Social distancing is the ultimate test case for remote work

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There once was a time when employers asked, “Is remote work the future?” Now, in an effort to practice social distancing, many businesses have abruptly transitioned to a fully remote workforce. For many, it will be a proving ground that remote working does indeed work.

Advances in telecommunications technology, including the advent of 5G, had already begun to pave the way for new remote opportunities. But some managers were worried that if they couldn’t manage their employees in person, they may not know if work is even being done – or when it would be completed. Luckily, it is now possible to give remote team members the same tools available in an office setting, eliminating all barriers between traditional and remote work. This is especially important given the current (albeit temporary) work-from-home requirements.

Remote employees are a significant step forward in the evolution of work and the technologies that enable us to perform our jobs at any time and from any location have fueled it. This evolution will influence the jobs people apply for and how they perceive companies looking to hire. Staples’ annual workplace survey showed that most individuals (90 percent) believe flexible work arrangements and schedules increase employee morale. Seventy-seven percent feel that remote work could also lower operating costs, and they’re right – remote employees reduce the economic burden associated with operating an office. Another survey showed that employees are less stressed when working from home.

Remote work allows employees to ditch the daily commute, which (according to the most recent U.S. Census Bureau statistics) averages 26.1 minutes. Many areas exceed the average, especially when congestion is factored in. Commuters in Los Angeles waste an average of 119 hours per year sitting in traffic. Congestion increases fuel consumption, which in turn increases pollution. By staying at home, employees can save time, use less gas and allow organizations to build smaller, more energy efficient offices.

Even better, remote jobs can open doors to a more diverse group of employees. By allowing staff to work from anywhere they desire, businesses will not be geographically restricted in their search for top talent. They will also be able to more easily attract and retain those with disabilities, who may be perfect for the job but find it difficult (if not impossible) to commute on a regular basis.

Career before life, or life before career?

Now that working from home has become the norm (for at least the next few weeks), many individuals and their employers are seeing the benefits for the first time.

By working from home, employees no longer have to worry about leaving enough time to get to work – they can just sit down and get the job done. Traffic jams, poor weather conditions and other road hazards are not a concern when a commute is no longer necessary for employees to fulfil their daily obligations.

This is especially important to those with children, who, under normal circumstances, would surely appreciate the extra time at home. Instead of “working” 8 to 6 (work hours + commute), parents can simply step away from their computer when the day is done. Every minute saved on driving is time that parents can spend reading to their kids, playing games or helping with their homework. Even a home-cooked meal can be less stressful (and more attainable!) when time – the most valuable currency of all – is given back to employees.

No more restrictions

While the benefits are clear, there are some challenges companies are currently facing associated with managing a fully remote workforce for the first time. This is especially true for customer-facing workforces dealing in sales or customer service. For example, most contact center agents currently work in an office to complete their job, which involves answering phone calls and accessing customer records via a centralized database. Sales professionals may be required to come into the office as well, but that can be a difficult, cost- and time-prohibitive exercise in between client meetings. Many rely on email, but it can come off as being too formal – and will likely yield slower responses.

By taking advantage of the continued advancements in telecommunications technology, many enterprises can help their employees perform their jobs without inhibitions. They can work from anywhere while using any device they choose. Technology can make it easier for employees to communicate with each other and message those within their team. Phone systems (and the technology behind them) are especially important in this regard, allowing for a seamless communication experience both internally and externally. This is imperative, as every company has communications outside of the firm, whether speaking to existing customers or prospective clients.

A job that works for everyone

We no longer live in a world where every job must be completed in an office. Breakthroughs in telecommunications technology have made it possible to build a career in numerous industries from virtually anywhere. The arrival of 5G, which will create a seamless and ubiquitous Internet connection, is just one step toward making this a reality for more individuals. Organizations will find that they can reduce their carbon footprint and build smaller, more energy-efficient offices by allowing their staff to work remotely. It’s a win-win situation that works for all who crave at-home opportunities. Even when the dust settles and we return to previous routines, employers would be wise to embrace the many benefits that come along with a remote workforce.

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