4 Surprise Benefits of Remote Working for Employers During COVID-19

The coronavirus pandemic forced many employers to rethink their traditional workplace models, with many adopting a remote work model. Previously, many employers feared that a remote workforce would lead to a loss of productivity because managers wouldn’t be able to physically observe employees at work. However, now many months into a remote work model, employers have realized that some of these concerns are largely unfounded.

It’s apparent that remote working not only works—it’s here to stay. Some major companies, such as Fujitsu and Twitter, have even decided to embrace long-term remote working for their employees. Until now, most articles have focused on the benefits for employees. This post takes a different angle by exploring the surprising employer benefits of allowing their employees to work from home.

1. Improved Employee Productivity

Employee productivity can be defined simply as how efficient your employees are at accomplishing tasks. While simple, this measure ties directly to the success and growth of your business. As early as 2013, many employers were skeptical about the productivity prospects of working from home because of distractions and the belief that employees would take advantage of not being “watched” and slack off.

However, one pioneering study refuted these concerns. It showed that working from home one day a week enhanced employee productivity by a whopping 13% This realization led to a steady rise in organizations including the remote work option for some employees, since its flexible working model makes it easy to adopt.

The current COVID-19 crisis accelerated this adoption greatly; companies had literally no choice but to send staff home indefinitely. As of this writing—nearly a year after the pandemic began—data from a recent Deloitte survey shows that nearly 50% of employees are working remotely. And they’re doing so productively: a recent Microsoft study shows that remote working increased workplace productivity by 34% during the pandemic.

There are two key reasons for improved productivity: employees no longer commute to work, and they take fewer sick days. Commuting is time-consuming, draining and can lead to lower job satisfaction. Studies show that commute times are getting longer each year. Research indicates that the typical commuter spent 20 more minutes a week commuting in 2018 than they did 10 years ago. This translates to up to nine full days spent commuting per year—time that employees can re-invest in working more productively if they’re able to do so from home.

Employees who work remotely can adjust their schedules to start work earlier or end later than their office counterparts. This allows them to do things like get through their inbox before most people typically come online. It also means they can focus on more productive tasks during the most important times of the day without being distracted. Additionally, they can be online simultaneously with employees in other time zones who may start their day earlier or later, allowing for more time to collaborate on projects and knock out essential tasks.

What’s most surprising about these productivity gains is that they happened during the pandemic, a period of intense stress and anxiety for employees. Aside from worrying about getting sick, other concerns included potentially being laid off, falling behind on bills due to reduced working hours, or having to share the same living and working space as their kids, family members, roommates, etc.

A MindEdge Learning survey involving 757 human resources (HR) professionals shows that 75% of the respondents reported increased anxiety and stress due to the pandemic. A similar study by Mental Health Month discovered that more than two-thirds of employees said their stress and anxiety levels were at an all-time high during the beginning of the pandemic. The study found that 88% of respondents experienced moderate to extreme stress levels at the pandemic’s onset.

In essence, there are peak distractions right now. And if employees can be productive in the pandemic, imagine how much they could get done if they were to work remotely without those distractions in a post-pandemic world.

2. Improved Work-Life Balance, Leading to Less Employee Turnover

Until recently, it wasn’t easy to achieve a perfect work-life balance. In most cases, “work” meant the traditional nine to five corporate job where employees shared physical office space. “Life” meant an evening when employees were at home with their families or had a night out with friends.

With ever-increasing workloads, many employees took fewer planned time off (PTO) days to avoid falling behind. It became nearly impossible for them to attend to personal matters (e.g., going to the doctor, taking the car in for routine service, dropping kids off at school/activities). Employees either missed out on these things altogether or crammed what they could into their weekends and evenings, which prevented them from getting some much-needed time to relax.

Remote working has upended our understanding of work-life balance. While most employers expected remote working to blur the line between work and life, it has improved the balance during the pandemic. We no longer define productivity in terms of the number of hours an employee spends in an office, but rather what volume of work an employee completes in a given time.

Remote working allows employees to prioritize essential aspects of their lives—whether personal or professional. By not having to get ready in the morning, commute to work, stop to get coffee and breakfast, among other activities, employees have more time each day to use how they please. They can use this time to take short breaks, exercise, run necessary errands or just recharge for a bit.

By helping employees stay on top of their personal lives, remote work can lead to less stress and thus greater happiness and productivity at work. Recent research found that employees who worked wherever and whenever they chose, provided they finished their projects on time and met their goals, were much happier and productive than their office counterparts. Happiness arises from the fact that they slept better, experienced less stress and were physically healthier.

All of this results in less employee turnover. People who are relaxed, well-rested and engaged at work are far less likely to leave your company than those who are constantly on the verge of burnout. And there are many reasons to avoid high turnover rates. In addition to creating knowledge gaps and skills gaps and damaging employee morale, unwanted turnover can be quite costly. One study suggests that replacing a salaried employee costs six to nine months’ salary.

3. A Bigger, Better Talent Pool

Every company requires skilled, creative and enthusiastic employees to innovate and grow. As such, every organization should strive to hire the best talent to thrive. Yet hiring skilled workers is becoming more challenging and complex. There are not enough candidates to meet the demands of the ever-evolving workplace matrix, according to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

When asked what challenges were behind securing the best talent in an organization, HR professionals in the SHRM study cited the following factors:

The study noted that sales and marketing, IT, executive talent and leadership, and engineering were the most challenging industries from which to recruit talent.

This means HR professionals must work harder to recruit and retain quality talent, particularly as employees gain confidence and have more options to change employers. According to Gallup, 54% of office workers say they’d leave their current job for another if that offer includes a flexible workplace such as remote working. The study also notes that organizations that offer remote working, even part-time, improve their employees’ satisfaction and retention levels by 13%.

Hiring and retaining top talent is one of the benefits of remote working for employers. Remote working positions eliminate geographical barriers so employers can tap into the available nationwide talent pool. Hiring managers no longer need to restrict recruiting efforts within their localities but can hire from anywhere based on the suitability of roles and qualifications.

One surprising benefit of remote working for employers is that they can now recruit, interview, hire, onboard and train employees 100% remotely. While hiring and onboarding new employees remotely is a whole new concept for most employers, startups such as Chargify, StackOverflow and Skillcrush are already experimenting with it. Notable benefits arising from this experiment include a faster overall hiring process and lower costs (discussed in the next section).

Besides tapping into top talent, an organization can also create an inclusive and diverse workforce, which can potentially fuel innovation and productivity. A diverse workforce can also enhance the organization’s ability to compete at a much higher strategic advantage. Recent BCG research identified diversity as a crucial driver of innovation in organizations, showing that diverse teams generate 19% more profit.

Hiring remotely also levels the playing field in terms of competition for top talent. For example, a San Francisco-based tech startup may not compete favorably with incumbents such as Apple and Google with a traditional workforce. This is because these companies may offer better perks and have the company reputation and job security that most applicants want. However, if the startup decides to hire remotely, it can gain immediate access to a larger pool of quality talent outside of San Francisco with minimal competition.

4. Reduced Overhead and Overall Costs

Allowing employees to work remotely during such crises can help organizations cut costs and remain competitive. Below are a few examples:

Sustain the Benefits of Remote Work by Implementing Parallels RAS

Working remotely has clear benefits for both employers and employees alike. Organizations can leverage Parallels® Remote Application Server (RAS) to sustain the perks of remote work, including enhanced productivity, greater work-life balance, remote hiring and reduced overall IT costs.

Parallels RAS is a comprehensive virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) solution. It allows organizations to publish virtual applications and desktops from a centralized server to any endpoint and on any platform, including any HTML5-ready browser. This gives employees access to corporate resources while working anywhere, anytime. As a result, employees can remain productive regardless of where they’re located and enjoy a greater work-life balance because they don’t need to be tethered to their desk—or even use a specific device—to do their job.

As a VDI solution, Parallels RAS provides a straightforward, quick and cost-effective way for organizations to onboard new employees, especially for companies with frequent temporary hires. Rather than giving each employee a PC or a laptop to access corporate information, IT administrators can leverage Parallels RAS non-persistent desktops to provide newly onboarded employees with access to the company’s network quickly and securely.

Parallels RAS can also help reduce overall IT costs. Unlike other desktop virtualizations, Parallels RAS requires less hardware and resources to set up, allowing an overall total cost of ownership (TCO) reduction of up to 60%. Organizations can use Parallels RAS to extend their hardware life cycles through low-cost thin clients (e.g., Google Chromebooks) that minimize hardware costs. Most importantly, Parallels RAS has an all-inclusive single licensing model, which helps companies avoid hidden costs that can arise when purchasing other VDI solutions.

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