I recently read a pre-COVID article by a businessperson who was bragging about a few trailblazing remote-only companies. He was referring to cloud-based collaboration, asynchronous chat and virtual, culture building events. These presumed remote work capabilities are now table stakes in a COVID-19 world, but there is great disparity in the success of their usage. So, the question is, how large is that disparity and what does it mean for our future?
While many companies have survived the initial rush to work from home, our most recent Business Outlook Survey suggests to me that working from home was a huge challenge and just a blip in how most companies operate. Many business professionals are now back in the office as part of their apparent new normal. Have some companies missed this important opportunity to build a better way to work?
I believe that embracing advanced working from home or work from anywhere capabilities will be a critical differentiator in most knowledge work soon (if not already). There are too many benefits for organizations that invest in their ability to work remotely for this to be just a fad.
Ramp up talent acquisition
I can see a world where remote work is a primary criterion for talent acquisition. Yes, most will want to continue to come to an office in a post-COVID world, but many will demand some level of remote capability. Most professionals have had a taste of it, they see the potential and will not be quick to give up the many benefits that it offers.
Will your ideal future employee want to go back to a daily commute? Will some talented folks take another opportunity that allows them to work a few months of each winter from a warm and sunny place? Many are pondering their cost of living by residing in a more remote location. Working remotely offers the best people in every industry a better place to work. For companies who can offer a quality remote experience, they can expect more loyalty, engagement and productivity from their team in return for the flexibility.
That same company might also have a lot more talent available to them if they can hire from a larger region — think global and local. That company will also incur lower costs in office space and if they are growing, they can count on extending an existing footprint for the longer-term growth plans. Travel expenses can likewise be slashed. I read of a company that figured they save $18K per worker per year by embracing the work from anywhere attitude.
Reinforce good business discipline
The same competencies that allow a productive remote environment, reinforce good business discipline. Here are a few examples:
- Remote work offers efficiencies gained by improving process and communication flow.
- Managing remote employees is much easier with solid business intelligence reporting.
- IT flexibility and security need to be a major priority with the work from anywhere shift.
Lastly, our community benefits from a local adoption of working remotely. The reduction in travel relieves the environment (especially if reducing air travel) and eases the strain on our civic infrastructures. It also keeps local talent who would otherwise need to leave a beautiful place like Vancouver Island to pursue their careers in large cities.
This year has been incredibly challenging with so many things for us to consider. I also know firsthand that mature work from anywhere capabilities are not easy to build. Smart Dolphins is embracing it as a competitive competency and building this will be one of our top priorities in 2021. We are encouraging our clients and the local business community to do the same.