Updated: Aug 5, 2020
Even before the public health crisis struck, remote work was increasing globally. Over the past five years the number of remote workers has increased by 44% in the US alone. Since the start of the pandemic, nearly two-thirds of Americans now work remotely. Canada is no different. According to Statistics Canada almost 40 percent of Canada's workforce now works from home. Will the trend continue, even after the dust of the Corona virus settles? It might. According to a CTV article 70% of Canadians enjoy remote work and want to continue. With pros and cons to remote work, and the trend increasing, what is the impact it’s having on businesses and how will we move forward? Read on to learn more about some of the challenges in remote work and what you can do about it…
What are the cons to working remotely?
The mass switch from traditional office work to remote work does have its challenges besides the fact that you might not remember the last time you changed out of your sweatpants. Here are some of the downsides to remote work:
1. No more Instant Answers
With remote work, you can’t just turn around to ask your colleague a quick question.
What you can do:
Chat with colleagues and employees on Microsoft Teams or Microsoft SharePoint which are both part of Microsoft 365.
2. Solitude is a Bummer
Being isolated can foster feelings of loneliness and employees may feel disconnected, missing the social interaction and rapport with colleagues that an office environment provides.
What you can do:
To keep feelings of isolation at bay communicate frequently with employees to ensure they know what’s happening on their teams, and make sure that areas of frustration don’t go unaddressed.
3. You can’t Hear Tone in an Email
Sarcasm can be misunderstood in texts and emails without body language and tone of voice. Something that may be funny in person might be offensive in the virtual landscape.
What you can do:
Emojis are the gateway to virtual tone. Use as necessary to offset sarcasm.
4. Creativity may Suffer
Collaboration sparks creativity and that can be difficult when interaction is limited. Brainstorming in the same room with a colleague is easier and often more effective than remote brainstorming.
What you can do:
Allow employees to schedule “virtual coffee breaks or socials” with their peers, with the option to have flexible schedules.
With the ability to troubleshoot these problems with virtual solutions, managers can ease any transitory issues. Camasan can assist you with your transition to Microsoft 365 to support your teams and remote workers.
What are the benefits to having employees work from home?
Here are some of the pros to working remotely:
1. No commute!
No commute means reduced stress for employees, more time to spend actually working instead of travelling and a reduction in car emissions. In fact, pollution over major metropolitan areas has dropped since the lockdown. Staying home and avoiding the commute to the office reduces our carbon footprint and prevents further climate change. Less stress and cleaner air, is a pretty big perk.
2. Reduced costs
The use of office spaces, electricity, and maintaining office buildings is expensive. According to research from Harvard Business School having employees work remotely reduces expenses relevant to maintaining and running office spaces. Having hot spots for employees to work or a reduction in office space will cut costs in the long run.
3. Better use of Technology-Adoption of Microsoft Dynamics/Cloud Services
We’re lucky the pandemic didn’t happen in the 90’s when dial-up internet connections were still a thing. Working from home would be impossible without the fantastic technology we have today- high-speed Wi-Fi connections, smartphones, cloud computing, instant messaging, project management software such as Nimbus and VoIP allowing colleagues to communicate and collaborate instantaneously. There is a reason why Microsoft’s total revenues increased by 15 percent by the end of their first quarter in March with the onset of the pandemic and the rise in remote work. Microsoft Dynamics products and cloud services revenue also increased by 17 percent and they acquired 12 million new users on Teams, its group-collaboration platform.
4. Better work life balance/Better employee retention
More time at home with families means better work life balance. Having time to work out, play with kids and complete work at any time while missing out on blood pressure raising traffic and commuting, keeps employees satisfied. Improved work life balance translates into increased retention of employees.
5. Increased Productivity
According to Zippia, a Canada Life survey revealed that homeworkers rank their productivity as 7.7/10, compared to 6.5/10 for office workers, claiming they’re not in a loud environment or distracted by co-workers. A Stanford survey also found that employees who work from home are 13 percent more productive than their in-office counterparts. With kids at home during the pandemic there are new distractions but a recent survey posted on USA Today, and LinkedIn found that professionals aged 18–74 still found that the pandemic has had a positive effect on 54% of workers’ productivity. The reasons given by the respondents were the time saved from commuting (71%), fewer distractions from co-workers (61%), and fewer meetings (39%).
6. No office, no office politics?
Disengagement is a risk when managing teams across multiple locations. Team members divided across multiple offices in locations separate from management, may not receive the same support as those within the same office space as unconscious bias can creep in. Information may not be shared as freely with those in other locations. Fully remote teams combat this issue and are more engaged than teams separated across multiple offices. This means there are less information imbalances, biases, and overall equality is improved through democratized remote meetings.
Going Forward-How to be Prepared for the New Economic Reality
With the pandemic and all of the changes to businesses, it’s no surprise that most have experienced an economic downturn. Recognizing where to cut costs and re-evaluate our businesses is the key to surviving and emerging stronger than before. Jared Spataro, CVP of Microsoft 365, agrees; advising companies take a step back to look for new opportunities to allocate resources and prepare for the new reality. Microsoft expects the trend towards accelerated digital adoption and investments in cloud computing, AI, and cyber security, to continue.
When and if the time for workers to return to the office arrives, it won’t happen overnight. Some employees may wish to keep working from home, while others will rush into the offices and leave their sweatpants behind. The shift will be gradual and will likely go through different phases as it evolves into the new normal. There will be a before the pandemic and an after, and this global crisis will affect the way we work in the future. Hopefully employees and businesses will take the positive aspects that have evolved from remote work and apply them going forward.
Need help with your Microsoft 365 transition or virtual collaboration tools? Camasan and our partners are well versed in the Microsoft suite of products and can assist you with any changes including your transition to Microsoft 365 to support your teams. Contact us for more information and discuss how we can help.