The number of professionals working remotely has risen dramatically over the last decade-plus. According to an analysis from Flexjobs and Global Workplace Analytics, there was a 159 percent increase in remote between 2005 and 2017.
That shift toward remote work might have been silent and gradual for much of the 21st century, but the volume was ramped up during the outbreak of the novel coronavirus in the United States in March 2020. In an effort to slow the spread of the potentially dangerous virus, government officials urged businesses to allow their employees to work remotely, and just like that the number of remote workers skyrocketed.
The internet has made it possible for businesses in various industries to go remote, but such a transition does have some unique challenges.
• Software: Hasty transitions to remote work, like those forced by the COVID-19 outbreak, created a crisis of sorts for companies that previously had not had many remote employees. Employees were suddenly asked to work on home computers that may or may not have had all the necessary applications for them to perform the daily tasks associated with their jobs. Companies that must transition to being remote, whether that transition is temporary or permanent, must recognize that remote employees will need access to software necessary to do their jobs. Workers who only have old computers at home may need to be provided with computers that are compatible with the versions of software used in the office.
• Communication: Communication issues between remote workers can be an easy fix. Even businesses that are facing sudden and forced transitions to remote workerplaces can utilize instant messaging apps like Slack to facilitate immediate communication between employees. This can drive greater efficiency and promote the sense of community among staff that many companies are proud to have fostered.
• Customer service: Ensuring customers can seamlessly connect with your business, and your customer service staff in particular, should be a priority when switching to a remote work setting. A 2014 study published in The Quarterly Journal of Economics even found that remote working allowed customer service staff to get through 13 percent more calls each day. Remote customer service employees won’t have the direct access to management and fellow team members that they had when working on-site, so business owners can employ central management platforms that make it easy to access information regarding new products and services and previous interactions with and responses to customers. That access can help solve issues while reducing the likelihood of substantial lag time as customer service employees wait to hear from coworkers and managers about how to respond to certain issues.
Many businesses were thrown into the proverbial deep end when forced to go remote due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Challenges present themselves during such transitions, but these challenges can be overcome with a handful of effective strategies.