Proven tenets of organizational change say that people will go back to old ways of working if given the opportunity — and who could blame them in this instance? Most business leaders have based their recent decisions around the need to enable employees to work from home at a moment’s notice. While such hastily devised plans can hardly be called strategic, they have at least opened the door to new ways of thinking.
The change that‘s required to make remote work part of everyday operations can be a scary prospect for companies that either did not fully plan for remote work, or do not understand what they’ll miss by not embracing it.
The competitive advantage that a solid remote workforce produces must be considered. Here are just a few reasons why your organization should continue to embrace remote work as part of your organizational culture, and how you can address gaps in policy to make remote work a long-term competitive strategy.
Attracting and retaining talent
Almost half of respondents to an Indeed survey said that remote work policies are important when looking for a job — over 40% said they would be willing to take a pay cut to do so. Employees in the 21st century already expect to work remotely. As we move into the future, workers will be even more likely to demand remote work offerings from their employers for their personal contingency planning.
Also consider that your organization will be able to draw from a larger talent pool. When employees can work from any location, businesses are no longer limited to a local labor pool when seeking to hire their ideal candidates. Attracting the best talent will require organizations to not only adopt, but also embrace remote work.
Happy, productive employees
Even if you haven’t experienced it yourself, you’ve probably heard about the anecdotal magic of remote work — employees are more productive, sick less often, work longer and are generally happier. Having a clearly defined remote work policy that allows for flexibility in times of need produces recognized, repeatable increases in productivity.
When working remotely, employees simply spend more time working. Watercooler chats, long commutes and distractions like office politics are diminished, work-life balance is improved and workers are happier and more loyal to their employers.
Environmental stewardship and corporate responsibility
It’s time we start thinking about remote work as a significant contributor to environmental stewardship and corporate responsibility. Consider this: if just 3% of Los Angeles metro-area residents (a little over 400,000 people) no longer commuted by car, they would roughly save the equivalent carbon emissions of planting a thirty-square mile forest.
While it can be difficult to quantify the increase of goodwill that social responsibility and environmental stewardship can bring to a business, it’s clear that many consumers and workers show preference to organizations that prioritize being good corporate citizens.
As Millennials and members of Gen Z continue to make up larger portions of the workforce, being a good corporate citizen will no longer be an optional tool for gaining competitive advantage in a given market —it will become mandatory for business survival.
Furthermore, remote work policies should be something every organization can point to as a key strategy in reducing their carbon footprint. This is not only based on reducing commutes, but also on reducing the carbon footprint of commercial buildings. Equally noteworthy is that having less office space will reduce energy consumption and provide the added benefit of cost savings for your organization.
Take time to revisit your remote work strategy.
Perhaps your organization is one of those that is either not seeing, or not expecting to see, any benefits from this mandatory remote work renaissance. Before passing judgement on the results of quick decision-making, consider revisiting your remote work strategy to ensure you’ve done all you can to be successful.
Here are some things to consider:
- Did you take the time to draft a remote work policy that follows best practices and recommendations from expert sources?
- Are you actively addressing gaps and making improvements to technology that supports your remote workforce?
- Are you coaching your managers and supervisors on how to handle their remote employees and how to use the tools provided to them?
- Is IT able to effectively support the business through this massive change?
- Most importantly, what do your employees think?
- How do your employees feel about the overall experience?
- Are they trusted to do their jobs, or do they feel smothered by management who was not coached on how to manage remote workers?
- Do they have the right tools and technologies to successfully do their jobs?
- Do they have the knowledge required to effectively work with the tools and technologies provided?
Those organizations that embrace remote work will find themselves uniquely positioned to leverage a whole new world of opportunities. Businesses that view remote work as a tool for emergencies only do so at their own peril. Such organizations run the risk of being left behind and losing their competitive advantage in regards to attracting top talent and appealing to customers within their market.