What is the future of remote work? Many businesses weren’t ready when COVID-19 forced them to set up remote technology tools—now they are seeing the benefits.
Hard as it is to believe, the COVID-19 pandemic may have at least one positive outcome: It has shown many business leaders that operating remotely can be not only just as effective as operating in an office environment, but can actually be more economical and efficient.
That poses some intriguing questions. First and foremost, should businesses make some elements of the remote-operations playbook permanent?
In a Word: Yes
Smart business owners have always looked for ways to cut costs and streamline their processes without—this is crucial—reducing the quality of their product or service. And technology has almost always played a vital role.
Why keep using huge blocks of ice to preserve fresh food when you could switch to electric refrigerators instead? Why
The obvious question after the widespread remote-work evolution of 2020 is: Why continue to pay for large offices and absorb substantial travel expenses to facilitate in-person meetings and interactions that can be done just as effectively online?
Besides the potential economic benefits, transitioning to a remote-work model can help recruiting efforts. One study found that two-thirds of those surveyed would prefer to work from home (WFH). In fact, that same study found that enabling a remote workforce could be both a recruiting tool and an economic incentive, with 37% of technology professionals surveyed saying they would take a 10% pay cut in exchange for a WFH setup.
Finally, there’s also an argument to be made that a remote work model is more environmentally friendly.
Quality Control Is Key
Of course, certain types of businesses are more conducive to a remote environment than others. Supporting Strategies has recognized from day one that outsourced remote bookkeeping and controller services can actually be an improvement over an in-house approach.
But other types of businesses, such as hair care, construction and landscaping, simply can’t go fully remote. And then there are those companies in the middle that could go with a hybrid model, incorporating some elements of remote work while retaining an in-person component as well. This approach would combine mandatory onsite meetings for certain functions (e.g., brainstorming or team-building exercises) with designated WFH days devoted to tasks requiring greater focus with fewer distractions.
For many businesses, this will be an ongoing process of trial and error. The key, again, is to realize cost savings and greater efficiencies while maintaining high levels of customer success and employee satisfaction. The last thing you want is for “remote” to feel “distant.” Open, transparent communication is vital.
Remember: The Situation Will Improve
With vaccines starting to arrive, there’s hope that the pandemic will soon be behind us. At that point, businesses can develop a remote-work model based on choice rather than necessity.
It’s also important to remember that technology never stops evolving. What’s on the cutting edge today will feel quaint tomorrow. Soon we’ll all be operating in the remote workplace of the future, looking back to the great WFH migration of 2020 and feeling thankful that those days feel very remote indeed.
Sandra Finerghty, Managing Director of Supporting Strategies | Durham & Chapel Hill, NC, provides outsourced bookkeeping services, controller services and operational support to growing businesses.