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What have we learned about remote working?
Adjusting to remote work was difficult during early adoption, but now, 82% of U.S. employees say they want to continue working from home, at least some of the time, once offices reopen.
Having access to technology like Zoom and other cloud applications make it easy to collaborate with colleagues and customers. For companies that rely on their partner channel to generate revenue, partner portals allow sales reps to work as a team with their partners by centralizing marketing campaigns, sales tools, pricing promotions, and other resources needed to secure new customers.
Still, for many employees, working from home presents new problems of juggling family needs and work responsibilities. It’s common for people to switch constantly between taking care of their children and meeting their work obligations.
In fact, during the first four months of the shift to remote work, employees were working an additional four hours a week, attending more meetings, working more on the weekends, and working the night shift after dinner.
Shifting power balance for employees
Some executive leaders are expecting employees to come back to the office as soon as possible; they’re being met with resistance. Many people find it’s helpful to use downtime during their work days to accomplish personal errands. In fact, one in three people would consider resigning if their employer mandated full time office work.
Industries like finance, and other heavily regulated sectors, are especially bullish for a return to the office. These companies tend to have a more traditional company culture that is hierarchical, driven from the top, and requires hands on management.
The organizations that refuse to adapt to remote work culture will find it harder to hire and retain employees. There are more and more opportunities for people who are productive working from home and want flexibility in their days. Ultimately, most employees want a hybrid set-up that lets them decide when it’s appropriate to come into the office, and when it’s best to work from home.
The good and the bad of remote work
Advantages of remote work
Business owners who are open to the idea of long term remote work will have an advantage. Opening up their employment opportunities to anywhere in the US means that they have access to a much larger pool of talent. Top performers who moved their families out of city centers won’t return solely for their employment.
Corporate overhead costs like commercial real estate, office supplies, security, electricity bills, and office support staff can be heavily reduced if employees came in even 50% of the time. It’s estimated that an average employer in the US could save around $11,000/year per employee if workers telecommute half of the year.
Employees would also benefit, with savings up to $6,000/year that cover the costs of commuting, parking, and paying for food outside of the home. Commuting, in particular, has long been a stressful part of employment. Around 78% of people feel that they are able to get started at work sooner and make better use of their spare time while remote. Saving time and money can deliver more productive and engaged workers with increased employee satisfaction.
Flexible remote working can benefit our communities, colleagues, and fellow commuters as well. People won’t feel pressured to come into the office when they’re feeling sick, thereby reducing the spread of viruses. Lastly, many employees report that they experience fewer interruptions at home, allowing them to focus on task completion instead of conversations with colleagues.
Drawbacks of remote work
However, there are serious drawbacks for those working remotely. Employees use a lot of technology in their day to day work including computers, smartphones, software, security equipment, and internet. Tech support requires mailing equipment to specialists. We’ve seen that relying on residential internet, that is not prepared to support so many full time workers, can impact their ability to get work done, especially for workers outside of highly optimized urban centers.
Career development may also suffer with a fully remote team. Working alongside your manager and the leadership team allows employees to build rapport and display their skills. Relationship building often happens during every day chats, downtime between meetings, and post-work happy hours. Some workers may feel disadvantaged when it comes to promotions.
Finally, not all employees want to be primarily remote indefinitely. Some have home environments that are not conducive to productivity due to limited space, child care requirements, or even environmental risks. They also miss out on the team building and camaraderie that are hard to emulate with a dispersed team.
How can companies retain employees?
Employers can make themselves more appealing to job candidates by offering benefits to support both remote and in-office work, including:
• Allowing for a more relaxed dress code
• Providing child care services for employees that need to be in the office
• Allowing remote flexibility and letting the employee decide when they want to come into the office based on their own unique needs
• Providing workspace essentials for home offices like desks, ergonomic chairs, phones, and stipends for internet service
Early in the pandemic, employers were worried that people would be less productive at home. Instead, workers have shown that they are trustworthy and can get their jobs done without constant check-ins and micromanaging.
By showing confidence in their employees, businesses can attract more, and better quality, talent compared to those that insist on mandatory office work.
As lockdowns continue worldwide, companies must adapt and accept that remote work policies are here to stay. Employees have more negotiating power over their work lives and health than ever before. Resistant employers risk losing their talent to their more flexible competitors.
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