The coronavirus pandemic has changed how we communicate, interact, and work together. Over the last year, remote work policies have become the new normal. More importantly, they have impacted how small businesses and their employees interact with each other outside of a physical office space. While working from home, the teleworking experiment has changed from taboo to the norm. There have been a lot of pros and cons about the status of remote working post-pandemic. As a result of these features, many companies – including large ones – have decided to make work from home options permanent in some instances. For smaller companies, remote working can have different implications depending on the type of business. Working from home certainly remains an experiment and both employers and employees continue to work together to find a balance in bringing maintaining a diverse array of work options for employees. There are a lot of advantages and incentives for both employers and employees to continue to develop this conversation about the possibilities remote working presents.
This article will focus on how small businesses have been impacted by remote working during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, it will address the pros and cons of remote working and where this experiment is leading towards in the future in a post pandemic era. Finally, it will touch on how remote work policies can be leveraged toward benefiting not only workers but also small businesses and their needs. There are some advantages with continuing to implement work from home and teleworking opportunities.
Remote Working: The Pros and Cons
In the first months of President Biden’s administrations, there have been a lot of changes and programs introduced alongside the vaccination rollout. Mass vaccinations are continuing throughout the United States. The Paycheck Protection Program was extended to the end of May to help small businesses hit the hardest as well as the introduction of the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, a program that aims to support the restaurant industry.
Maintaining a virtual office and physical office space are one in the same. The virtual office has three main tasks: provide information, create a secure space to communicate with each other (outside of teleconferencing), and serve as an organizational space. At the beginning, building and organizing the virtual office was difficult. However, it has become easier as small businesses adapt to the various tools available to them, especially as this has become increasingly essential.
The overall pros to working from home and implementing some sort of remote working option for employees is proof of concept. However, there are some challenges involved.
There are two main cons for working from home:
- New hires require face-to-face interactions in order to understand how the company functions and the culture involved. The main method of understanding the culture and how things are done are typically through in-person interactions with current employees through office events, happy hours, and team projects in the home office. Managers can provide follow-ups and check-ins with both their new hires and getting them integrated into a new system. This can be harder when trying to onboard employees virtually.
- New hires need an adjustment period. They require time to learn and train under their new managers. The office culture and environment are attained by working with team members. The confine of a physical office speeds up that process. It is not impossible, but it has some inherent challenges with full-time remote work policies.
Similar to new hires, human resources have a similar challenge, but they also are able to explore new hiring options for the company’s well-being through utilizing remote work policies. First, the onboarding hiring process has eliminated face-to-face meetings and identifying top talent with potential new employees. Virtual interviews and video conferencing have both eased the burden a little bit to find new hires. However, there have to be some guidelines and instructions that HR managers should put out for applicants, especially during the interview process and to prepare for potential problems. These problems can vary from a poor Wi-Fi connection to making sure the video conference application is working properly.
The other side of the issue is finding new talent across greater distances. The talent pool has potentially increased. With more flexible work opportunities, companies can tap into a new talent pools that do not require in-person office contact but can cut across geographical distances. Preferably this will work best with more mid-level and higher-level jobs, but it could still apply to those who are planning to move the company’s city or town over time.
Work from home has challenged the current work culture. It has drastically changed how managers measure progress. Despite the challenges of living in a pandemic and other challenges, managers have seen how their employees have worked. Despite a global attitude of exhaustion and mental fatigue from being home, employees have been more productive. At first it was a transition, but it has become part of a lifestyle. The new normal has served to provide some mental benefits while changing the way we have come to understand work culture. Work culture is more individually focused now than when jobs were completed in a group setting like the office.
One of the biggest benefits that work from home policies have eliminated is commuting. Remote employees have had the opportunity to build their own workspace and remain connected to co-workers through the virtual office. Remote employees have had the perks of developing a stronger work-life balance from the comfort of their home. They have more control over working full time hours.
If anything, the idea that managers need to micromanage employees in order to get results has been compromised. Workers have been more focused, less distracted, and have accomplished a lot of their goals. In some areas, workers have worked more productively being in an environment that they are comfortable in. Lastly, with remote workers having flexible hours to accomplish whatever tasks they need to get done, it has given them more flexibility and helped stimulate productivity.
Mental health and creating more schedule flexibility go hand in hand. It gives employees opportunities to create a stronger work-life balance while addressing personal issues. Work from home policies have had some influence on the remote workforce in that they have caused them to develop a unique work life balance. Given the lockdowns, childcare has been causing workers to find more creative opportunities for utilizing flexible work hours in order to take care of their children, elderly parents or loved ones.
Despite talking about the pros and cons of remote working, you might be wondering, how many days should I give to employees with remote working options? First, it is a conversation between managers and employees. Everyone is going to have a different response and an opinion. It would not be surprise if people are more in favor of continuing to work on a part-time basis from home. It would not be surprising to see remote work being integrated into businesses but not as a permanent solution. According to a Gallup poll, the percentage of workers who have said their employer is offering flex work or remote work has increased from 39% to 57%.
However, remote working allows for all sorts of creative possibilities. For example, flexible workdays during the summer and the holidays are opportunities to provide greater flexibility and work-life balance for employees. At the moment various tech companies have started to implement permanent remote work policies while other industries are trying to enact similar policies as well.
The future of remote work is still to be determined. Given the success with which the remote workforce has adjusted to work from home policies throughout the pandemic, we can expect many of these remote working policies to stay in place. However, these policies will vary from business to business as well as by industry sector.
Overall, these conversations surrounding remote working and how to implement it are just beginning. Finding balance between working in the office and teleworking will be the next experiment in the years to come. Nevertheless, diminishing the taboo that remote working encompassed for years has made these sorts of possibilities for employees and small businesses a real possibility. All in all, it has the potential to expand into new opportunities in developing a new work model while considering each employee’s well-being from a work-life balance perspective.