Remote work is here to stay. A new study released by 451 Research shows that 67% of businesses are set to maintain their current levels of distributed workforces – or to expand them even further.
Of the 575 IT decision-makers surveyed, almost 80% stated that they’d implemented or expanded telecommuting as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Two-thirds of respondents maintain that remote work will become a long-term fixture.
An Abrupt Transition
Pre-corona, remote work was already on the rise, with business coaches heralding a work from home revolution. 15% of office-based employees were already working from home part- or full-time.
However, many businesses were reluctant to make the transition until COVID-19 forced their hands. A July survey among 50,000 Americans, found 56% of those employed before the pandemic now working from home.
In the wake of lockdowns, businesses had to abruptly transition to distributed workforce models. 85% also introduced travel limitations and banned face to face meetings of employees. To compensate, 71% replaced physical meetings and hosted events with online conferences.
Overall, considerable investments had to be made. Since March, a third of businesses reported spending more on information security, 43% bought additional employee devices, and 50% acquired more team communication and collaboration technology.
Many employees also stated that they’d initially struggled with productivity issues when setting up a home office – especially when partners and children were confined in the same spaces. The majority, however, have since reported increases in productiveness.
Now that the transition to remote work has been largely completed, benefits for businesses are emerging across the board.
Discovering the Benefits
As a result of remote work, businesses have the opportunity to drastically reduce maintenance costs.
47% of survey respondents state that they are already planning to give up office space. Costs for equipment and supplies can also be cut. Overall, this means saving hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars. To give just one example: In a recent USA Today interview, the CEO of MediCopy, a Nashville-based medical records company, stated that telecommuting will save his enterprise as much as $350,000 a year in leasing costs. In one location alone.
Another benefit of having standard distributed workforce models is that it opens up a much larger hiring pool, unlocking infinite staffing potential for businesses. It is no longer a barrier if an ideal candidate is located halfway around the world or unable to commute due to disabilities or other personal circumstances. Overall, this has the potential to result not just in sourcing greater talent, but also in fostering a diverse and inclusive team.
Employees benefit from remote work models as well. Not only do they save time – and traffic-wrecked nerves – on their daily commute. Many of them also appreciate the flexibility of their schedule, the possibility to spend more time with family and friends, and their greater autonomy. Overall, those who work from home offices report higher job satisfaction.
A Somber Outlook
With the pandemic resurgence in the United States, as well as in other countries that had seemingly beaten the virus, remote work is likely to remain fueled by the necessity for social distancing in the coming months.
According to the 451 Research Digital Pulse survey, only 19% of organizations are set on having employees return to offices as soon as legal limitations are lifted. In contrast, 25% are more circumspect and state that they will wait at least another month to see how the situation develops before asking people to come back. Another quarter of respondents has not yet set up a timeline for reopening offices, deeming the situation too volatile.
Similarly, work travel is expected to remain scarce, with a third of respondents stating that they expect it to be reduced by at least 80% until the end of the year. 21% said that they had no idea when their employees would be able to resume business travel.
Overall, remote teams provide a solid basis for businesses to lean on during these uncertain times – especially with the generally harsher economic climate following in the footsteps of the pandemic, and a wave of closures.
Finally, there are those who benefit most from the sustained trend towards distributed workforces. Providers of remote work tools, team collaboration platforms, and enterprise-grade business phone services have all reported increases in sales. To some, at least, there is a silver lining to this cloud.