What will we see after the COVID-19 Pandemic?
Even before the news cycle was dominated by terms like “stay at home order”, “social distancing”, and “flattening the curve”, the business world was opening up to the idea of remote work. A survey conducted by LinkedIn in late 2019 noted that the prospect of work from home is enticing for employers and employees, with benefits such as better work-life balance, increased productivity, and lower cost for buildings and infrastructure for the business itself.
And while the trend was rising up, it has exploded due to the current environment. Remote services like Zoom, WebEx, and Twitch have seen incredible growth due to the world-wide shutdown. What does this mean for the capability of a remote workforce? Let’s examine some of the trends and insights from around the industry and see if it is the right time to explore the prospect of a large scale distributed workforce in the very near future.
The Agility of Cloud-based Services
In the business world, and particularly within the sphere of information technology, the word “agile” has a variety of meanings. In this context, we will be using a more athletic definition. Agile running backs can pivot and juke, making their opponents miss and pickin up a few more valuable yards. An agile outfielder can snag the flyball that might have gone over the fence. For our purposes, agility is the ability to change course quickly without losing momentum.
Related Blog: How The Cloud Changed Everything
The cloud means agility. It is part and parcel to what cloud-based services are intended to do. Deploy from scratch in days, scale up and down in minutes, and operate from anywhere there is an Internet connection - which in the USA as of the end of 2019 has almost 90% penetration. Kevin Thomsen says it this way, “Everyone has Internet, whether it's LTE right off of your cell phone or your traditional Internet at your house, Starbucks, even know you should be social distancing, you still can immediately stand up a remote workforce.”
It is this agility that has enabled UCaaS services to be transformative in the wake of global economic unrest.
Advantages of a Distributed Workforce
When your workforce is no longer confined to a specific geographic location, or even a time zone, you can begin to reap the benefits of a remote workforce. Some of the best advantages are found in improved productivity, access to a larger talent pool, lower operating expenses for the business, and an increase in job satisfaction, resulting in reduction in employee churn.
“If someone told me that my entire globe will be trying to work remotely, in 2020, I would say no freaking way.” - Kevin Thomsen
The right employees work better from home, and holding a hard line that nobody should be afforded that opportunity sells short the talent you have. While this does not apply universally, there is a general trend toward productivity with remote workers, as studies have shown that equipped with the right tools and support of leadership, remote workers can be more productive.
This can manifest in a variety of ways, like the ability to escalate conversations from chat to call to screen share. Another great advantage is a more flexible work schedule for employees, which results in fewer days missed but simultaneously allows those same employees to work a little longer.
Access a Larger Talent Pool
In a traditional office setting, the talent pool for companies is limited by a number of variables including talent within a specific geography, commute times, transportation and parking expenses, family obligations, and competition from other companies nearby. When the geographic restrictions are removed, the recruiting talent pool expands exponentially, allowing companies to recruit the best talent for the required position.
Creative types, administrators, accountants, and even call center agents can be recruited from anywhere, provided you have the ability to have them work remotely. A distributed workforce, driven by the ability to work remotely, therefore removes the geographic restrictions for recruitment.
Companies such as Zuckerberg Media have realized the benefits of expanding the talent pool, and it has benefited the founder & CEO, Randi Zuckerberg personally, “I have on my team a mother who has to work from home because she has a child with special needs, and she has to be home with him. Normally someone like that wouldn’t have the opportunity to get back into the workforce, but thanks to the incredible tools we have … she is my right-hand woman.”
Increase Job Satisfaction and Reduce Employee Churn
Outside sales representatives or customer service engineers who go to the customer’s location have probably already been working remote, or at least mobile, for years. The ones who have traditionally been confined to an office can experience greater employee satisfaction when they are given the chance to work remote. Increased employee satisfaction leads to reduced churn, and given that it costs about 33% of an employee’s salary to replace them, this can really save a lot of money in the long term.
Lower Operating Expenses
Companies that have expanded the number of remote employees have also realized another benefit - lower operating costs to the business, as well as having more flexibility during periods of growth, during seasonality driven fluctuations, and during downturns. The overhead associated with real estate costs, transportation expenses of employees, office expenses, and many other office related expenses are all areas where companies can realize benefits by increasing the percentage of employees working remotely. Some of the latest evaluations estimate that up to $11,000 per employee can be saved from this overhead reduction.
The ability for a business to more effectively scale during periods of growth without being hamstrung by real estate and office limitations can be another big benefit. Conversely, companies have more flexibility on their P&L during downturns without having to carry all of the fixed expenses associated with having office spaces. Companies that see dramatic shifts in demand during specific times of year can also benefit, as rather than having to accommodate seasonal employees in offices, they can simply equip them with the tools needed to work remotely during the peak periods.
Built for the Next Generation Workforce
The next generation of workers are not millennials, contrary to popular belief. They are in their 30s and already changing the workplace for the better, and they have helped define the types of technology that forms the foundation of interfaces.
Gen-Z is now leaving college and joining the workforce, and they are intuitively more comfortable with smartphones and social media, and prioritize products over experiences. With 61 million Gen-Z’s soon entering the workforce and bringing big changes with them, companies need to pay attention if they want to have success in both recruiting and retaining these employees.
Jason Dorsey, the top Gen Z and Millennial speaker and researcher, recently published a blog post that provides extremely valuable insights for companies as it relates to how leaders need to effectively implement the right technology for Gen Z, “Gen Z employees want to know that you know they are present and contributing. What is particularly interesting from a leadership standpoint is that you don’t have to deliver this message to Gen Z in-person. You can do so by IM, text, video or a tool such as Slack or Teams. This new generation brings tremendous talent to the workforce, and adapting to engage and retain them better is definitely worth the effort!”
A workplace that not only values, but actively promotes, the kind of attributes that make a distributed workforce more productive, more satisfied, and more cost effective will be appealing to this pool of new talent. With even primary education moving to a distance learning environment, we are actively teaching how to use video conferencing systems to people who will not even be in the workforce for 8 to 10 years or more.
What will the future bring?
While the events of March and April 2020 will eventually recede, when things go back they will almost certainly not be back to the way things were. We find ourselves in the midst of a massive work-from-home experiment, and the ways that distributed workforces will enable businesses to emerge more productive are being implemented now.
How does the COVID-19 pandemic reshape the workplace? Kevin Thomsen, Channel Sales Leader with Zoom believes it will be dramatic. To learn more click below to see his interview with The UC Buyer’s Mike Cromwell about Zoom’s role in enabling remote work and the work from home. Follow us more by subscribing to The UC Buyer TV on YouTube.