Until laptops weighed less than a dumbbell and Wi-Fi was reliable enough to log on, remote work was a rarity. Before, a “work from home day” meant bringing paperwork, files, or reading home while staying with a sick kid. Now it’s hard to tell whether someone is in their office down the corridor or logged on from home.
While collaboration tools, VPNs, and cloud computing were already fueling remote work, the COVID-19 pandemic kicked the trend into overdrive. Even organizations that had resisted the development until then were thrust into modernizing on the fly. With few other options, teams flexed their workplace flexibility at scale, forever changing work as we know it. Here are four ways this transformation will continue to shape the world of work.
1. Outsourced HR Firms Will Level the Playing Field for Small Businesses
Since the pandemic sparked the Great Resignation, businesses of all sizes have struggled to fill open positions. Fortunately, the remote work trend has broadened the talent pool significantly for businesses large and small. No longer limited by their local geographic area, companies have been able to tap talent from across the nation — and even the world. Small businesses may have been on the outside looking in when it came to global hiring in the past, but today’s providers make it easy for even the smallest businesses to onboard international employees.
When it’s time to grow, some companies turn to a professional employer organization to lighten the administrative load. But what is a PEO? A PEO handles the complex and compliance-heavy burden of human resources tasks, which can free up time for management. When it’s time to expand globally, a PEO can help with global onboarding and payroll, provided the company has a local business presence. The only catch is that with a PEO, your business has to own an entity in the same country where you’re hiring.
Companies that don’t want — or can’t afford — to establish a legal entity in the country of hire can use an employer of record instead. Most small businesses are likely to be in this boat. An EOR will act as the employer on paper, hiring employees on your behalf in other countries and ensuring country-specific rules are followed.
2. Location Flexibility Will Boost Employee Productivity and Happiness
Gone are the days when a wide oak desk and corner office were the pinnacles of workplace success. Today what’s paramount is the ability to work when and where one wants to.
In addition to increased autonomy, workers are yearning for a job fit that maximizes their skills and requires their expertise. With remote work, both employers and employees can find a mutual match between skills and organizational needs. Taking location out of the equation increases the chances of finding a role that truly suits an employee.
Why is that so important? When employees don’t feel aligned with their job, their productivity can suffer, and they’re more likely to quit. Remote teams can better align roles with talent, increasing employee satisfaction. This, in turn, improves retention and overall output.
Leaders should take note of this trend, especially as new workers more firmly place boundaries on their work lives. As older generations phase out of the workplace, it’s imperative to respond to employee sentiment among younger team members to earn their loyalty.
3. Collaboration Tools Will Drive Productivity Trends
Workplace chat spaces aren’t new, but they’ve shifted from a nice-to-have to a necessity. They offer an efficient replacement for office pop-ins but have one additional benefit: they allow for the setting of boundaries.
Sure, remote work may grant a more relaxed dress code, but it’s the ability to define one’s availability that really makes it popular. Team members can structure their workday to align with their most productive times, reducing interruptions and improving results.
Widely used collaboration spaces like Microsoft Teams and Slack give users the ability to specify their availability and manage alerts. Nearly eliminating unwelcome and disruptive impromptu meetings allows for longer stretches of deep work. Plus, the friction created by trying to digitize unstructured meetings in an office doorway can discourage offenders for good.
Instead, employees can respond to those “quick questions” from co-workers at a time that’s best for them. And since colleagues get detail confirmations and other answers in writing, these tools improve clarity and collaboration.
4. Cybersecurity Will Remain a Top Risk for Distributed Teams
Most organizations have their version of a cybersecurity horror story. A field rep may have left his laptop in the airport, potentially exposing a client’s personally identifiable information. Another colleague may have logged into the free Wi-Fi offered at a hotel after her VPN proved too slow. When she got back to the office, the entire device was corrupted.
Security issues will continue to evolve and pose new risks, but it’s how teams manage them that matters most. Separating the employee and their devices from the corporate environment poses risks. But they’re risks that can and should be managed, even if your company isn’t going fully remote.
Both human behavior and technology protection should be managed in tandem, using education and experts to execute a plan. Alongside robust firewalls and anti-malware protection, you should institute training on phishing exploits and other attack methods. Before you go remote, devise a cybersecurity plan that considers current and future threats.
Build Your Remote Workforce Now, or Risk Being Left Behind
It’s no wonder that so many people are leaning toward remote work as their preference. With the added flexibility it provides, employees can enjoy more autonomy. For companies to remain competitive, it’s essential to change with the times.
The balance has shifted in the workplace, with employees having more influence on how and where work gets done. Listen to your employees, be receptive to workplace trends and innovation, and test new ideas willingly. Companies open to evolving can compete for top talent and market share, no matter where they sit across the globe.