In March 2020, in what were the beginning stages of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, stay-at-home orders were enforced, and businesses scrambled to take their day-to-day operations online.
For the first time, people who were used to going into the office every day were plunged into the deep end of the working-from-home pool. As our new normal continues to unfold and restrictions are lifting, you might be wondering — should your company continue remote work after COVID-19?
In this post, I’ll share the pros and cons to both returning to the office, and continuing remote work.
Returning to the office post-pandemic
Making a decision to return to the office when it is considered safe in your area is a difficult decision. Read on to learn some pros and cons of returning to the office.
- Employees will have the chance to engage with one another face-to-face, which can often boost team morale. After all, there’s no real substitute for direct connection with other humans.
- Communication is much easier to manage. You can send an email and even do a Zoom call, but sometimes an in-person chat simply makes things easier to hash out.
- Some workers will feel more productive. Having no other distractions (crying kids, laundry to do, dishes to wash, etc…) allows them to focus completely on the tasks at hand.
- Security is easier to control. Forbes reported, “59% of employees felt more cybersecure working in-office compared to at home.” They went on to say, “Over 1 in 10 employees had their video calls hacked while working remotely.” While you can set your employees up with a VPN to combat security issues, there’s something to be said for having everyone in the same office to keep an eye on data and sensitive information.
Related: The value of in-house employees
- If everyone comes back to the office, you have to pay to maintain the work space. Any financial reprieve you may have enjoyed (paying less for electricity, janitorial services, security, etc…) during the time your employees were at home – all those costs come back to the office with your staff.
- You and your employees will lose any flexibility that may have been enjoyed while working remotely. The transition back to work can be difficult when the commute goes from five minutes to an hour or longer.
- Productivity could actually decrease. It’s not uncommon for team meetings and office chatter to distract employees from the tasks they need to perform.
- The number of sick days may increase for employees. This is especially disconcerting in 2020 since the novel coronavirus still doesn’t have a known cure. Coming back to the office may require a new level of sanitation and social distancing for the foreseeable future as well. This can result in new costs that you might not yet have thought of.
Continuing remote work after the COVID-19 pandemic
While many employees were thrust into remote work as states shut down, some businesses might find that it works for them. Learn more about the pros and cons of continuing remote work.
- Your employees might be happier working remotely. According to Buffer’s State of Work 2020 Survey, 98% of respondents “want to continue to work remotely (at least for some of the time) for the rest of their careers.”
- Reduced expenses for everyone! If enough of your staff works remotely, you can downsize your office space, or perhaps get rid of it completely. And, your staff will enjoy less expenses for transportation, lunches, business attire, etc…
- When you’re ready to start hiring again, you’ll have a new perk to offer which could open your business up to an entirely new pool of candidates.
- You could see a decrease in the number of sick days. As FlexJobs put it, “Sharing a workspace in a traditional office setting directly exposes you to others’ germs, but if you work from home, you’ll have much less exposure to others and their illnesses. On the flip side, if you come down with something, it will be much easier to care for yourself and still get some work accomplished while working from home, which means you’ll likely log fewer sick days.”
- There are many jobs that can’t be or shouldn’t be completely remote. For example, some sales teams have struggled during the lockdowns, despite being fully able to work remotely. For them, having a team environment generally helps with boosting morale, and seeing how others are performing can encourage them to work harder to keep up with their colleagues.
- Not everyone works well at home. Extroverts for example, find the isolation of working from home to be incredibly demotivating. Some employees also struggle with working from home because they need someone to be there to tell them what to do at any given hour.
- For some of your staff, remote work could mean not having access to things like the right office equipment, upper management/colleagues for when questions arise, and high-speed internet (not to mention the ability to log on securely).
- You lose your office as a recruiting tool for new employees, and meeting space for prospective customers and vendors.
Is remote work after COVID-19 the best choice for you?
Perhaps if you’ve gotten this far in this post you’ve already made up your mind. But, for the rest of you, I might have made your decision even harder. Here are a few questions you may want to ask as you ponder your options:
What would your employees prefer?
Depending on the number of employees you have, you could send out a company-wide survey asking them whether or not they want to come back to the office. This could make your decision a simpler one.
Is remote work sustainable if your business continues to grow?
The truth is, it’s never been easier to work from home. With the tools available, and the fact that many businesses already work with a wide range of time zones anyway, transitioning into full-time remote work may not have any negative impacts.
On the other hand, if your business relies on face-to-face interactions for sales, team building, collaborations, etc.,remote work might be too difficult for the kind of growth you hope to see in your business.
Would remote work improve your bottom line?
As I mentioned earlier, some companies enjoy significant savings by not needing an office for their employees.
Run the numbers and see if remote work would increase your profits. Sometimes just those hard numbers alone are all you need to make the final decision.
While the decision to continue remote work after COVID-19 can feel daunting, remember that whatever you choose doesn’t have to be set in stone.
If you decide to get rid of the office space now, but want one again in the future, you can make another change then.
Editor’s note: Check out the tools available with Microsoft Office 365 from GoDaddy. Tools like Teams and DocuSign can help keep your remote employees ready and connected.
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