The COVID-19 pandemic altered our daily lives in all sorts of ways. Among them, it moved the workplace environment for the majority of people from offices to living rooms. Though its initial purpose was to restrict face to face interactions in order to reduce the spread of the virus, working from home (WFH) has brought many more unexpected benefits to companies and their workers.
A survey of just under 1,000 firms by the Institute of Directors (IoD) shows that 74% of the firms are planning on maintaining the increase of working remotely. Moreover, more than half of the participants plan on reducing their long-term use of workplaces.
‘Remote working has been one of the most tangible impacts of coronavirus on the economy. For many, it could be here to stay,’ said Roger Barker, director of policy at the IoD.
It is then worth asking, is WFH here to stay? Or should we expect people to come back to offices as restrictions have been fully lifted in the UK and many other places.
What is working from home like?
For many people, working from home depends on the company they work in; how big the size of the company is, what their managers are comfortable with and how they settle into this new era of teleworking. But mostly, remote working consists of day-to-day Zoom-meetings and co-updating colleagues through office-oriented messaging apps such as Microsoft Teams and Slack.
Big tech companies have not gone unnoticed with regards to their employees’ work culture during the pandemic. Many of them have also adopted remote working elements.
Last October, a Microsoft spokesperson told CNBC that the firm is allowing its workers to work with less than 50% remotely, allowing for more flexibility. Whereas in Spotify, workers are given the choice whether they would like to work remotely, in the office, or from both with their new Work from Anywhere policy.
‘This is an opportunity to scrap the idea that big cities are the only places where meaningful work can happen because we know firsthand that isn’t true,’ Travis Robinson, the head of diversity, inclusion and belonging at Spotify, told Insider.
Facebook on the other hand, is allowing some of its employees to work remotely full-time as part of their new policy. Meanwhile, employees of Twitter are given the fullest flexibility as the company allows their workers to work remotely ‘forever’ if they wish, The Washington Post reported.
So if big firms can do it, will small and medium enterprises (SMEs) be able to do the same? To understand this, it is worth looking at the costs and benefits of remote working.
Costs and benefits of remote working
There are many benefits that come along with remote working both for the firm and their workers. From the company’s side, remaining fully to remote working allows access to a larger talent pool. This has been the key takeaway of Jack Dorsey after the pandemic as the Twitter CEO said:
‘Our concentration in San Francisco is not serving us any longer, and we will strive to be a far more distributed workforce, which we will use to improve our execution’.
Moreover, think about the financial benefits that come along with remote work; From the company’s side, there will be no need for office rent, nor the overhead operating costs of an office building. According to research by Global Workplace Analytics, a typical employer can save an average of $11,000 per half-time telecommuter per year.
As for the employees, with no more commuting to work, parking costs, and lunch, the same research estimates that employees save between $600 and $6,000 per year by working at home half the time. Additionally, in terms of time, a half-time telecommuter saves the equivalent of 11 workdays per year.
Lastly, when considering the impacts of non-renewable transportation towards climate change and vice versa, working from home lessens car pollution and the emission of greenhouse gases.
Despite this, there are some costs behind remote working and among them is the absence of face to face interactions. Some people value human interaction as a source of exchanging ideas. Nonetheless, Patty McCord, former chief talent officer at Netflix disagrees:
‘Meetings are a great place to discuss decisions, make decisions and communicate. But that spark of the idea very often happens at the beach, or in your backyard, or in the middle of the night walking the baby around. Creativity often happens when we’re alone. We need a little space where we can dream.’
Another issue considers the cost of administration: how exactly will remote working accommodate the HR unit in administering payrolls, hiring process and more? As the world shifted from offices to the living rooms, many firms have adopted the use of tech services such as Employment Hero to accommodate their new environment.
The Australian-based tech platform, Employment Hero aims to automate the HR department in order to reduce time and costs, consequently increasing efficiency and productivity of SMEs.
With more than 5,300 SMEs supported globally, the Employment Hero offers features from automated admin tasks (including: automated onboarding, automated induction, election signature, auto-reminders for key events, auto lodging of super and tax details), compliant contracts, HR documents and templates, and lastly, employee self-service (where employees can update and view their details, view payslips and pay summaries, and request leave.
On top of that, Employment Hero also provides reporting and analytics along with reward and recognition, all in your phone, tablet or laptop.
Ben Thompson founded Employment Hero alongside David Tong in 2014. He was ahead of time when he realised the devastation of poorly managed employment and the need of transporting this into a cloud platform.
Recently, the company received £75 million in a Series E funding round to expand its presence in the international markets. Given this, the latest investment in Employment Hero is now at £114 million – with the company at a current value of £430 million.
In response to their latest investment, Employment Hero is set to use parts of its fund to double its UK salesforce. Despite just starting their UK branch in late 2020, Employment Hero has already exceeded their growth targets.
‘We’ve experienced exponential growth in the past year both in Australia and overseas, and significantly in the UK. Our success in global markets has instilled in us the confidence to pursue further expansion, with SMEs and employees at the heart of our ambitions. This latest round of funding will enable us to bolster our brilliant team and accelerate our innovation timelines with the ultimate goal of simplifying employment for SMEs all around the world. We’re excited to broaden our reach with entry into new markets.’ said Thompson.
The benefits outweigh the predicted costs of remote working, especially with the help of innovative and imaginative companies that seek to make WFH a more efficient and productive way of working.
It is more likely that a hybrid system will be the majority form of work lifestyle but, given the telework innovations such as Employment Hero, the WFH to office ratio might not be 50:50 but instead 70:30.
About the Author: Annisa Kumaladewi
Annisa Kumaladewi is a contributing current affairs Features writer. Her expertise lies in current affairs in the Asian diaspora, Indonesian history and World political philosophy.
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