HR Management & Compliance

Businesses Must See Remote Work as a Permanent Solution, Not a Survival Strategy

Businesses have spent most of this year focused on training, installing, and otherwise improving their remote work capabilities. But being functionally capable of working remotely is just the first phase of what promises to be a worldwide revolution deemphasizing offices and placing more importance on productivity. As millions of workers prepare for the new normal of work and life, many are examining whether their current job and benefits are applicable in the world they are living in now.

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When 2020 began, remote capabilities and flexibility were more common for short-term durations or approved instances, but many businesses were reluctant to allow for permanent work-from-home opportunities. Fast-forward to late March, with a global pandemic initiating shelter-in-place orders, and employers opened the remote floodgates out of necessity.

What was once unworkable worked because the alternative was extinction. This about-face created a successful use case that, for many companies, delivered undeniable advantages.

A recent survey by Remote found that 82% of organizations were already remote or planned to transition to a more flexible working environment. Additionally, 64% of organizations had employees who asked to relocate to a different state, and 58% had employees who asked to relocate internationally.

These desires expressed by employees, however, are jeopardized by companies that see remote capabilities as being a means to an end, especially when companies like Facebook and Google have anticipated expiration dates by which employees are expected to return to their primary office.

So, how can companies balance employees’ desire for long-term adoption of remote work while providing options for those who hope to return to the office?

Optimize Jobs to Thrive Online

Most jobs were not initially designed—and have yet to be optimized—for remote work. Taking time to look at the common tasks, communication lines, and hierarchies for reporting can help identify ways to make employees more successful and less frustrated.

Companies may be hesitant to streamline the way they work if they are still in the camp that believes remote work is temporary. Do your current workforce a favor, and make the call on whether you will be a company that will return 100% to the office post-pandemic, transition to 100% remote, or adopt a hybrid model.

If your company has the ultimate intention of adopting a hybrid model, by which some employees will be primarily remote and others primarily in person, structure your teams now so that in-office and remote teams are grouped together. Often, the greatest challenges come in collaborating across those teams and their work styles.  

Unlock the Diverse and Global Talent Pool

If your company is ready to embrace a truly remote workplace environment, then one of the greatest advantages is being able to hire outside your local market. CEOs from 100% remote organizations often cite talent acquisition as their largest competitive advantage. This is one of the reasons so many engineers and start-up founders have flocked to Silicon Valley tech in the last few decades. But rising rents, increasingly gridlocked traffic, and generally higher costs of living have made Silicon Valley less attractive for companies looking to hire and retain top tech talent.

Remote’s survey found that 61% of tech employees agree that entrepreneurs need to look beyond Silicon Valley if they want to find the best talent in the world, with 48% saying the financial barriers to entry in Silicon Valley mean the best talent is no longer there.

Beyond simple access to talent, businesses are feeling the pressure and responsibility to find more diverse candidates to fill open roles at their companies. Increased diversity greatly benefits companies that are located in more homogenous regions and that struggle to outfit their workplaces with more perspectives and experience.

Modernize Your Benefits

Just a few months ago, jobs offering commuter benefits, catered lunches, gym memberships, and other top-tier perks were highly desirable, but times are radically different now. Many of the perks that helped woo and retain the most competitive candidates are no longer available.

In the new reality, 38% of employees want home office and personal development allowances. Some companies are also providing childcare support, food delivery services, and online workout programs.

For years, tech companies have been at the forefront of conceptualizing the new workplace, whether through on-site perks, generous stipends, or other professional development opportunities. Now, the tech industry has an opportunity to help teach other businesses what flexible workplaces, practices, and benefits can look like.

Employees can thrive on their own time. Productivity is more important than the hours they clock or how many Zoom meetings they join. As we propel into a future where remote enablement is critical for success, businesses will need to shift out of the reactionary mode of dealing with dispersed teams and embrace proactive processes, tools, and procedures to weave this into the company culture.

This proactive approach will provide not only the flexibility many employees already desire but also access to a more dynamic and diverse talent pool to spark greater innovation for employers.

Job van der Voort started his career as a neuroscientist before leaving academia to become the VP of product at GitLab, where he hired talent across 67 countries. He’s now the CEO and cofounder of Remote, an HR tech start-up solving remote global organizations’ biggest challenge: employing anyone, anywhere, compliantly. He’s also the dad of two dogs and two humans.

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