“Hey, team! Let’s all gather in the same relatively small, poorly ventilated room – during a pandemic – and use our laptops together!” (Said no one ever.)

With a fourth wave of COVID-19 being declared in countries around the world and another vaccine pulled, we realize that talk of a world beyond the pandemic feels really optimistic right now. But, the day will come, even if it happens slowly. In the meantime, it is a great time to get planning how your business will respond. 

As mentioned in our previous article in hybrid staffing strategies, the best source of information to help you select the best path forward for your business is your employees. In research regarding stress and productivity, a majority of employees 26-35 years old reported high levels of stress with some contributing factors being “no part in decision making” and “no control over the work environment.” (Subha Imtiaz and Shakil Ahmed, 2009) And that was before the pandemic! I think we can agree that most, if not all, of us have had stress levels increase in the past 14 months or so. So why not take a simple step to ensure you make the right decision for your business and help your employees lower their stress levels? Win-win!

Through that lens, we gathered input from business leaders in industries ranging from marketing solutions and PPE to superfood-powered skincare. These business leaders have considered their options, including going back into the office, hybrid strategies, and committing to remaining fully remote – all of them came to the same conclusion. While the reasoning may vary from one business to the next, common themes have emerged for why a work-from-home strategy is their preference.

1. Remove Safety Concerns and Add Access to More Workers

Implementing a fully remote strategy is our personal favorite remote-first model. There are so many benefits to the employer and the employees, and some for the environment too. Add a pandemic into the mix, and an obvious top benefit is that it lowers safety concerns. I have heard of, as I am sure many people have, cases where an employee has shown up to work not feeling well, only to end up having COVID-19 and infect everyone in the same office. This is an unnecessary health risk to anyone in a role that can be done remotely. It is also a financial and business risk just for the sake of being in control of people’s location. 

In addition, removing location-based barriers for your HR team means a wider, more diverse – and possibly untapped – talent pool is now available. One that values flexibility, and who may not even have been available without that flexibility. Adding to that, study after study has found that women have been disproportionately laid off during the pandemic. In fact, recent data released by “McKinsey and Oxford Economics estimate that employment for women may not recover to pre-pandemic levels until 2024—two full years after a recovery for men.” (Fortune) Something to keep in mind as you craft your recruitment strategy.

If you have had trouble attracting top talent, this is your chance. I have seen numerous job postings on LinkedIn looking for candidates to work from home, and each one had hundreds of applicants. I don’t know about you, but I’d consider that a good problem for your HR team to have. And, hey, we can even help them out with a remote Recruiting Assistant.

“All of my employees went fully remote last March. I closed the physical offices permanently. I’m hiring new people across the country and finding better applicants. A lot of the people I have hired came from a job where they didn’t feel safe anymore due to COVID. I’m also getting a lot of stay-at-home moms who love the flexibility as well. WorkBeast is going to have record earnings this year mostly because of this switch in strategy.”Tom Ryan, CEO of WorkBeast

2. Freedom for Employees to Live Where They Want

Take the previous example, where the employer expressed finding value in an expanded, global talent pool and flip it around. There is also value in your existing employees being able to pick up and move to where they want to live. In the past, many people would have to move to be near the jobs and employers they wanted. Not only has that placed the financial burden on the employee, but it is now obvious that it is passé. Any organization left that imposes in-office presence on employees with roles that are clearly easily done while working from home will have to face the growing number of businesses competing for their talent, as smart business leaders continue to break down barriers instead of reinforcing them.

“Prior to March 2020, we had 126 employees spread across two offices. Everyone was required to work from the office. Just a month later in April, we had less than 100 employees and no one was required to report to the office. On any given day, each location averaged at most 1 person per day (primarily to receive mail/packages).

Not only do all our employees now work fully remote, many moved out of state, something that wasn’t an option before. One of our location’s leases expires at the end of the year, and we’ve already informed our landlord that we will not be renewing our lease. We surveyed our entire staff, prior to making the decision, and not one person wanted to return to the office. The employees that do are allowed to flex/work at our primary location any date/time they want – but so far, no takers!”Bret Bonnet, Co-Founder/President of Quality Logo Products, Inc.

3. Remote Working Can Transform City and Career Accessibility

An obvious expense reduction is lowering or eliminating rent. Perhaps the remote-first trend will help slow down or reverse urban sprawl. Perhaps instead of office after office filled with cubicles of employees who have roles that do not interface with the local community, other businesses that provide goods and services to the community can occupy those spaces and make the area even more accessible to live in. 

Improvements in accessibility can also be seen with individuals who are disabled and need remote work now having the work-from-home options they have long been pushing for. With about a sixth of the global population having a disability that impacts their ability to work in a traditional office setting, “greater accessibility has the potential to improve millions of lives.” (BBC)

“In the ‘before days’, I had three team members who were based on-site, and five remote team members – I tended to work on-site a couple of days a week and remotely for the rest of the time. During the pandemic, I recruited and onboarded two more team members entirely remotely. While I have considered a hybrid approach once things open up, I have now decided that my business will be 100% remote. This is because remote working has been extremely successful in the past 12 months and, continuing with this will save me a considerable amount on rent and facilities going forward. I would imagine that a lot of brands have come to the same conclusion and I think we’re going to see a definite shift to permanent remote working this year.” Milosz Krasinski, Managing Director of Chilli Fruit Web Consulting

4. Cost Savings for the Employer and Employees

While there is so much focus on the financial benefits of a remote-first workforce strategy for the business owner, how about the employees? Instead of spending money on gas and lunches five days a week, they can now use that money for other things that they actually want to spend it on. And, hey, maybe with even more cars off the road, we are all helping the environment in our own little way. Going fully remote is a great way to launch, or show commitment to, your company’s green initiatives.

“Following the pandemic, it makes a lot of sense to keep the majority of your employees at home. With so many people learning how to work from home effectively, why not keep them at their home offices to cut back on expenses for your business and keep the convenience for your employees as well. By having everyone stay at home, you can rent a smaller office space in which you can save money while also helping your employees save money on gas and other expenses that come along with working in an office.” Carrie Derocher, CMO of TextSanity

5. Focus on Metrics that Matter

One mistake many business leaders make is assuming that because they see their employees at their desks, then they must be 100% productive. As covered in a previous article, Tracking and Monitoring Remote Workers, this fallacy is uncovered using an example we all know and many of us love – The Office. A better frame of mind is to focus on metrics that matter. “Time spent in office” is definitely not one of them.

At Gleamin, we’ve decided to embrace remote work and aren’t looking back. 100% of my staff is remote and will continue to be remote past the pandemic. To maintain productivity, efficiency, and a flow of communication we use Saas applications to assist in our remote work. For example – ClickUp. This has been a dream in ensuring our projects are organized. Slack has been awesome in developing our remote communication culture. Overall, the recent COVID-19 events have only reinforced what Gleamin had already set up prior to the pandemic. Additionally, I have focused on creating a freeing company culture, and tracking results rather than hours.”Jordan Smyth, Founder of Gleamin

Does going remote-first sound good but you don’t know where to start? We can help. If you are interested in learning more about our services and what we can do to help your business go remote-first, while saving you time and money, shoot us your questions.