The outbreak of COVID-19 in 2020 introduced millions of employees to remote work, transforming bedrooms into home offices and in-person meetings into video calls. In fact, a Gallup survey found that 70% of Americans were working from home by April of 2020.
While this widespread shift to remote work was born out of a pandemic, many Americans have found that working from home even after the virus will suit them and their employees just fine.
Of the remote employees surveyed by Gallup, 44% of them reported that they would still prefer to work from home after their state begins lifting restrictions—not because they’re concerned for their health, but because they simply enjoy the flexibility of remote work.
Employees aren’t the only ones who are finding themselves enjoying this new way of working. Many employers and corporate decision-makers have fully committed to a long-term, if not permanent, work from home arrangement, saving big on costs like office leases, maintenance, and utility bills.
A few big names that have made the switch to long-term remote work include Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, Reddit, Starbucks, and many more.
As a small business owner, you may be wondering if it’s time for you to go all-in on remote work. Before you fully commit, there are a few things to consider to make sure your organization is ready for the permanent switch. Following are some steps you need to take to confirm your organization is remote-ready.
Alter your communication style to fit a remote environment
The most important tool in a remote business owner’s toolkit is strong communication. After all, a survey of remote employees conducted by Slack found that new remote workers are more likely to struggle with communicating effectively and finding the resources they need to do their work.
It’s your responsibility to establish what you want your organization's best practices for communication and collaboration to look like in a virtual world. Employees should feel free to send a quick message asking for help or setting up an ad-hoc video call to collaborate on a project.
In addition, your expectations for the real-time responses you’d get in a physical office may need to be adjusted to fit your new remote business. For example, you may consider allowing your team to mute their notifications when they need some uninterrupted time to get work done. You may also opt for more flexible hours for when your team should be online over strict office hours to allow for more freedom.
Equip your team with the virtual tools they need
No remote organization is complete without a robust lineup of virtual tools and software to keep their employees productive and organized from home. What you need will vary depending on how your team operates, so consider what tools would make your employees’ jobs easier.
For example, managers may need a project management system to help prioritize their team’s tasks. Designers may need their own Adobe license to edit their files. Customer support will likely require a CRM to keep their contacts organized.
Whatever your team looks like, your employees are bound to have their own unique software needs in order to do their best work. It’s a good idea to check in to ensure everyone has what they need to be successful.
Here are just a few tools we recommend:
- Slack for communication
- GSuite for storing files
- Trello for organizing tasks
- LastPass for password management
Prioritize team building and socialization
In a physical office, hosting office lunches, birthday parties, and even the occasional ping pong tournament was easy. In a remote world, you’ll have to make a more dedicated effort to ensure your employees have similar opportunities to connect as a team on a personal level.
Whether it’s a virtual office bookclub, online happy hours, or monthly in-person meet-ups, there are countless ways to ensure your employees have a sense of belonging and personal connection with the people they see on their screen every day.
While it may seem trivial, your efforts to improve your employees’ social connections and relationships in your remote workplace can go a long way. In a survey conducted by the Science of Care, 60% of workers who reported feeling cared for by their employer also said they planned to stay with their organizations for three or more years, as opposed to only 7% of those who reported they didn't feel cared for by their employers.
Implement a health benefit that works for everyone
Finally, remote workers want health benefits just as much as employees working in a physical office. In fact, employer-sponsored healthcare has consistently ranked as a top employee benefit.
However, a remote business often leads to a workforce that’s scattered across the country. If you have employees in multiple states, it can be tricky to find a health benefit that works for everyone.
Luckily, the individual coverage health reimbursement arrangement (ICHRA) is a great option for remote business owners. With an ICHRA, employers simply provide a monthly allowance of tax-free money for their employees to spend on individual health insurance premiums and qualifying medical expenses.
The best part? Employers can divide their employees up into different classes, including by which state they live in, and offer a unique allowance amount for each class so employees can afford a plan from their state’s local or government marketplace.
This makes an ICHRA the ideal health benefit for remote employers with a diverse workforce scattered across the country.
If you’re considering making the switch to a fully remote workforce, you’re on trend with many other organizations across the country and world. As more and more employees have settled into their home offices, following the tips in this article will ensure that your small business has what it takes to be successful in an entirely remote setting.