While working remotely in 2020 was seen as a temporary measure, the ongoing crisis has meant it will now overlap into at least the first half of 2021. Business owners and managers are now confronted with the twin challenge of turning a short-term measure into a long-term solution and weighing up whether or not working remotely should be the way to work from now on.
It is not an easy decision to make, with many factors to consider, including employees’ well-being and balancing the books. It is probably a decision that could have been made last year with any degree of certainty, as many of the long-term issues with working remotely might not have been apparent.
However, as working remotely moves into its 12th or even 13th month for some people, many of the problems and benefits of having a team working remotely are now evident. They can be considered against each other so that business owners can make the best decision possible.
The benefits of moving to permanent remote working
No more fees to lease office space
This is the most apparent benefit as far as many business owners are concerned and the one that is most easily measured. With one of the most expensive overheads suddenly disappearing, it might look like the business can be run more cheaply, and profits would reflect the saving made by not leasing an office.
No more commute each day
From the most obvious benefit to the business to the most obvious benefit to the workforce. There is no more sitting in traffic or waiting for a bus or train to get into work each day. With the average daily commute taking longer than ever, the extra time each day can be spent with the family, self-care, or just spent in bed.
No more expensive utility bills
Following on neatly from the money saved by not leasing an office is the money saved by not running the office. The overheads of utilities, insurance, and maintenance have disappeared almost overnight, positively affecting the business’s bottom line.
Chance to upgrade working practices and implement new software
As everyone is no longer working under the same roof, the team needs to see where they are working. Most businesses have already had a chance to try out various types of management software and have probably found that those that are most effective are those which use Gantt Chart tools.
This is not the only software that a business can implement. Conferencing software has now become an almost essential part of daily office life (more on that in a moment), as has the possible move to cloud storage that has other positive financial implications for the business.
Moving to Cloud storage
While working remotely, teams now have to access the files they are working on over the internet. While this comes with its own set of problems, a company can save money due to no longer having to upgrade expensive hardware every year or two. With cloud storage, the company is only billed for what they use. It is also almost infinitely expandable, so its IT resources’ limits can no longer restrict a company’s development.
No restrictions on the location of employees
Suppose there is no longer an office to go to each day. In that case, a company is no longer restricted to employing people who live locally, and employees are no longer limited to looking for roles in their local area. This leads to more mobility of skills and workforce which should benefit both parties, especially when hiring freelancers for temporary assignments.
The downsides of permanent remote work
From this list of benefits, it is hard to see why a company would choose to move to permanent remote work. However, despite all of the positive factors that might tempt a business, there are an equal amount of downsides.
Lack of creative atmosphere
Many businesses thrive on the ideas generated by a team being in close proximity and feeding off each other’s energy. If that team is then separated and cannot find a suitable virtual equivalent, its creative spark could disappear, taking any innovation along with it.
No support structure for the team
Some team members take their cues from their working day. When that structure is replaced with something less formal, they can feel lost, leading to possible physical and mental health issues, especially if the team was the only people some individuals say all day.
The distractions of home working
Teams have gone from working in an area that was purpose-built for work to working from home, a place designed for everything but work. This means that there are plenty of distractions that they would not typically have from partners, children, and pets. In turn, this can lead to a drop in productivity while adjusting to the new way of doing things.
Possible cybersecurity issues
With a team working remotely, all of the work they are doing now needs to be sent over the internet, making it more vulnerable to cyber attacks, which have increased over the last 12 months. Cybercriminals have seen the opportunity presented by so many people working remotely, and business owners need to as well.
This problem can be compounded by the change in working location for the employee too. They might not have a dedicated workspace, and their work computer could be accessible to other family members who might accidentally open an infected email. The employee might also make poor decisions based on those distractions or attempt to take shortcuts because their productivity has dropped.
Even with as many as 12 months of working remotely, it is still hard to tell if they would be better off if they move to permanent remote working. The financial implications at first glance would seem to make it an easy decision. But, when they consider employees’ well-being and the possible economic impact of a successful cyberattack, the choice is not an easy one.