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The ongoing global pandemic has prompted more and more companies to recognize that a large chunk of their workforces can successfully operate outside of the traditional office setup. In fact, a recent Gartner survey revealed that nearly 75% of CFOs agreed to shift at least 5% of their employees to a WFH model for the long term.

"We’ve learned a lot over the past two months and have watched our teams pull together from their homes to keep the company moving forward," explains Rich Barton, the CEO of Seattle-based Zillow, an online real estate database company that plans to function remotely until the end of 2020, "I expect this will have a lasting influence on the future of work...and home," he adds.

In the last few months, well-known industry giants like Google, Salesforce—and even Nationwide Insurance, the 95-year-old financial services behemoth, have hinted towards remote work becoming a permanent addition to their businesses moving forward. 

Let's take a deep dive into why we should embrace WFH as the "new normal".

Hiring sans geographical limitations

With an in-office operation, companies are obligated to scout for regional talent or hire people who are willing to relocate. Not to mention, when an existing employee chooses to move on, any or all domain knowledge they possess leaves with them—which means you now have to invest in hiring and training an entirely new person. Remember, the average cost of hiring an employee is $4,129, and it takes a minimum of 42 days to fill a position.

By offering remote working options, you're no longer bound by geographical limitations when it comes to hiring. In a recent interview, Hamlet Batista (CEO, RankSense) addressed how their company struggled with hiring for technical roles in the Dominican Republic because they couldn't find professionals with relevant experience and qualifications. Eventually, they made an expensive move to New York to widen their talent pool, where they had a hard time competing with other, more established companies offering higher pay than RankSense. A remote work setup has made it possible for them to onboard and connect with employees from anywhere in the world.

A remote-first organization is also inclusive to employees with different needs—for example, someone with a medical condition, parents with varying schedules or neurodivergent individuals can greatly benefit from the flexibility that WFH offers.

Using technology for a remote-first culture

During the pandemic, 6 out of 10 companies have expanded their geographical boundaries to source new talent—so you’re definitely not alone. "Companies are getting very good at employer branding, talking culture, sharing videos, trying to convey what it's like to be on a team without stepping foot in an office," explains Mehul Patel, CEO of San Francisco-based Hired. 

Since March, people have been relying more and more on virtual private networks (VPNs), collaboration tools, video conferencing applications, and voice over internet protocols (VoIP) to run day-to-day operations smoothly. In just one quarter, Zoom saw a 3000% increase in daily user count, whereas, Microsoft Teams went from 32 million to 44 million daily active users in a week.

Ultimately, technology has made it easier for companies to create a remote working environment where employees feel trusted and valued. “In many cases, teams in the same city are finding it much more effective to use these technologies than to go into an office," explains
Zachary Chertok, the Lead Human Capital Management Research Analyst at the Aberdeen Group, “Modern resources for remote management are bridging the gap between the in-office experience and the remote workplace.” Employers can now use agile, real-time advanced analytics to identify and monitor performance determinants, including worker reliability in a remote setup.

For a lot of companies, adopting new technologies can raise concerns about data security. However, you can establish some ground rules with your workforce, both new and existing employees, about proprietorship. Introduce policies and protocols that act as the first line of defense to support your employees against data security. For example, by implementing role-based data access, encryption, and authentication procedures, you can ensure that your data never falls into the wrong hands.

In the end, technology can successfully serve as a catalyst for organizational growth even in a remote working environment if you play your cards right.

For a lot of employers, ensuring productivity in a mostly virtual team has always been a cause for concern, and rightly so. However, contrary to popular belief, remote workers aren’t sleeping till noon, working in their PJs, and “slacking off” just because they are not under immediate supervision. In fact, as opposed to in-office employees, they spend 4% more time on completing core tasks, and 18% less time on communication.

work from home vs office

Because of the flexibility that WFH offers, employees have autonomy over their schedules which means they can work from anywhere and spend more time with family/friends. Not only is this good for boosting morale, but it also gives people a sense of fulfillment towards their job. Moreover, remote workers reported “higher levels of job satisfaction and reduced levels of burnout and psychological stress” as compared to their in-office counterparts.

And, we all know that happy employees are productive employees.

Over time, remote workers can feel disconnected from their team, however, by launching appropriate engagement initiatives, you can ensure that your employees continue to feel valued and are "emotionally committed" to your organization.

In Conclusion

Companies like Twitter, Dropbox, Modelez, Square, Nationwide, and Barclays have already shown their inclination towards a “permanent WFH setup” wherein most of their operations will be conducted remotely.

While a completely remote-first workforce might not be in the books for most companies, we can all agree that the pandemic has encouraged us to think beyond the status quo. "My personal opinions about WFH have been turned upside down over the past 2 months,” Barton (Zillow’s CEO) tweeted in April, “I expect this will have a lasting influence on the future of work ... and home.”

We couldn’t agree more.