Companies Have Reached An Inflection Point - What Are The Implications Of Short-term Vs Long-Term Remote Work Strategy
strategy, process, technology, change & workplace

Now that companies have quickly moved large numbers of employees to a work from home context, we face a collective inflection point. As conditions improve and the economy reopens, will remote work remain a temporary COVID defensive move, or will it become a long-term transformational strategy?

Remote working isn’t new – since 2005 it has increased globally by 140%. The recent pandemic has been a tremendous accelerant of an already growing trend and one that looks to be permanent. The duration of the pandemic is likely to extend, and a recent Fortune survey revealed that 74% of employees are hesitant to go back to an office. In addition, remote-flexible working is having an “iPhone moment” as the work-from-anywhere movement enters the mainstream.

For companies considering a shift to long-term remote working, here are some major benefits to target as well as the associated challenges to overcome and investments to anticipate:

Positive Employee Results – Employees benefit significantly from a sustained remote working policy. They will experience lower out of pocket costs for commuting that average $4,000 in extra annual income, greater flexibility and autonomy, reduced job stress, higher retention and morale, and improved productivity over time. A remote-flexible work policy can achieve an additional 1.4 working days per employee per month.

  • Challenges To Overcome – Not all employees are made for sustained remote working, and many don’t have the skills needed for remote work success. Over longer periods, employees can experience isolation and disconnection. In addition, a distrust of long-term remote working is often inherent in supervisors and managers.
  • Investments Needed – Improved morale, retention, and productivity are very closely tied to investments in specific training, culture development, availability of the right tools, and evolved reward and recognition systems. A word of caution – without these investments, company productivity can actually regress over time as employees struggle.

Significant Financial Results – A big benefit of remote working is a lower overall cost of real estate as fewer employees need physical space. According to Global Workplace Analytics, the average savings per remote employee is $11,000 per year. AT&T saved $30 million in annual real estate costs by developing a remote working program. Further, once employees are productive in a remote work environment, a long-term rationalization of business travel costs is possible. UBS recently reduced business travel costs by 90% in Asia when executives realized that that trips to see clients and face to face employee events were no longer as crucial as they originally believed.

  • Challenges To Overcome – Not all industries and occupations are remote-friendly, and some are a poor fit for remote work. This may lead some companies to over or underestimate their long-term needs for physical space. In addition, facilities costs are tied to contractual agreements that might only be adjustable over a longer time.
  • Investments Needed – A reduction in facilities costs requires a detailed evaluation of the workforce to determine how much which work can actually be performed remotely. A bottom-up look at occupation and job dynamics will help determine how to correctly resize employee space needs

Talent Pool Expansion – When a sustainable remote working plan begins, the available talent pool for recruiting expands from local areas to a much broader recruitment zone. In addition, the very act of introducing a remote working policy starts attracting talent that may otherwise elude an organization. A recent study by Stack Overflow determined that 47% of employees feel that a remote work policy is important when looking for a new employer.

  • Challenges To Overcome – Remote work can introduce temporary disruption for key internal processes. As the talent pool expands, sourcing, recruiting, and provisioning functions will need to operate differently and without dependence on a physical location or face to face interactions.
  • Investments Needed – For companies that have not already moved to a more global talent model, evaluation and re-engineering of key internal processes that include employee sourcing, recruiting, and provisioning will be necessary to take full advantage of this benefit.

In addition to these benefits, perhaps the most beneficial outcome of long-term remote-flexible working is better preparedness for the new market dynamics that are sure to emerge on the other side of COVID. The combination of a more energized and productive workforce, a reduced cost structure, and a larger talent pool can offer significant competitive advantages over companies that choose more traditional thinking.

I’d love to hear your feedback and discuss your firm’s plans for remote working.

Access all of Trans4mative’s resources for adapting your workplace for increased remote working here. 

Mike Rosenbaum

Managing Partner @ Trans4mative Advisors

Trans4mative Advisors | Contact Trans4mative

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