By Mark McKee, President and COO of OnPay, the top-rated payroll software company built to serve every small and medium-sized business.
When the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic slowed the U.S. economy in March, many things changed overnight. But not every change was unexpected or abrupt. Some were simply an acceleration of trends already in motion — such as employers’ adoption of work-from-home (WFH) policies.
According to our State of Small Business in 2020 survey here at OnPay, 44% of small businesses already had a WFH policy before this year. Shelter-in-place orders led almost 3 in 4 employers to allow their teams to work from home. In the process, many discovered the positives of permitting remote work.
When things are back to normal, 50% more employers plan to rely at least partially on a remote workforce than before the pandemic.
Employer-employee relations are strong.
OnPay’s survey discovered that employees who work from home are 20% more likely to say their employer cares for them very well, and they are more likely to recommend their employer to prospective employees. This is something to consider as you look at retention and recruitment over the coming months.
While health concerns around Covid-19 may play a role in employees feeling more comfortable in a WFH setup, the move had some surprising benefits according to workers: 70% of employees said working from home either made their job easier or was no more difficult than working from the office. Nearly 1 in 4 said it’s a lot easier to work from home.
Despite the logistical challenges that were involved in switching to remote work so quickly, many employees find this new scenario is contributing to a better work experience overall.
Going remote has many benefits.
Once a business makes the transition, business owners may also find some savings through expanding its remote workforce. For example, reducing the amount of physical office space required saves money on rent and utilities.
As more companies move to a remote model, they’re no longer limited by a candidate pool in their local area. They can attract and recruit top talent from across the country if “at home” is their primary workplace. As employers seek out talent, offering WFH after the pandemic could be the ticket to finding an all-star team whether they are local or not.
And if a company is based in a more expensive area, having an open mind toward remote employees can also open up the option of hiring in places where the cost of living — and salary expectations — is lower.
Technology is simplifying remote work.
Before Covid-19, the idea of work without face-to-face communications may have felt less than ideal. If managers can’t read body language around the conference table or easily check in with employees, is everyone still communicating well? Not to mention that many tasks, such as onboarding employees, required some in-person collaboration to execute.
Luckily, we’re in a remote-work renaissance, with many options available to keep everyone connected for free or with minimal costs. Virtual conferencing software platforms stepped up to offer easy communications for millions of workers who still needed to find a way to meet and collaborate. Project management software can help projects stay on track or spot issues with keeping on the timeline. Tools for managing employee data, automating payroll and filling out HR forms also allow seamless virtual collaboration. And temporary changes to I-9 laws, as well as cloud-based onboarding, have meant the new hire process could be executed entirely remotely.
Employers and employees have now had several months to test these applications out in a variety of situations, and as everyone grows more comfortable with the ease of the tech, using them as part of working from home may become more of the standard than the exception. Additionally, there’s been a cultural shift toward using video calls: About 60% of Americans now use video calling platforms, so it’s something your team has probably gotten familiar with.
WFH will have long-lasting impacts.
We’ll likely look back on 2020 as a major turning point in how — and where — many of us work. As remote work becomes more and more mainstream for the businesses that can offer it as an option for their workers, it will be interesting to see what else evolves over time.