Is Telecommuting a Sustainable Option for Your Business?

If you were expecting a straightforward answer to the question in the heading, I apologize for not being able to provide one. It would be irresponsible of me to go into detail about how well remote work has worked for Works (a firm that has been using this approach since its inception over a decade ago). The reasoning behind this is that if you’re trying to assess whether remote work is suitable for your business, you need more evidence than just one positive example.

It is likely that the current pandemic has pushed you to adopt a more remote working strategy in order to ensure the continued operation of your business despite the widespread quarantine measures and instructions to stay inside. If this is the case, you may already be aware of the benefits of remote working. However, the decision to move to a remote working model needs to be taken more seriously than just a casual “let’s do this from now on”.

As we move towards the new normal, the corporate landscape is likely to undergo further changes. It is possible that some firms will require their employees to return to the workplace, which may be welcomed by some, but not all. Once it is safe for people to meet in person, some may be pleased, but others may recognise that face-to-face interaction is not always necessary.

It is important to carefully consider the advantages and disadvantages of remote working when making decisions about employing individuals from a distance. Here is a list of suggested steps that can be taken to ensure successful remote working.

As a manager, you should be to familiarize yourself with the responsibilities of everyone of your staff.

The transition from in-person to digital work presents a major challenge for remote employment. Whilst certain roles can be carried out effectively from a distance, others require more physical presence. Implementing a remote work policy is relatively straightforward for departments such as accounting, however, it is much more challenging to adopt the same approach for a warehouse in a work from home (WFH) model.

It is feasible for an individual employee to alternate between working from home and coming into the office. By monitoring the daily tasks of staff, it is possible to gain an overview of the workload and establish the proportion of it that can be conducted remotely.

This list of responsibilities may assist in understanding that current job descriptions may not be sufficient. There are various warehouse operations (such as communication with vendors and product tracking) that may be conducted digitally and allocated to different employees. If an entirely remote working environment is desired, it is necessary to consider restructuring current job descriptions.

Make sure your procedures are compatible with a digital model.

Tasks on the list you have created are directly connected to the more complex processes they form part of. Therefore, it is important to assess the extent to which your processes are capable of being undertaken remotely. To put this into context, you should consider whether the activities can be transitioned to digital forms and executed on the cloud.

It is a common misconception that manufacturing is the only process that cannot be done remotely. However, experience shows that, while remote working is the most practical option for many organisations, there may be a need for a certain number of employees to be present in the workplace in order to provide customer support or deal with deliveries. It is important to consider the logistical implications of a remote working arrangement before making any decisions.

It is advisable to consider digitising processes where possible; however, it is important to consider the practicalities of fully remote working in the present, rather than a potential future scenario. Even with digitised processes, there are certain factors to take into account prior to transitioning to full remote working.

Examine savings and expenditures.

The financial benefits of remote working are well-documented. It is true that there may be expenses involved in adapting your company’s infrastructure for remote employees, such as creating cloud-based solutions, utilizing third-party suppliers, purchasing staff equipment, and investing in remote training. However, these costs should be seen as part of the overall picture.

It is possible that the initial investment in setting up your firm for remote working could be recovered in the long-term. I use the term “may get” as there may be additional costs to consider, such as employee cost reimbursements that are legally required, or engaging IT and security specialists to provide ongoing technical support. Are you open to investing in these areas?

Considering the potential cost savings that could be achieved by employing remote workers, such as on rent and office space, benefits and taxes, there are further advantages to consider. These include reduced absenteeism, increased productivity and lower staff turnover, all of which can lead to further savings.

By weighing up the pros and cons, you can gain a better understanding of the requirements of remote working. By considering the data presented, you may come to the conclusion that working remotely is the obvious choice for you, or you may feel overwhelmed by the prospect.

Formulating an Option

You may be wondering if following just three simple steps is enough to determine if remote working is suitable for your business. However, it is important to note that a great deal of time and effort must be invested in order to fully understand the current situation, the tasks that your employees are undertaking, the procedures that are in place to facilitate these tasks and the ways in which they are carried out. Only then will you be able to understand if remote working is a viable option.

If you choose to move forward with a decentralised model, you will have the necessary information to ensure a seamless transition of your current operations. Do not feel obligated to adopt a model simply because it is in vogue – do what is best for you, not what someone else believes is the right choice.

It is worth noting that, whilst the discussion has been framed in terms of remote or in-office working, a hybrid strategy may be an option. This involves having a combination of both, with some staff in the office and others working remotely. There are both advantages and disadvantages to this approach, however, it may be worth considering as it may offer the benefits of remote work while still maintaining some of the comforts of the office environment.

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