As digital processes permeate every corner of the globe, technology-enabled solutions are playing an especially transformative role in business operations. From video conferencing to online portals, there are remote work opportunities galore. But enterprises everywhere still struggle to find the right balance between conducting work online and in person.
Whether you are reading this on a phone, computer or tablet, the fact that you are accessing it via a screen demonstrates that the question is no longer whether to employ information and communications technology (ICT) into our lives and businesses, but, rather, to what extent?
From my experience, there are three significant advantages that remote work can offer your business and three potential pitfalls to avoid.
Advantage No. 1: Cut Out Waste
Workers in New York City spend 20 hours on average each month simply getting to and from work. For many commuters, time spent on the road can be even higher. Allowing your employees to complete their work remotely can eliminate these wasted hours, but you will quickly find that benefits extend well beyond the time itself.
Staff conducting their work remotely will also minimize cost and materials needed in your office, from small amounts spent on coffee to enormous expenditures on office equipment, furniture and fixtures, physical file-storage, server rooms, and more.
When conducting a cost-benefit analysis of your own company’s remote-working potential, be sure to review all of these physical location expenditures as well as the office space itself. When accounting for these numerous costs, the value of ICT-enabled work processes will quickly become apparent. Critically, you can pass along these savings to your customers and make it part of your pitch. Clients love to hear that their dollars spent are going directly to the quality of your goods and services, not simply your overhead expenses.
Advantage No. 2: Increase Endurance
As the founder of a company that works every day with clients facing high stakes, tight deadlines and significant pressure, I see firsthand the importance of maintaining stamina among a team. Working remotely provides invaluable dividends to my staff’s energy and focus.
It is not difficult to see why this is the case. An employee who has cut out 20 hours spent in traffic or in a packed subway car will notice an almost instant improvement in their day-to-day life. This matters! It allows them to spend more time with their family and friends, dedicate energy to their hobbies, and relax and rejuvenate.
Additionally, remote workers can personalize their work environments to meet their specific needs, which has been proven to benefit their ability to concentrate and accomplish work tasks more effectively. For some, this may mean being physically closer to young children at home, while others may notice improvements from increased privacy.
Advantage No. 3: Protect Your Work
A major concern of every growing business is risk mitigation. Here too, remote working provides advantages. Transferring work processes online generates safeguards that protect your work and data.
Cloud storage, for example, offers a cost-effective alternative to traditional office storage. It also gives the added benefit of backup copies, security measures and protection against physical emergencies like fire, flooding or theft. No storage solution is 100% safe, but I have found remote file protection to be the safest choice, given our options.
Take also the practice of video conferencing. Transferring meetings out of the office and onto ICT software makes operations more convenient and efficient. It also allows you to record proceedings in their entirety. If there is a gap in your meeting notes, you can easily call back the meeting recording and identify the pertinent information.
Potential Pitfall No. 1: Isolation
As transformative as remote-working capabilities have been for my firm, it is still necessary to integrate 21st century business operations mindfully. At our company, we value our team’s positive attitude and collaborative spirit. Therefore, it was critical for us to maintain these comparative advantages even as we leveraged the benefits of remote work.
With team members spread out across the country, we prioritized regular opportunities for all of our staff to connect for video-enabled meetings. Importantly, these meetings allow us to not only discuss business updates, but to also dedicate time for general check-ins and personal team-building opportunities. That way, all of us remained connected, despite any distances. This has been invaluable for maintaining a fun, team-oriented work environment where every staff member feels comfortable reaching out to any other when needed.
Potential Pitfall No. 2: Impersonal Touch
Clients appreciate the efficiencies and savings afforded them by remote functionality. Still, I make it a priority to include opportunities for personal interaction whenever possible. This became much easier thanks to the significant cost savings generated from ICT-enabled work. Even just a periodic trip to a client’s office or an update over drinks after a big proposal win can make a huge difference in client satisfaction and long-term relationships.
Also, depending on the client, video-conferencing technology can help in this regard. Don’t think these tools are meant only for internal use. Clients often appreciate face-to-face interaction without the added hassle of meeting in person.
Potential Pitfall No. 3: Lack Of Accountability
Importantly, digitizing more of your work operations will also provide a system of record for your delivered product or service. Shared drives, for example, track who makes a change, and when. They can provide notifications based on your own business’s needs, and install safeguards based on use permissions and the like. This creates business systems that both generate efficiencies and maintain accountability.
The Future Of Work Has Arrived
It is true that some industries still require more location-based services than others. But the flexibility, efficiency and accountability now offered via remote work warrant consideration by enterprising entrepreneurs everywhere. ICT-enabled business operations continue to transform my own company’s scope, quality and levels of client satisfaction, not to mention its bottom line.
Using technology to improve the processes around my team’s work is paying dividends by way of both work quality and profit margin.