Widespread Social Distancing Puts Remote Work in the Spotlight
Remote work is being put to the test this spring as millions of employees have temporarily transitioned away from the office. This move, aimed at an increase in social distancing, means that many workers have set up shop in their living rooms, basements, and bedrooms. People who never even thought about telecommuting are now doing so every day, swapping their cubicle for a kitchen table. It might seem like a dream come true for some and an abrupt, disorienting shift for others. But one thing is for certain: remote work is now being tested on a scale unlike any other.
Accessibility has increased for many years thanks to new innovations in telecommunications technology, but there are others on the horizon, such as 5G, that are lending a helping hand. This has eased the connectivity concerns of some managers, who became the initial supporters of work from home (WFH) policies. Others still worried that if they couldn’t manage their employees in person, they may not know if work is even being done—or when it would be completed. But with a plethora of tools now available, the at-home work experience can mirror that of the office.
Numerous studies have shown that employees do appreciate (and often desire) flexibility in the workplace. According to Staples’ annual workplace survey, 90 percent of workers believe flexible work arrangements and schedules increase employee morale. WFH policies can also reduce stress, which is extremely important. Colonial Life conducted a study about workplace stressors and worries and found that they can create significant distractions for many employees. Twenty percent spend more than five hours a week thinking about stressors on company time, leading to a huge loss in productivity. Thus, some employers may find that remote work can directly influence their bottom line.
Feeling Right at Home in the Home Office
Most contact center agents work in an office, so they might have felt a bit out of place attempting to do their job from home. Whether answering phone calls or accessing customer records via a centralized database, they may not have known what to expect when transitioning to their place of residence. Sales professionals might have been in similar position, thinking about how they once had a familiar location for meetings and other on-site tasks.
But by taking advantage of the continued advancements in telecommunications technology, many enterprises can help their employees perform their jobs without inhibitions. They can work from anywhere while using any device they choose. The barriers to communication have finally been lifted. Phone systems (and the technology behind them) are especially important in this regard, allowing for a seamless communication experience both internally and externally. This is imperative, as every company has communications outside of the firm, whether speaking to existing customers or prospective clients.
The Benefits Are Clear
While WFH policies might not make sense for all businesses, and might not be accepted by all workers, many employers will start to see the benefits during this period of social distancing.
By working from home, employees no longer have to worry about leaving enough minutes (or hours) to get to work on time. They will no longer spend an average of 26.1 minutes driving to and from their employer. For those who live in an exceptionally busy climate, such as Los Angeles (where commuters waste an average of 119 hours per year sitting in traffic), the time savings is especially noteworthy.
Parents are particularly receptive to remote work, as they can allocate more time outside of office hours (previously wasted on a commute) to be with their families. This means that a 9 to 5 schedule can truly be 9 to 5—no time lost before or after.
It is also worth noting that congestion increases fuel consumption, which in turn increases pollution. By staying at home, employees can save time, use less gas, and allow organizations to build smaller, more energy-efficient offices.
Your Home Truly Can Be Your Office
Organizations are no longer required to restrict their employees to a specific location. It is now possible to find and hire the best talent from anywhere in the world. We owe this evolution to the incredible innovations introduced via telecommunications technology. This is being bolstered by the debut of 5G, whose faster and more seamless connectivity capabilities means superior results with less downtime.
By taking advantage of these technologies and allowing employees to work from home, enterprises can actually save money on office space (including all associated expenses, such as heating, cooling, and electricity). This, in turn, will reduce their carbon footprint. All told, these benefits could be too good to resist when the world returns to the office. When that happens, some employers might find that they are happy to let their staff stay home.
Tim Beeson is the president of Natterbox North America, based in Chicago. He joined Natterbox in 2010 and has played an instrumental role in forging alliances for Natterbox with Salesforce.com. Previously, Beeson led the Natterbox UK sales division and global alliances segment, securing large accounts like Groupon.