According to a 2021 Gallup poll, 45% of U.S. employees worked remotely in some capacity. The consistent upward trend in remote work is expected to continue, with factors such as expanded technology and the influence of the COVID-19 pandemic bolstering an already-existing trend. The flexibility and cost savings provided by remote work are a boon to employees and companies alike. Even consumers can benefit as company savings may translate into reduced costs of products and services.
While remote work is a highly beneficial option for many companies, it will not offer its full potential if new procedures are not implemented strategically. Poor implementation strategy can cause costly interruptions in production and operations, resulting in substantial setbacks. As such, organizations interested in introducing remote work options must ensure that they understand how remote work will affect their company, as well as general best practices for the introduction of remote work.
Pros of Remote Work
The benefits of remote work for companies, employees, and consumers include:
- Employees enjoy the flexibility that can benefit their work-life balance.
- Companies can cut costs related to leasing or owning property.
- Work schedules can more easily be adjusted in response to various events.
- Lowered costs of operations may translate into higher wages or reduced consumer prices.
Remote work may also confer further benefits depending on how it is implemented.
Cons of Remote Work
The drawbacks of remote work for companies, employees, and consumers include:
- Teams may experience reduced communication.
- Employees may feel like they never truly clock out.
- Company culture may deteriorate.
- Employees may struggle with the lack of face-to-face interaction.
- A lack of a dedicated workspace may appear less professional to prospective clients.
However, it is important to keep in mind that all of these problems can be addressed with the right policies and strategies for implementation.
Industries That Most Benefit From Remote Work
Industries and niches that tend to most benefit from utilizing remote work include:
- Software development;
- Network management;
- Systems analysis;
- Data entry;
- Content creation;
- Mental health services;
- Customer service;
- Project management;
Industries that have fewer opportunities for successful implementation of remote work are those that often require hands-on, in-person management by humans, such as manufacturing and delivery services.
How to Develop and Embrace New Work Policies
The following strategies can significantly improve the process of developing and introducing new work policies related to a shift toward remote work:
- Do your research for remote work best practices.
- Research how remote work is typically handled within your industry.
- Create a detailed implementation plan.
- Consult various professionals, such as HR managers, project managers, and IT consultants.
- Ask for employee feedback as to their concerns and what they would like to see.
- Consider how the shift may impact daily operations.
- Consider how the shift may impact communication.
- Consider how the shift may impact company culture.
- Develop a scheduling system.
- Determine what resources you will need.
- Create a timeframe for implementation.
- Assess and adjust your strategy as needed.
It is important to keep in mind that the specifics of proper implementation will depend on factors like the structure of your business and the specific model of remote work that you choose to implement.
How to Support Remote Employees
The following are additional ways that you can support remote employees to maximize both their performance and their wellbeing:
- Make sure that you are keeping employees informed of any upcoming or ongoing changes every step of the way.
- Ensure that they have the resources they need, e.g. hardware and software.
- Ensure that they have a strong understanding of how to use any new resources.
- Ensure that the new flexibility offered by remote work benefits them as much as the company.
- Make an effort to maintain or adjust company culture.
- Ensure that there are many avenues for communication and that employees have access to them.
- Offer additional assistive resources and options to employees who may need them, such as people with disabilities and parents.
Ideally, a shift to remote work will be a positive change for everyone involved, not just the company.
How to Develop and Embrace New Security Policies
New work procedures will prompt the need for increased and adjusted security protocols, particularly in the case of a shift to remote work, as decentralized operations can create new vulnerabilities to digital assets. The following strategies can significantly improve the process of developing and introducing new security policies related to a shift toward remote work:
- Emphasize the importance of new security protocols to employees.
- Conduct a risk assessment;
- Determine who should have access to which assets;
- Create clear protocols for accessing, sharing, and storing assets;
- Provide comprehensive training for new security policies.
- Provide regular refresher training for security policies.
- Create and distribute a manual detailing security policies.
- Ensure that each employee is aware of what assets they have access to and how they should properly access and utilize these assets.
- Provide opportunities for employees to offer feedback about security policies.
- Consult a cybersecurity professional.
- Create a list of supporting assets and services that will bolster your security, such as patch management and remote monitoring and management.
- Ensure that employees have all of the assets they need to properly follow protocols.
Many elements of remote work, such as unsecured Wi-Fi networks and work in public spaces, can put important company assets at risk.
Understanding the Hybrid Work Model
A common remote work structure used by companies is the hybrid remote work model. Hybrid work accounts for approximately 20% of remote work conducted in the United States, per the aforementioned 2021 Gallup poll.
What Is the Hybrid Work Model and How Does It Work?
A hybrid work model is a type of work structure where employees spend part of their time on the clock working remotely, and another part of their time working in the office. Some companies implement this type of work structure as a means of transitioning into a fully remote work structure, while others may maintain it long-term.
This work model allows employees and companies to enjoy the benefits of both remote and in-office work. It is particularly beneficial for companies that employ people who need a lot of flexibility in their work-life, such as parents. It can also serve as a means to suit people with different personalities and work styles. For example, more extroverted employees may be happier and more productive spending time in-office, while the opposite may be true of more reserved employees.
A hybrid work model may also serve as a means for companies to cut costs without completely sacrificing their physical location and the benefits it offers. For example, the company may downsize to a smaller, less expensive space and reduce maintenance costs. The reasons for choosing a hybrid work model will significantly influence the decision of what type of hybrid work model will work best for your particular company.
Types of Hybrid Work Models
The four major types of hybrid work models are:
- Flexible hybrid work model: In the flexible hybrid work model, employees largely decide when they would like to work from home and when they would like to work in-office depending on their preferences.
- Fixed hybrid work model: In the fixed hybrid work model, in-office and out-of-office hours are pre-scheduled and less subject to change.
- Office-first hybrid work model: In the office-first hybrid work model, it is assumed that employees will be working in-office unless they have specifically requested or have been scheduled otherwise.
Remote-first hybrid work model: In the remote-first hybrid work model, it is assumed that employees will be working from home unless they have specifically requested or have been scheduled otherwise.
When implementing a hybrid work model, a company may test out more than one of these models to determine which best suits the needs of the company and its employees.
Hardware and Software That Can Support Remote Work
The following hardware and software can significantly improve outcomes for remote work:
- Remote management and monitoring software;
- Virus protection software;
- Patch management software;
- Encryption software;
- Real-time alert systems;
- Automation and scripting software;
- Shared script libraries;
- Task management software;
- Messaging software;
- Video conferencing software;
- Team-building software;
- Scheduling software;
- Digital time clocks;
- Wi-Fi boosters and routers;
- Scanners and printers.
Additional, third-party services such as cloud management and MSPs can also be highly valuable. While this list covers many of the basics for hardware and software that are typically beneficial to remote teams, a company may implement variants on these assets depending on unique company and employee needs.
How RMM Software Enables Smooth Transitions to Remote Work
There are also subscription services available that allow users to securely access their office work from home. Atera, for one, supplies a subscription service to businesses that want to enable all kinds of users to work from home with no worries about their online access or security. With the help of this step-by-step guide, you can easily establish remote workers, hybrid employees, or even temporary users in no time.
The following resources can benefit employees and organizations during a shift to remote work:
Telework.gov: The federal government provides a variety of informational and support resources related to remote work.
SHRM: The Society for Human Resource Management provides a variety of informational and support resources related to remote work.
Atera: This cybersecurity resource guide covers best practices for cybersecurity for small businesses and entrepreneurs.