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Today, remote working is quickly becoming a norm in SMEs. As digital transformation continues transforming all industries, many SMEs are embracing the flexible, remote way of working. Remote working does more than give employees greater flexibility and a chance to work from home. It has a host of other benefits, too, including reduced costs for office space and car parking, as well as increased employee satisfaction.
However, suppose you are considering implementing remote work for your small business. In that case, it is essential that you understand the ways that remote workers may affect the performance and culture of your organisation.
Benefits of remote work for SMEs
The main benefits of remote work are flexibility, reduced stress, increased concentration, better quality of life, lower costs, lower absences, better retention, and higher productivity. With the growth of the freelance economy, remote work has been gaining popularity. In times of uncertainty, working remotely offers employees more flexibility and a sense of security. Remote work also gives employees a way to lessen the pressures of commutes, which can be difficult in big cities.
Research shows long commutes may cause various health problems, including depression, anxiety, and even increased risk of death from heart disease or accident. When people work at an office, they must frequently contend with disruptions, including unexpected meetings, colleagues dropping in on their desks, and noise from other workers around them. But when working remotely, you have greater control over your surroundings, and there are fewer interruptions. Office space is notoriously expensive, especially in big cities.
You can save money on rent and utilities by letting employees telecommute.
Why are SMEs hesitant to adopt remote work?
If remote work is such a good idea, why aren’t more SMEs taking advantage of it? The issues revolve around communication and culture.
When employees are working remotely, communication is critical. It may present further challenges if the remote workers are located in different time zones.
It is essential to have a strategy for communicating remotely, including using digital communications tools such as videoconferencing, instant messaging, video calls, and emails. Communication is also crucial in setting up a remote working arrangement in your organisation. Decide who can work remotely and what roles must be performed from an office.
When setting up your remote work, you might also want to consider creating roles only available to telecommuters; these could help your organisation source and recruit top talent.
When implementing remote work, you are changing your organisation’s culture.
Remote workers typically enjoy greater autonomy, which can cause discontent in your office workers and managers, who may feel they have less opportunity to contribute to the business and develop themselves.
It is essential to look at how change will impact your culture and implement measures to guard against it. While telecommuting has many benefits, it presents challenges to organisations and managers.
Organisational challenges with remote work
One of the most common challenges in organisations is holding remote workers accountable.
When employees work at an office, managers can observe whether they are showing up, working, or struggling with tasks. Managers might need to invest extra energy in monitoring and evaluating remote workers’ performance, which could take time away from their primary duties. Remote workers can work from various locations, which could pose challenges if your organisation uses tools like online collaboration and project management software. Remote workers also might experience issues accessing the technologies needed for their jobs.
Another challenge with remote working implementation is a skills gap between your remote workers. When hiring someone to fill a desk job, you get to meet with them, and your hiring team gets to assess if that person has the skills and experience to do the job. In contrast, when hiring a telecommuter, you might lean more heavily on screening techniques, such as screening for experience by a job title or employment history.
While working remotely can be a fantastic opportunity for some, others might be best served in office-based roles where they can put their skills to full use. When hiring a remote employee, you might face a skills gap. A remote worker might not use his skills enough or possess the skills the organisation needs. Remote working may work well for many, but it has potential downsides and challenges if implemented on a larger scale.
Ongoing organisational challenges with remote workers
You are usually accountable to yourself rather than an office manager when working remotely. It can be a good thing, but it may cause you to overlook other aspects of your job or work fewer hours than you should.
Remote workers need to establish boundaries in their schedules to ensure they meet their commitments. If you roll out remote work without having protections, office workers will grow discontent. Remote workers may get extra benefits, such as increased autonomy or being able to work from home.
Final thoughts: Is telecommuting worth the risk?
Remote work offers your organisation many benefits but comes with challenges. Before adopting a remote working policy, ensure you are aware of both risks and benefits. Be upfront about how adopting remote work will impact the organisation’s culture and business processes.
Implementing remote work is not something that you have to do because everybody else is doing it. Instead, you should do it when it makes sense for your organisation.
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