It has been predicted that although many organizations will concede some ground to remote work, most companies will return to business as usual, probably reducing a five-day office week to four days with one day of working remotely. This, however, does not seem viable given the fact that remote work offers benefits that most organizations cannot ignore. The transition from the old office-based model to a completely remote workforce requires innovation and a rethink of how the business is run on a daily basis, with a strong focus on communication and regular touching base sessions. The process, however, certainly isn't rocket science and requires much less input than initially thought. With the advent of digital communications and technology, a world of opportunity was presented to employers globally, and the shift, in retrospect, requires more of a practical approach with the realization that nothing much changes - employees are merely moving from one location to another.
Did you know that globally 1 in 3 employees are working remotely? In the US alone, at least 1 in 4 employees are working from home. The recent pandemic that has gripped the globe has played an extraordinary role in driving this. Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, at least 47% of people had never worked remotely, and 17% had never worked remotely for more than 5 days a week. As more employers grasped the need to keep cash flowing through their organizations, these figures drastically changed to show an increase of 17% among new remote and gig employees, with 44% now working remotely 5 days a week or more.
In specific areas like software development, testing, engineering design, development, project management and management/strategic consulting, this figure is closer to 90%. It then begs the question – Does this drive a permanent shift towards remote work? The benefits for both employers and employees speak for themselves, and although we don’t think that anyone has a crystal ball to predict the future, let us take a look at few statistics.
A survey done by the Mercer group revealed the following insights:
- 94% of the employers surveyed noted that productivity either remained the same or improved with employees working remotely
- 75% of the employees surveyed and who were working remotely, indicated increased job satisfaction ratings compared to their previous office-bound roles
- The majority of employers expressed the desire to lower their office footprint permanently and save costs by incentivizing remote work. A great example is Google that saved close to ~$200M in 1 quarter through footprint rationalization
The outcome is simple. We don't think you need a crystal ball. You have more productive employees with higher job satisfaction and lower costs. It seems like a Win-Win situation.
The next question is this; given that our current organizational structure and design are typically based on in-person work, how will this change? More innovative companies are shifting towards on-demand resources from permanent employees.
According to statistics released by Roland Berger, there is an increasing demand for gig workers across the board, with between 63% and 77% of all support, corporate and field services requiring on-demand employees. As per the report, this figure is expected to rise as high as 94% in 2023. The average cost of supervision and facilities overheads is about 2X the cost of an employee. With remote work, this span can be increased and supervision costs cut. Using on-demand employees means that organizations can more easily facilitate remote working since the new structure comprises employees that only work when needed.
This is not a new concept - employers have for years utilized temporary employees, either self-employed or from agencies. There are various types of on-demand employees; from temporary to contract workers and freelancers, and organizations get to decide which option works best for any specific period. Freelancers have become the most common type of on-demand employees. Remote work facilitates this by broadening the on-demand resources and offering the most qualified talent from anywhere in the world. Resources have defined outcomes and they manage the work/ life balance themselves while organizations get higher productivity by having resources focused on actual work rather than unnecessary and costly layers of supervision.
The revolution towards more on-demand resources has started. This will take a bit of time but the more innovative companies will use this to drive a much stronger, satisfied, empowered and diverse resource base which will help them to be very adaptable to changing market conditions while lowering their cost base with an increase in benefits for the resources. The key lies in understanding that working remotely is not the same as working from home. The aim is to create integrated work teams that ideally can operate from anywhere in the world, with a strong focus on philosophy, culture, planning and project management.
It is essential that employers work towards maintaining a professional environment that does not shift towards individual working but uses more of a distributed work practice that is inclusive and encourages active participation.
How has your organization adapted its approach to this new and improved way of working? Have these changes been beneficial for all parties involved?