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If you’ve ever been a skeptic of remote work, you’re not alone. Trust me when I say I had doubts that employees in all departments would able to do it. But due to the health crisis, that’s exactly what my business did for the greater part of 2020.
I’ve always been an advocate of diligent coworkers working remotely as needed. Some of them who moved out-of-state have been exclusively remote for years. But moving the entire team to remote, five days a week, for nearly a year? That was something I wasn’t sure about … before
There would be communication issues, distractions, tech problems and so on. Yes, there’d be ways to prevent these issues — getting a policy in place, communicating expectations, investing in solid technology — but taking everyone remote for an extended period of time? I was still on the fence.
Then the global health crisis hit. At the drop of a hat, we had to make some big decisions.
The perks of remote work
For my accounting software and payroll company, it worked out great. We got everyone up and out of the office before our state’s stay-at-home order even hit. Since then, we’ve been rocking and rolling as if we’ve always been remote.
Our team handled interviews and onboarding — and even grew by 55 employees while remote! We had remote performance evaluations and open-enrollment meetings. We were even able to continue hosting team events without a hitch.
As expected, there were some pain points with working remotely. (How could there not be pain points during a global crisis?) But overall, remote work has been a blessing for my company as we navigate through this time.
I know not everyone in every industry is able to work from home. But here are some benefits that we saw with going remote:
1. Broadened talent search
We have a lot of talented folks in the Canton, Ohio, area. But not everyone wants to stay in Ohio. Through this work-from-home experiment (as I like to call it), we realized we could broaden our talent search nationwide. We now have employees working from home in nine states. We’ve always prided ourselves on hiring the best of the best. And now we can do that on a national scale, which is pretty neat.
2. Greater flexibility for employees
Workers love flexibility. In a study published in the Harvard Business Review four years ago, 88 percent of workers said they wanted “more flexible hours.” And if we want to talk about remote work specifically, a whopping 80 percent wanted “work-from-home options.”
Going remote this past year has even given greater flexibility to our employees. They can skip the rush-hour commute, easily work around doctor’s appointments, and be in the same house as their kids, who are doing remote learning.
I have always felt strongly about giving my team the flexibility they need to achieve an optimal work-life balance. Whether that was working from home as needed or using flex time to go to doctor’s appointments or pick up their kids.
When the team went remote, that flexibility grew. This is pretty great for any company because the more someone is able to achieve that coveted work-life balance, the more they become engaged with their work. Flexibility is synonymous with more productivity, not less.
3. Decreased absences
Every year, flu season hits. Try as you might to limit the spread, it still seems to creep into the workplace. It happens to us every year. Except for this year.
With all of us being remote, the spread of sickness in the office was reduced to nothing. Zero, zip, zilch, nada. Because, well, we weren’t in the office. That decreased employee absences by quite a bit.
Flu aside, we were especially grateful to limit the spread of Covid-19 by taking things remote. In 2020, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the lost work time rate at 1.9 percent. The lost work time rate is the number of hours absent as a percent of hours usually worked. This means that workers needed to take off 1.9 percent of their normal work hours (and who can blame them?).
By working remotely, we were able to decrease absences and keep our team members safe.
4. Higher employee retention
Another major benefit of working remotely is higher employee retention. Employees may decide to move on from a business for a number of non-monetary reasons. The option to work remotely won’t solve all employee woes, but it can help retain employees who want to move to a new city and better benefits (such as a flexible schedule).
I’ve been able to retain a few of my employees who moved out of state. And now that we’ve started hiring nationwide, we’ll be able to retain even more. This work-from-home plan has helped strengthen our benefits to make things even more flexible for our team.