In many ways, 2020 has been marked by the kinds of sudden change that no one is ever prepared for. These kinds of changes can be painful, sudden, and in some cases, irreversible.
Take remote work as a case-in-point.
Companies that would have never even considered a remote workforce in the past were forced to think differently and implement work-from-home policies for weeks, or even months, as the pandemic kept us all at home.
And now that we’ve ripped off the band-aid by necessity, some companies are taking another look at the arrangement and realizing that there are ways to improve productivity AND save money on commercial real estate—not a bad two-fer to come out of it all.
Other major players in the tech space, including Google and Facebook, have extended their remote work policies through the end of the year.
Is it safe to assume that part of what informs these choices must be that they have created and/or figured out ways to task effectively at a distance?
So if you’re considering the pros and cons of keeping your team remote, this article is for you.
THE FUNDAMENTAL CRITERIA FOR MAKING THIS CHOICE
You don’t want to just feel like having a remote workforce is the right thing for your business—you want the data to back it up.
And there’s also this.
I’ve run businesses onsite and fully remote, so I have years of experience on both sides of this issue.
Many service providers have similar experiences as well.
It’s one of the ways we’ve been able to scale our businesses because the largest expense on our budgets is often labor.
And not in an inflated or bloated way.
So you can crunch the numbers AND then decide if you’d rather pay for space or people if you’re going to keep one and let go of the other.
If it’s true that your people ARE your biggest asset, shouldn’t they also be the biggest expense?
If you’re billing top dollar, you’re going to want to have a team that can deliver at that level or you end up closing that work gap with your own efforts—which is definitely NOT the way to scale your business.
For our business, we determined long before Covid, that remote work was the most direct line to achieve our objectives, keep our team(s) happy, and nurture our bottom line.
Now, let’s take a step back and identify the highest priorities for YOUR business.
These goals and values should be the scale you use to weigh any decision, and especially one this important.
As a first step, I invite you to read my article on applying your core philosophy to any business problem. Any decision around where to house your workforce in the coming months is the perfect opportunity to apply this simple but essential formula.
It’s also exactly the kind of decision that requires the influence of your core values.
If personal interaction and face-to-face collaboration are key values for your business, it doesn’t mean that you can’t extend remote work far into the future. But it WILL change HOW you do it.
You won’t know where to put your focus—or how to find the cleanest line to YOUR right solution—if you aren’t clear on your company’s core values first.
So get clear first, and take action second.
On to the facts about taking your team remote:
IT WILL SAVE YOU MONEY
It should come as no surprise that taking your workforce remote saves money. If one of your core goals is financial growth, reducing spending and increasing profit by taking your team remote is one way to achieve that.
Medical supply company McKesson saves an estimated $2 million per year by allowing remote work. And that 2M wasn’t netted just by zeroing out the cost of a flashy downtown office, either.
Beyond rent and utilities, they saved on office supplies, employee relocation costs, and attrition/re-training since even if employees chose to relocate, they could continue to work for the company EVEN IF McKesson didn’t have an office in their new hometown.
There is a dark side, though, to this expanded workforce talent pool. For employees, particularly ones in expensive cities, there might actually be some negative impact in the form of negotiated or reduced salaries.
If a tech startup in Silicon Valley doesn’t have to account for sky-high housing costs, They could decide that a competitive salary based on the talent in 2nd or 3rd tier cities is all they are willing to pay, regardless of where the best candidate lives.
There’s more to business than money, of course. And there’s certainly more to be factored into the long-term equation of overall revenue.
But the cost of in-office work is very real, and it should factor into your decision.
MEETINGS WILL CHANGE
The facts on this vary by company and depend at least partly on your pre-COVID company culture.
If you held lots of long conference room meetings before, it’s likely that meetings have declined in a remote workspace—or at least, gotten shorter.
If your office had an open floorplan, designed around facilitating chance encounters and collaboration, you probably have more meetings while WFH than you did before. After all, there are only so many ways to take the “open plan” concept virtual.
In general, while weekly meeting time has gone up by about 10% overall, individual meetings are actually shorter than they were before.
If you know me at all, you know I love this.
Because, of course we are meeting more often online now that we can’t “meet” by accident in the hallway, the breakroom, or at our desks.
But we are meeting intentionally, and that mindfulness makes all the difference.
In an online workplace, meetings appear to be more targeted, efficient, and productive. There’s less idle “what are we doing here?” time when a team has made a concerted effort to be there. Contrast that with filing mindlessly into a conference room simply because it’s 9:00 a.m. on a Friday.
YOUR TALENT POOL BECOMES AN OCEAN
Many of my B2B clients have been limited in their search for talent—particularly in the tech space—if they aren’t in an especially tech-y city. If you’re in Silicon Valley, great. You’ll have to pay an arm and a leg to hire an experienced software engineer, but they’re pretty thick on the ground.
If you’re trying to hire an engineer in, say, small-town Montana, the situation gets more complicated.
I talk a lot about finding the simplest, most direct solution to a problem.
When it comes to hiring the best person for a job, opening that position up to a national or international pool of talent can help you sidestep a lot of complexity. Not to mention time and headache.
Just remember what we saw above where competitive salaries are no longer bound by geographic location … and don’t race to the bottom just to save a few bucks.
This is a place where penny wise, pound foolish could destroy your company culture AND leave you with less than brilliant employees.
IT’S GOOD FOR THE ENVIRONMENT
Eliminating the daily commute of thousands or even millions of workers will have a positive impact on the environment. Many city-dwellers noticed improved air quality in the early days COVID, not least because commuting took a drastic dive.
There’s some competing research around the degree of impact, but ultimately, reducing our carbon emissions won’t be a BAD thing for Mother Earth.
Then there’s the reduced need for fossil fuels that comes with driving and taking public transportation less often. Lower consumption of fossil fuels is good for the environment and the wallet.
EMPLOYEE HAPPINESS AND PRODUCTIVITY TREND HIGHER
This is a tricky one to unpack. On one hand, more than 50% of office workers said back in January that they’d leave their job for one that was fully remote.
But extraverts can find the quiet and isolation of remote work tough to take. And parents with kids home from school are getting too much of the opposite! With hardly a moment alone and frequent background noise, it can be tough to focus.
None of these are insurmountable obstacles, though. It can be as simple as shifting your mindset.
Taking remote work from “temporary” to “permanent” is a great way to encourage the mindset shift that will make it stick. If I’m no longer thinking, “Just a few more weeks,” I’ll start thinking about how to make the situation work for me in the long run. And that’s good for your employees AND your business.
On the whole, the data bears out positive results for employee satisfaction. The same is true for productivity, which also trends upward with remote work.
Though not without some cost to work-life balance, which we’ll tackle in another article.
THE BOTTOM LINE
In the end, each company will have to make its own decision around how long to keep their employees remote.
And there’s no perfect answer.
Returning to the office can be done safely and inclusively, if that’s what you choose. And when done right, a fully remote workforce can be a huge asset to your business.
There are pros and cons to either approach. In the end, it comes down to what’s best for YOUR business, and what matters most to YOU.
So take the time to level-set before you start exploring any major shift. Where do your priorities lie?
Then, weigh the pros and cons against those.
If being environmentally conscious is of utmost importance, the scales will tip toward remote work. If you’re more concerned with your P&L, you will need to determine which course of action keeps cashflow healthy.
The decision to take your team remote isn’t one to make lightly. We can help make the transition (or even just the decision) as smooth as possible. Schedule a quick and free strategy call with our COO, Kevin Smith, HERE. We’re in the business of helping you find the clearest path, even if it isn’t clear to you yet.