of WFH on hiring and the bottom line going forward.
How do employees regard WFH?
As I’ve talked with my friends and colleagues, it’s not surprising that most would prefer to continue to have the flexibility to work from home (WFH) at least some of the time going forward. A Valior survey showed 40% wanted permanent WFH last spring versus 70% expecting it as of April 2021.
Though many initially had difficulty balancing family and home responsibilities with the need to stay focused on work during business hours, it appears we’ve adjusted. Like many, if I find myself getting a little distracted during the day, I simply work a little later into the evening to compensate for the time — an alternative that is seamless because everything is already on and ready to go at my home office. I’m not alone. Though employers may initially have worried about a productivity dip, multiple studies are finding that we’re actually more productive at home. For example:
- 48.6% of CIOs surveyed by Reuters reported that productivity has improved since workers began working remotely.
- 55% of workers themselves believe they were more productive at home than they were in offices before the pandemic, according to research by Deloitte.
What do companies need to know?
When it comes to work at home, it’ll be tough for businesses to defend against allowing at least some home hours after employees spent the last year proving their ability to keep things moving and get work done regardless of where they were. Three of the most important lessons for companies include the importance of choosing the right remote work technology, understanding the impact a WFH policy will have on hiring, and focusing on the significant cost-savings potential of remote and hybrid work.
Choosing the right tech makes a difference
Our work from home experience has highlighted some surprises regarding necessary technologies. We jumped quickly onto video conferencing and collaboration tools, but over time it became clear these tools were inadequate to ensure information security and to control versions over time. The pandemic further highlighted (and accelerated) the digitization initiative among market laggards who had not yet embraced automated processes. Be sure to highlight the following as a critical part of a successful work-from-anywhere technology stack.
- Capture – software that works with scanners and multi-function devices to convert paper records to digital files; often called digitization.
- Cloud-based information management – built from the ground-up to facilitate seamless information sharing between employees, these systems include airtight security as well as version control to keep records straight and protected regardless of where employees are located.
- Process automation – only automated processes can be completed seamlessly from any location because they move information through steps and route it to the correct individuals without requiring physical interaction.
This author’s recommendation: though it may sound tempting, avoid electronic monitoring tools as they communicate and create an atmosphere of distrust. The cost to your company’s culture is not worth the insights you may gain into work habits. Instead, steer your business and your customers toward productivity tools like ECM and collaboration that make information exchange and communication simple — no matter where employees are located.
Hiring may get harder
If you’re a business leader who distrusts the remote work trend, you may find it harder to recruit top talent. Given the significant majority of potential employees who expect to WFH at least one day per week — 94% according to the New York Times — you need a solid plan in place.
Things to think about as you build your remote or hybrid work policy:
- Be clear about your expectations regarding number of days or hours you expect employees to come into physical office space or if you’re allowing employees to choose and/or WFH full-time.
- If employees will be expected to travel back and forth between a business office and their home office, consider what equipment and tools you need to provide for both locations.
- Determine if you want employees to have freedom to choose WFH versus office hours at their discretion. Some companies are designating certain days of the week as WFH, to leverage the social power of office space by requiring all employees to be present other days of the week.
- You may want to set aside WFH days as “individual focus” hours, so most meetings take place face-to-face while employees are together at the office, allowing you to leverage the communications clarity boost that comes only in person.
According to Gallup, millennials rate work-from-anywhere (WFX) as one of their most desired benefits. And, a surprising 74% of employees will quit a job that doesn’t offer WFH to find one that does. Take time now to get very clear about your WFH policies, so you can be direct with potential employees during the hiring process.
WFH saves money… a lot of it!
If you’re still reluctant, be aware that WFH saves money. Companies that enable remote work at least half of the time save approximately $11,000 per year per employee says Kate Lister, president of Global Workplace Analytics. She estimates WFH saved US companies approximately $30 Billion per day during the COVID-19 lockdown. And, more than one-third of employees would take a pay cut of 5% to protect the opportunity to work from anywhere.
Further, WFH saves employees money as well. By avoiding wardrobe, commuting, lost time, and other expenses, we all found ourselves with a little more free cash while working at home. Estimates are as high as $6,000 for each employee annually.
Whether you’re comfortable working from home and allowing your employees to work at home, it’s a trend that is here to stay. Lister notes that the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t create the WFH home trend, but it did accelerate adoption by 5-10 years. She says that the widespread opportunity to experience remote work will likely push the portion of the workforce who enjoy the opportunity from 14% pre-pandemic to more than 40% post-pandemic.
As your business considers its WFH policy, keep in mind that the right remote work technology actually enhances productivity and security. If you choose to prohibit remote work, you’re going to find it harder to recruit and hire top talent. And, you can look forward to significant overhead savings as employees move to alternate work arrangements. Happier employees and lower overall cost? This trend will be good for business!