What is a remote workforce?
Remote working is a mode of work that allows employees of an organization to perform all their essential job responsibilities from outside traditional office space. By telecommuting from home offices, these out-of-office employees make up a remote workforce for that organization. A key principle of a remote workforce is that work is what you do, not where you do it. This means that remote workers should be able to be productive and accomplish all their daily work outside an organization’s office space.
To ensure employee engagement for a remote workforce, organizations need to provide technology like video conferencing that ensures a strong employee experience and company culture inside and outside the office. This technology should deliver a digital workspace solution for remote workers, including endpoint management, virtual apps and desktops, content collaboration, and application delivery solutions.
What are the benefits of remote work?
A remote workforce offers many benefits for both businesses and employees, which explains why there has been a 159 percent increase in remote work since 2005.
Benefits of a remote workforce for businesses:
- Improved employee engagement and increased productivity: 66 percent of managers report increased productivity from their remote employees. Remote workers demonstrate higher employee engagement by going above and beyond on their work in comparison to employees working in traditional office space. This may be because remote employees do not have to expend energy on a daily commute, take fewer sick days and have better control over their work environment inside a home office.
- Cost savings: Because remote employees work from home offices, organizations also benefit from remote work through reduced overhead spending and less need for desk space. Some businesses like Automattic have gone as far as eliminating their office space altogether, choosing to have an entirely remote workforce.
- Better employee satisfaction and retention: Gallup reports that 54 percent of workers say they would change jobs in order to have the choice of working remotely. For companies who want to hire and retain the best possible talent, offering remote work flexibility is a proven way to hold onto top employees.
- Business continuity: Having a remote workforce in place protects an organization from business continuity disruptions. If offices are forced to close from a natural disaster or planned outage, remote workers can continue to be productive without interruption.
- Improved sustainability: Enabling remote work improves sustainability and reduces a company’s carbon footprint by eliminating daily commutes and lowering the electricity costs associated with on-premises data centers.
Benefits of remote work for employees:
- Improved employee flexibility: Remote employees have more choice over where and when they get work done compared to workers in a traditional office space. This flexibility means remote employees can better accomplish household tasks like doing laundry or taking children to school without neglecting their work. The ability to define their own work environment also means remote employees can better control environmental distractions to improve focus and employee engagement.
- Better health outcomes: Remote working is a popular way for employees to achieve better work/life balance. Employees who work remotely report less stress and higher morale than in-office workers, and also take fewer sick days.
- Saving money and time: With 62 percent of workers reporting a commute time of 30 minutes or more, telecommuting can give this time back to remote workers. Even employees who only work remotely half the time can save an estimated $2,500–$4,000 per year by reducing spending on travel, parking, and meals outside the office.
What technology is needed for a remote workforce?
Technology is essential to remote work. For a remote workforce to be effective, the employee experience outside the office needs to be functionally identical to inside. This means remote employees must be able to access in real time the files, software, and technology they need to be productive no matter where they work.
Technologies used for remote work include video conferencing, endpoint security and management, content collaboration platforms, and virtualization. However, relying on different point solutions for all these tools can lead to technology sprawl that overloads IT and detracts from the strong employee experience that remote workers need to be effective. This in mind, the best path to empowering remote workers is a unified, secure, and intelligent digital workspace that brings all the tools and data that a remote workforce needs into one platform.
What are the risks of remote work and how can I mitigate them?
Organizations with a remote workforce face technological and business risks, but these challenges can be mitigated with the right approach. Here are common risks of remote work and how organizations can mitigate them:
- Security: Organizations need to ensure their data and applications are secure when accessed remotely—without limiting access to employees who need it. Because remote employees want to access company resources and data on personal devices and public internet, it can be challenging to secure these devices in order to protect sensitive data.
These security risks can be mitigated by implementing endpoint security to manage which devices can access corporate data as well as secure sign on and encryption to protect data on public networks. However, it’s easy for these point security solutions to hinder the easy access to corporate resources that remote workers need. The safest way to protect remote workers is to have them sign into a secure digital workspace where all their apps, documents, and data are ready to use—all while sensitive information is protected behind a corporate firewall.
- Network performance: It’s also important that remote employees who use public internet connections or share broadband with family can access cloud applications to do their work without seeing a decline in performance. If remote workers rely on slow or shared broadband, they can encounter poor performance from their work applications. This hurts their productivity and leads to a frustrating work experience.
This network performance risk can be mitigated by using a software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) that can ensure reliable application connectivity and strong app performance. This SD-WAN can utilize link failover and connectivity intelligence to monitor the health of remote workers’ internet connection. If the bandwidth drops, this SD-WAN can then transition the cloud application to a more reliable connection without the remote workers noticing any disruption to their experience.
- Employee management: Managers who aren’t experienced with remote teams can find it difficult to manage workers who aren’t in the same building. These managers may worry remote workers will neglect their responsibilities or fail to get work done outside the company’s office space. It can also be a challenge to fully integrate remote employees on a cultural level to ensure they feel like and act like team members rather than siloed workers.
The best way to mitigate these management risks is to ensure remote workers are accessible and connected to the rest of the team. Video conferencing check-ins with them can work similarly to face-to-face meetings with in-office employees. It’s also important to share expectations about how remote employees communicate and collaborate with coworkers in order to ensure the remote workforce knows how to work well with the rest of the team.
For a detailed look at how remote workforces are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on global business, read this blog.