Is transitioning to permanent remote work a good idea?
By Kristina Vassilieva
As the pandemic continues, some businesses might be wondering whether they should fully transition to remote work.
Although this arrangement has some popular benefits, it may also come with changes that some might see as drawbacks.
There are several things business owners should consider before making the final decision, according to Andrew Caldwell, HR advisory team lead at Peninsula Canada.
What are the benefits?
Remote working became widespread due to COVID-19, but this trend may continue even after the pandemic is over. For one, businesses benefit from remote working because it broadens access to talent.
“Instead of hiring locally, businesses can recruit from across the country. This allows them to find the very best candidates from a range of backgrounds. In turn, this contributes to a more diverse and creative workplace,” said Caldwell.
Having a remote workforce can also be cost efficient.
“For businesses, remote working can cut costs associated with having a physical workplace. Companies with remote workers can either downsize their offices or get rid of them altogether. And for employees, working remotely eliminates the costs of commuting and parking for workers,” he said.
With less resources spent on maintaining physical workplaces and commuting, remote working also has environmental benefits.
Furthermore, remote work may facilitate a better work-life balance for employees. Remote workers save time on commuting and getting ready for work, leaving more free time for themselves and their families.
Workers who are better able to balance their work and personal responsibilities are more satisfied with their jobs, are more engaged and are less likely to quit.
What are the potential areas of concern?
However, before businesses make the switch to remote work permanent they must consider the long-term effects this will have.
“A change of this calibre will permanently affect company culture,” said Caldwell. “Co-workers might never get the chance to meet in person and working relationships might never become as tight knit as they would when working in person every day.”
Companies will also need to consider whether having a fully remote workforce is sustainable. This means analyzing business processes, finding where improvements can be made and how to maintain the same levels or higher levels of productivity compared to working in person.
Remote working might mean new workplace challenges. Employers will have to prepare for potential technical difficulties and will have to ensure that all their workers have access to reliable remote working equipment.
To facilitate a successful remote work environment, businesses may need to invest in cloud-based storage systems, secure web portals and other tools that will help teams collaborate and work effectively.
Business owners should consider how all of this will affect costs and whether they will need to hire more staff — in the IT department, for example — to support remote workers.
Companies that decide to shift to permanent remote work should keep in mind that they may become more exposed to virtual threats and will have less control over how workers use company technology.
“Employers will also have to take into account the concerns of existing employees who do not want to permanently work from home,” Caldwell advised.
“For some, coming into work is a chance to leave the house and get social interaction. Workers who live alone might especially feel isolated and limited by remote working arrangements, and their mental health might suffer as a result.”
If some remote workers end up struggling, managers will have to find new solutions for supporting them, boosting morale and keeping productivity high, he said.
While permanent remote work is certainly an option, businesses shouldn’t rush into this decision, said Caldwell. All aspects of how this decision could affect costs, productivity, staff and operations should be considered before making the leap.
Kristina Vassilieva is an HR writer for Peninsula Canada in Toronto.
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