With the Covid-19 lockdown in the UK forcing many businesses into completely remote work, many are questioning whether this can be adopted full time, as they have seen how this can be done successfully.
However, we are already starting to see businesses take the plunge into a completely remote workforce, citing the success during lockdown and cost-savings, without proper planning and consideration for how this will impact the business when things go back to “normal”.
Considering how things have operated during lockdown may give a false impression of success. Many workers have pointed out that they have gone above and beyond to make this work during this unprecedented time, working in make-shift spaces and at strange hours to balance work and life.
Moving to this full-time is a different situation with different challenges, practicalities and costs of a completely remote workforce to consider. But it can be done, and very successfully. Whole companies now work with no office at all, while others work with flexible and sporadic remote working options – each Business is different and will do this in different ways.
Without taking into account the lockdown working, data figures from the Annual Population Service (APS) found that around 1.7 million people in the UK work, mainly, from home (roughly 5% of the workforce up from around 4.3% in 2015), with 8.7 million stating that they had worked from home at some point.
There has been a noticeable rise over the past five years and there is likely to be a large spike as we progress into 2021. But is this right for your business?
Consider the pros and cons of moving towards a completely remote workforce:
Pros of a completely remote workforce
Lower facilities costs
With your staff all working from home you will see a huge drop in facilities costs such as rent (or mortgage), cleaning, maintenance and repairs. Do you really need that huge office space packed with equipment and staff to deliver your services? How much could you save?
Greater flexibility and agility
Without a central office, for your staff to report to, they can live and work from anywhere in the country. Is this an opportunity to hire in, or move staff to, areas where you have a strong client base or where you would like to build it? Can you go international with your services by having someone working in those locations?
Happier and more productive staff
Research from Moneypenny found that 52% of employees in the UK are happy to work from home as long as it is required. Although this research speaks directly about the lockdown, it does fit a wider trend suggesting that remote workers are happier and more productive. Staff tend to get more done in less time when working remotely with fewer office distractions, also experiencing less stress and better work/life balance. All this adds up to happier staff and greater productivity.
Cons of a completely remote workforce
Less community amongst staff and added pressure
While most surveys find that remote working is positive, the same Moneypenny report also found that 37% of workers felt added pressure from remote working and 6% struggled to adapt to the new working type.
It is worth considering this when deciding to move to a remote workforce. Do your staff have the right environment at home to be able to work? What psychological and social problems might this cause? Will they be able to collaborate in the way they need to with other members of staff?
While technology has helped us to be able to work from anywhere, video call fatigue is a real condition that many people are suffering from. If your staff will need to be on video calls a lot, it is worth considering the impact on their mental and physical health.
How much will you really save? You are asking your staff to work full time from home, or elsewhere, so you need to make sure they are fully equipped to do so effectively. That should be contributing to their additional bills (electricity, broadband etc) used working for your company and any equipment (desks, office chairs, computer hardware) needed to do the job. How much will this cost across your workforce?
Failing to provide this will leave workers under-resourced and ineffective.
Less face time and control
As a business owner, moving to remote work across the company will often require a change in mindset. If you are used to managing people directly in an office, you will need to adopt a different approach trusting staff to do the work, allowing more flexibility of working hours and being less demanding on reporting.
You might also find that staff struggle with less direct time collaborating in the same room, especially in creative industries.
Moving to a completely remote workforce could be a great move for your business, but there is a lot of planning and resourcing to put in place to ensure that it works effectively.