Case Study: The future of remote working as engineered by the Covid-19 pandemic
The pandemic has occasioned in a new work reality. Remote working before now used to be a pariah arrangement as managers favored the traditional setup of the corporate office. The pandemic and the inevitable need to space up office spaces have necessitated the increased adoption of remote working.
The emergence – or consolidation – of remote collaboration technologies ensure that teams can effectively collaborate as a distributed workforce without necessarily suffering a slash in their productivity.
Some believe that there would be a quick reversal to the conventional office setting once the pandemic clears up. However, studies are consolidating the workers' preference to do their jobs remotely, especially in the small to medium business (SMB) sector.
Intermedia carried out an insightful survey of 250 SMB owners and top CEOs whose companies boast from 5-250 employees. Of these businesses investigated in this survey, all them have had more than half of their teams take on jobs in the office.
Preceding the pandemic, the surveyed businesses had over 80% of their employees working in centralized roles stationed in the office. However, with the proliferation of the pandemic and the need to observe social distancing, this percentage has dramatically collapsed to 26% employees yet working from the office with the remaining chunk working remotely.
Let us examine some of the key findings from this survey and how they apply to the future of the general corporate space.
Employees are not eager to get back to the office any time soon
Of the surveyed SMB owners and decision-makers, 57% say they are open to keeping their employees working in remote conditions in the long term. The implication of this runs through radical changes in employee engagement, collaboration, and reportage.
Nonetheless, this appears vindicated by a corresponding climb in positive stats like employee life satisfaction, availability, and even output. Precisely, this study shows that life satisfaction since these companies resorted to remote working has been pumped up. Job satisfaction has gone up by 15%; employee availability has gone up by 19% while overall employee life satisfaction has also climbed up by 7%.
Some of these business owners admit that their employees have been happier, and they have been more productive. This leap in satisfaction and output is not disconnected from the relief of being free from office-related stress like daily commuting, emotional pressure of sustainably being away from family. Notably, overhead costs for these employees have also significantly slumped.
This is further corroborated by findings from Flexjobs, who discovered that remote working employees are saving in the tune of $4k by working from home in an employee study.
When these cuts in cost are combined with hikes in employee engagement and productivity, it shows many companies may not be rushing their employees back to the office when the pandemic substantially subsides.
Businesses are favoring remote collaboration technologies, but in-person meetings remain crucial
On the immediate, there aren't yet formidable technologies to completely replace physical in-person meetings. Aside from the technology, cultural configurations of the corporate space mean that in-person live meeting (especially with customers) goes a long way in solidifying the credibility of businesses.
The Intermedia study reveals that over 90% of interviewed businesses agree that their capacity to carve out new business opportunities greatly relies on the physical projection of their brand, which is typified in the tangible presence of their brand or personnel. Here is where in-person meetings come in crucially.
However, much of the vacuum (in the face of the pandemic) is being filled with remote working technologies. Companies are rapidly transferring some of their less delicate in-person meetings to remote video conferencing.
Of these businesses interviewed in the Intermedia study, 57% of them favored video conferencing before the pandemic let its horror loose. More than 83% of the businesses are energetically leveraging video conferencing technologies in the heat of the pandemic. This makes an exciting increase of over 25%.
Within February 1 to March 18, Slack added 7,000 new customers as the pandemic boomed their viability. Unsurprisingly, Zoom Video Communications Inc, who wasn't a major player before the pandemic, has enjoyed aggressive bursts of growth. The American communications technology titan has enjoyed a voluminous 50% climb in its number of daily users.
Going by reports from Bloomberg, Zoom ballooned to 200 million users by April 1, 2020, from a previous 10 million 3 months ago. Furthermore, by April 21 this year, it was a catch-me-if-you-can speedy rise to 300 million users.
More businesses are promptly relocating most of their physical meeting using video conferencing platforms like Zoom, Slack, and Microsoft Teams.
According to Jossi Fresco Benaim, Chief Technology Officer, Brevity,
"Zoom is the video conferencing and collaboration solution our start-up had been looking for. It's also reliable, even internationally, and has the simplest installation process. Best of all, Zoom becomes transparent; it's never in the way, and no one has problems with it. It's just there, allowing us to collaborate, screen-share, and work together as a team without any hassles."
Remote working may have come to stay
Initially, many businesses recourse to remote working as a quick fix, but it appears it would morph into something more enduring. The flexibility remote working brings on for businesses has been fantastic for both employee and employer.
For employers, remote working, when aided with the right technologies, has enabled them to save tremendously without losing output. By leveraging remote working arrangements, companies have been able to save on logistics expenditures like travel reimbursement, office space, equipment, office edibles, and refreshments.
According to Global Workplace Analytics Telework Savings Calculator, a company can save as much as $11,000 for each employee by maximizing remote working. These savings, when diversified to market penetration or market share consolidation, can be game-changers. This is a beauty as you can diversify this cost into more delicate channels without adversely distorting your business structure.
A supportive 2020 study by Airtasker shows how companies enjoy more output from their remotely distributed workforce. The daily habits of 1,004 workers were investigated. It was discovered that when accountability technologies like (mouse movement and screen time trackers) were deployed, 56% of in-office employees suffered distractions as opposed to only 39% in employees working from home.
Zillow, one of the biggest real estate listings platforms in the United States, is giving its employees the option of working from home from the remaining part of 2020.
According to Rich Barton, CEO of Zillow "my personal opinions about WFH have been turned upside down over the past 2 months. I expect this will have a lasting influence on the future of work … and home. Stay safe."
Indeed, all these don't stipulate the outright death of in-office collaboration. It shows that executive managers now have a bigger box of possibilities to explore when they structure their working environments. This flexibility allows companies to explore remote working engagements either full-time or periodically or with staggered in-office workforces.