On May 7, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that most of the company’s employees will be allowed to work from home until the end of 2020. Since most of Facebook’s employees are well-equipped for remote work, the decision to prioritize the health and safety of its employees wasn’t a difficult one to make. In fact, it was one of the first companies to send employees home—weeks before California Governor Gavin Newsom declared a statewide shelter-in-place in March.
Facebook isn’t the only one, either. After Facebook’s announcement, many other forward-thinking enterprises also revealed extended work-from-home plans, including Google, Microsoft, NVIDIA, and American Express. Even smaller organizations such as Square told employees to stay home. Clearly, interest in remote work is rising, and companies are adapting to it.
Remote work is the new normal, but not for every organization
As we slowly recover from the disruption of COVID-19, organizations have started to ponder when to open offices back up. It’s not an easy decision to make, however. Businesses have to weigh the risks to employee safety, costs associated with remote work, and whether teams have the capabilities to be productive at home, among other factors.
Some companies might continue remote work forever. A Gartner survey on 317 CFOs revealed that 74% of companies plan to permanently shift to more remote work post-COVID-19, with nearly a quarter planning to move 20% of their on-site employees to permanent remote positions. At the same time, an OWL Labs survey found that 34% of respondents believe their companies aren’t ready to go remote. Despite the crash course in remote work spurred by the pandemic, organizations continue to contemplate whether extending work from home makes sense, as well as how to approach future instances of prolonged remote work.
Organizations have several factors to consider before making the call. Let’s take a closer look at some of the questions decision-makers should ask:
1. How much of your workforce will be remote?
Teams have very different roles—and while some teams can excel remotely, some teams have to work on site. For example, marketing teams can easily collaborate from anywhere and continue generating content remotely, whereas most hardware design teams need to work in the office or lab to get their jobs done.
Organizations have to consider which teams can and should work remotely. Every team has specific needs, ranging from technology to time management skills, for which employers have to prepare. By determining which teams can effectively work from home, organizations can tackle those needs and ensure that every remote employee succeeds.
2. Are your employees set up to communicate effectively?
Communication and collaboration are arguably the most important factors in enabling effective remote work. According to a Holmes study, companies with effective communications had 47% higher returns for shareholders than those without. Employees need to collaborate to drive business success, especially when teams are fully remote and distributed.
COVID-19 struck abruptly and left many organizations scrambling to piece together cohesive communications strategies. As a result, many of those organizations settled for temporary bandages instead of long-term solutions. Companies ended up with multiple communications apps that didn’t efficiently work together to give employees a seamless collaborative experience.
Ideally, organizations should equip employees with a single app for all workplace communications. Unified communications solutions combine team messaging, video conferencing, and cloud phone into a single platform that allows employees to effortlessly switch between different modes of communication with a single click. By keeping everything under one roof, employees can choose how to collaborate while only having to manage a single app.
3. Were employees productive during work from home?
Organizations should evaluate the effectiveness of their work-from-home policies before deciding to extend remote work. The productivity of remote teams depends on several factors, including the nature of every team’s work, management styles, appropriate technology, and individual efficiency. Remember to assess the improvements you can make to ensure your remote teams perform their best work.
4. What are the cost benefits of remote work?
COVID-19 lockdowns around the world were an unprecedented and unexpected event for companies, and most didn’t plan ahead to take such a financial hit. It’s no surprise, then, that organizations are now looking to reduce costs wherever possible while they recover. A PwC survey found that 86% of companies are looking to implement cost-containment measures as a result of COVID-19, and 72% cite work flexibility as a key focus.
There are several things to consider when looking at the costs associated with remote work. In the short term, remote work allows organizations to scale back on office perks, such as transportation benefits, meals, team retreats, and even office real estate. In the long run, employees are healthier, happier, and more likely to produce better outcomes. At the same time, organizations future-proof their talent attraction and retention strategies by leveraging work-flexibility options.
5. Will extending work from home impact your employee experience?
Employees with flexible work options are generally happier, more loyal, and more productive. At the same time, a recent CNBC survey found that 27% of tech employees forced to work from home during the COVID-19 lockdown want to make this a permanent fixture of their jobs, while another 36% want to work from home more often moving forward.
Organizations should assess their business needs and consider the impacts on the employee experience. In many cases, forcing employees to return to the office can have a negative impact on employee satisfaction, and thus employee retention. Employees lose the flexibility of working from home while also risking the safety of their loved ones. On the other hand, extending work from home can improve employee satisfaction by showing employees that you have their best interests at heart and prioritize safety first.
6. How will customers be affected?
Employees are important stakeholders in the work-from-home movement, but decisions to extend remote work can significantly affect customer engagement. For example, customer support teams might not have the right tools to provide quick and effective answers when they work from home, leading to longer wait times and poor customer service. Similarly, slowing down the development of a new product can drive customers to explore your competitors.
Think about how extending work from home will affect your customers. Are customers waiting for a major software update that got postponed due to the lockdown? Conversely, will allowing employees to work from home inspire them to produce better work? Every organization is unique, and only you will know how to perfect your customer experience.
Preparing for a remote-first future
If your organization chooses to allow extended work from home at any point, communications will be essential to ensuring remote employees are fully prepared to collaborate remotely. The RingCentral app gives every employee access to team messaging, video conferencing, and cloud phone all in a single platform. Employees can work effectively from anywhere and communicate using any mode on any device. Switching between messaging, video, and calling only takes a single click, eliminating the need for several communications apps that remote employees have to manage.
Originally published May 20, 2020, updated Aug 12, 2020