For years, we’ve heard about the benefits of telecommuting. For employees, there’s more flexibility and less time spent commuting. There’s also an increased opportunity for work-life balance.
For employers the benefits of telecommuting include reduced overhead costs and the potential to source top talent from around the world rather than being geographically limited.
At the same time, while there’s been a lot of conversation about telecommuting, it’s usually theoretical. Fewer businesses are actually willing to take the leap, but the coronavirus might be changing that.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, employers all over the world have asked their employees to stay home whenever possible, and many are pointing to the fact that things may stay this way even after the immediate threat of the virus has passed.
There’s so much technology available, including intranets so employees can receive news and updates, communication platforms, and video chatting apps. It makes it more feasible than ever before for people to telecommute on a larger scale.
The following are some things to know about the coronaviruses’ effects on the world of remote work.
What Employers Need to Do
For employers who haven’t already done so, or who are working toward making telecommuting more permanent even after shutdowns lift, they need to have a strong infrastructure in place to make it work.
Employees need not just have internet and technology access but they also need to understand the protocols for privacy and security.
You’ll need to make physical materials digital, and you’ll want cloud-based tools that make it easy for employees to work and access the information they need. Once you have a strong telecommuting and remote work infrastructure, it becomes easy to scale it up and make it an enduring part of your business.
Along with the technology-based infrastructure, you need guidelines for working remotely. Set expectations for employees, so they know how and when they need to communicate.
While telecommuting and remote work have reduced risk in terms of spreading the coronavirus, the situation can create new risks.
One such risk is called cyber hygiene by SHRM.
This refers to the fact that remote workers are less likely to follow stringent cybersecurity protocols when they’re working at home as compared to working in an office environment.
This can be an even greater risk once people are once again out and about more and instead of working from home are perhaps working remotely from somewhere like a coffee shop. Employees may use unsecured public Wi-Fi networks, and that makes it critical that employers have a strategy for dealing with the unique cybersecurity threats that come with remote work.
Bringing People Together
We’ve heard a lot of slogans encouraging social distancing in recent weeks, like “together apart.”
The idea with social distancing is, of course, that we are putting physical distance between ourselves to cut the spread of the coronavirus.
In a remote work environment, there is inherent social distancing, whether there’s an imminent virus threat or not.
Employers have to think about how to tackle the limitations this can bring about.
Technology increasingly offers the solutions needed. For example, tools like Zoom and other virtual meeting apps and screen sharing apps should be a regular part of the workday for your employees.
This will help them feel connected to thecompany and one another, and that sense of collaboration and interaction can reduce some of the pitfalls of remote work, such as isolation, loneliness, and a loss of productivity brought about by a loss of engagement.
Employee mental and physical wellness cannot be forgotten when they are working remotely.
When employees work in a traditional setting, health and wellness programs are often part of the workplace.
For example, you might have group exercise classes or special health programs.
When employees work remotely, they still need that and it should be part of what you offer your employees.
Of course, it might be offered in a different format.
For example, maybe you subsidize the cost of an online fitness app for your employees or have a mental health professional send out regular email reminders that are relevant to the people who work for you.
The coronavirus has been an awful situation for the world, but there may be valuable takeaways, including the importance of harnessing the power of technology so that employees can work remotely more often.
If you’re an employer, now might be the time you start to think about how increasing long-term telecommuting could look for your organization and your employees.