Following months of work from home arrangements to combat COVID-19, Twitter announced in May 2020 that their remote work policy will be permanent. This somewhat “shocking” but not unexpected news has made international headlines, prompting many companies to follow the trend. Business owners and office workers suddenly realised they are in an age of digital transformation, and have to adapt quickly to stay in competition.

The recent virus outbreak has played a big part in propelling this remote work trend. Many companies and organisations, including international corporations, tech giants and government departments are all calling for social distancing in fear of the virus spreading in their offices. Many called this “the largest work from home experiment” ever, and some are still struggling to cope with this new working method. 

Remote work, which also encompasses work from home and mobile work, is actually not a novel concept, and has been around since the 1980s, but technology development in recent years has made it much more viable for businesses big and small. New and innovative remote work solutions are popping up here and there, enabling more flexible working arrangements for workers.

A survey in 2019 found that up to 62% of workers in the US already work remotely at any frequency, and the recent pandemic has pushed the need for remote work even further. The decentralisation of business operations will inevitably bring many challenges, but you can also take this as an opportunity to create a new ecosystem for your distributed workforce, and embrace the new normal in a virtual workspace.

How does remote work benefit workers?

Flexibility of time and space

A remote work lifestyle is very different from a traditional work schedule. Instead of sitting in front of an office desk 9-to-6 every day, and spend hours to commute between home and office, remote workers can work at home or any other location of their choice.

This means workers can have full control of their work schedule, and can take up more household and family-care responsibilities, a major plus for people who prefer to work at their own pace, or have to take care of a child or an elderly. They can also choose to move away from the city or even out of their country and still keep their job.

Remote work offers us a flexible alternative to tackle an unexpected turn of events, and its importance will only grow in our increasingly volatile and uncertain society.

Saving on daily expenses

Working remotely means that workers don’t have to spend as much on clothing, transport, food, coffee and many other things. They can also move to areas where living expenses are lower, and enjoy a better living quality. In a globalised economy where the whole world is competing for the same market, this can be a win-win situation for employees and employers.

Better work-life balance

The issue of work-life balance has become ever more important for workers nowadays, especially for the younger generations. Many of them prefer a lifestyle that allows them to pursue their own  passion. Switching to remote work enables people to better arrange their time for work and leisure, and this can have a profound impact on their happiness and well-being.

Better focus and productivity

In contrary to a common belief that people are less productive working out of the office, a recent survey shows that people working from home actually have a 47% increase in productivity. Distractions in a typical office environment, like phone calls, meetings, and chatting co-workers make it hard to focus on your actual work. Without the noise and office politics, workers are generally more focused on their work, leading to better performance and productivity.

Less stress

Job stress is another major issue on the rise in recent years. Traveling long distances to work and staying in a busy office for hours every day can be stressful. According to a report by The American Institute of Stress, up to 80% of workers in the states feel stress on the job, and 40% of workers reported their job was very or extremely stressful. Working at home or a local café puts workers in a more comfortable and relaxed environment and can help them cope with the stress in work.

What benefits does remote work bring to your business?

Improve employee happiness and retention

Statistics show that 71% of remote workers are happy in their job, compared to only 55% for on-site workers. Remote workers are generally more satisfied with their jobs, and are less likely to leave their company. Having a higher retention rate can save you a lot of administration and training hassle in the long term.

Save on rent and office expenses

Office rent, especially in major cities are getting exponentially expensive each year. Having employees working remotely means that you need less office space, and you can save on other expenses as well. In May 2020, famous internet platform 9GAG made the decision to switch to remote work for all employees and moved out of their 7,000 square feet office in Hong Kong, saving millions on rent and other expenses each year. The fact is many online businesses nowadays don’t really need an actual office space, and saving on these expenses is a big incentive for them to make the change.

Hire without geographical limitations

In the past, businesses can only hire talents located within traveling distance. But with a remote work arrangement, geographic proximity is no longer a concern. Employees can work pretty much anywhere as long as they have internet connection. Companies can pick the most qualified candidate from a worldwide talent pool, and leverage on more competitive salary rates in foreign regions and countries.

Operate with a distributed workforce

We all know the importance of not putting all your eggs in the same basket. Having a decentralised and globally distributed workforce helps you spread the risk, and your business is less likely to be heavily affected by geo-political or public health incidents. You can also leverage on your employees’ local network to effectively engage new markets and expand your business operation. In a new decade facing the treats of COVID-19 and trade wars, it is important to stay vigilant and adapt to changes coming your way.

What should your business consider when it comes to remote work?

Many companies are jumping on board for remote work in the face of the COVID-19 threat. But to take full advantage of this working method, you will need to provide adequate tools and software so your employees can perform at their fullest potential.

Regardless of industry and profession, a modern day worker often relies on internet and computers to work. In most cases, a laptop and stable internet would be sufficient, but some positions may require more specialised hardware (for example a specific computer and a drawing pad for designers, or high quality audio and video devices for customer service agents). Make sure remote employees have exactly what they need to get the job done. Your office may be well-equipped to support your daily operation, but this may not always be the case for your employee’s remote office setup.

Device and Compatibility

Instead of trying to solve a logistical nightmare and provide company-owned devices for your employees, it may be easier to have remote workers using their personal devices, or do the purchase themselves. Most people probably have a computer and internet connectivity at home already, and you can take advantage of that. Just make sure you have worked out the purchase method and device ownership to prevent future dispute.You should always make sure your software suite is compatible to any device. Most remote work software nowadays can function on desktop and mobile, and some can even function as a web-based application. Choosing the right solution will allow your team to work more efficiently.

Remote Work Setup and Support

Most people nowadays can handle a computer just fine but they can still occasionally run into issues with their setup. It is important to remember not every employee is tech-savvy, and it is a monumental task to provide support for every remote worker. Choose a user-friendly solution that is fast and easy to install so they can set things up without the help from a technical support team. You should also consider using remote desktop solutions like Chrome Remote Desktop or TeamViewer to enable remote computer access and IT support.

Backup and Storage

File sharing and data backup is another major concern for remote operation. To keep your data secure and synchronised, you will need a cloud-based solution. For companies that don’t have an in-house platform, third party solutions like Google Drive or Dropbox can be your immediate choice. But if you are running a customer service operation and need a global compliance solution with more advance data protection features like end-to-end encryption to keep your data safe, you should consider using a more secure platform that can help you protect customer profiles and communication logs.

Communication & Team Collaboration

Instant messaging, file transfer, multimedia sharing, online voice call, video call, and screen sharing are all commonly used in business communications, and more than often multiple channels are used to facilitate customer engagement and team collaboration.

Unsurprisingly, many companies still rely on free communication software like Skype or WhatsApp to communicate, but in today’s fast-moving business world, these solutions are simply not adequate for more specialised positions such as a brand representative or a customer service agent. It is also difficult for them to juggle several accounts on multiple channels and maintain the same level of service quality. Your specialists would need a dedicated communication tool to handle the large volume of conversations and interactions.

Cost-effectiveness

Many companies are willing to invest on remote work solutions, but you don’t always need to buy multiple expensive flagship solutions to get what you need. Assess your operation flow and identify the keep components that your team needs, and only make your purchase after you have thoroughly tested the product. Most of the solutions available today offer a free trial or free plan, so don’t hesitate to try them out and find one that fits all your requirements.

If you are looking for an all-in-one customer engagement and team collaboration platform that gives you all of the online communication channels plus a full range of telco features, maaiiconnect may be the right solution for you. It is compatible to all smart devices and can function as an app or web-based widget, meets all global communication compliance standard with end-to-end encryption, and offers a FREE Essential Plan to help your remote teams connect with a worldwide audience. Sign-up for an account and get started immediately.

Looking into the second half of 2020 and beyond

The first half of 2020 has brought about a lot of unexpected changes. The world economy is taking a big hit from the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns, and the business landscape as we once knew may never return. Businesses must stay agile and follow the tides, and adapting to remote work may be the key for companies and industries to weather this storm.