Many companies, large and small, are joining the remote business world for many reasons. In the age of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s crucial that as many people as possible work remotely to avoid public spaces. Remote work brings stable – if not increased – productivity, reduced office space and overhead, and higher retention rates.
According to LinkedIn’s Workforce Confidence Index, 55% of U.S. professionals believe their companies are effective as telecommuters. According to Forbes, remote expectations are even higher in industries such as tech (73%), finance (67%), and media (59%), with many seeing flexible schedules and work from home “as the future.”
This shift to remote also cuts down on commuting time, offers employees more flexibility in their work hours, and reduces stress levels.
Some companies seek 100% remote activity and spend a lot of time and money on employee upskilling and product training to change their work patterns and mindset. Others don’t see 100% remote viability but still want to provide part-time options to their employees.
Businesses of all sizes are exploring a permanent shift to remote work, but they do have to fine-tune their approach and tools based on specific employee needs. Small companies, in particular, can be more agile in their approach while still using the cloud-first business applications on the market to efficiently and safely maintain a long-term remote workforce.
The advantages of offering permanent remote work include plenty of savings for small businesses while increasing employee morale and increasing revenue opportunities.
By eliminating the overhead of a physical in-person office, small businesses are no longer tied to leases and maintenance of workplaces. Suppose you add the appeal of managed services and the migrations of on-premise IT infrastructure to the cloud. In that case, the need and expense of physical locations are not required, and all that capital can be reinvested back into the business to innovate and gain more market share.
Remote workforces have been showing positive results, and Gallup’s research has shown that the flexibility resulting from remote work has increased employees’ engagement and performance. Companies have seen 41% lower absenteeism, 40% fewer quality defects, and 21% higher profitability.
Gallop also found that these boosts occur when employees spend at least 60% to 80% working remotely. Companies can also hire from wherever, opening borders to employees beyond the city, state, or even country location in which the business is located.
Employee retention has now become an enormous issue for the entire economy. With the Great Resignation happening before us, it is now more critical for small businesses to do all that they can to help and accommodate current and potential new employees.
After almost two years of COVID pandemic-based remote work, many employees are reluctant to return to the office. Limeade’s latest research on the Great Resignation found remote work was “the number one reason” people gave for leaving their current jobs, and “40% of those who took new jobs” did so because of the ability to work remote.
Simply deciding to move a business to fully remote status, assigning new laptops, and telling everyone “see you on Zoom” is not enough for small businesses to be successful and maintain operations as they did before.
With a remote-work culture comes infrastructure challenges. Popular and often free options, like Microsoft’s Remote Desktop Client, will only go so far as to streamline work. Businesses must also consider security and compliance issues.
If your business also must maintain business-critical on-premise apps due to regulatory requirements or significant investments, keep these details top of mind. These apps must still perform their functions flawlessly, which will pose challenges if your staff doesn’t have access to the right technology.
Meanwhile, team members need to stay connected to collaborate.Businesses should invest in videoconferencing and meeting, messaging tools, employee collaboration, and project management tools. Though using the free or cheaper options seems to provide cost savings, they create more problems. Services like Zoom offer free versions, but there are time limits to calls and potential security issues to consider.
Quick fixes don’t work in the long run. Your solutions need to address how your employees can work from the comfort of their own homes as easily as they did in your previously permanent offices.
At the pandemic’s start, many companies were unsure how long shutdowns would last and may have underestimated how long staff would be working from home.
Many businesses chose to try what, at the time, was a band-aide route: remote desktops. For the short term, this remains the best solution for accessing core legacy information.
However, in the long term, this strategy doesn’t support operational resiliency. More agile and remote-accessible solutions will be necessary to maintain balance in a work-from-home environment.
Third-party SaaS (Software as a Service) solutions can provide the help businesses need. SaaS offers companies more considerable workload functionality and takes on the technology heavy-lifting of functions like migrating, onboarding, and configuration. Teams and staff can then access these features and tools online. And there seems to be a SaaS solution for everything — marketing automation, CRMs, inventory and records management, reporting, and more. When adopting a new off-the-shelf tool, consider one that offers support and can be accessed by browsers on all types of devices, whether a home computer or a mobile device.
However, many businesses need custom solutions to fulfill niche needs. When you identify this need and decide to develop something custom for your business, we highly recommend building a cloud-first application. Cloud services bolster your business in the long run, making it scalable and agile beyond the remote revolution.
Custom-built legacy solutions deeply intertwined with your business may need advanced hybrid solutions. In these cases, a simple lift and shift migration to a cloud server solution may be the most straightforward fix. Then, at your own pace and as time and money allows, you can slowly enhance your company’s infrastructure with cloud services and products that help you grow and innovate your business. It may be impossible to avoid a complete rebuild eventually, but with a lift and shift migration, you can push that decision further down the road.
As you begin to narrow your options for remote technology, define solid user requirements and use cases. Engage with each department to determine what is truly needed, then review how they use their existing technology and find missing functionality.
Frequently communicating with your staff is an excellent opportunity to hear their thoughts on their work to uncover better ways to support them.
Remote employees will have varying broadband performance issues and count on some team members having faster internet than others. Consider optimizing the technology within your control and deploying it so that their work can be better distributed throughout your network while avoiding clogs or, worse, lagging video calls.
The water cooler can still exist via a virtual option. Just because everyone is not in the same office, they can still enjoy the camaraderie with tools like Donut and Tandem. Set up social events where staff can meet and talk about team-building topics. These sessions are also an excellent way for your team to become familiar with new platforms and tools.
In 2021, Soliant Consulting earned the recognition of a Quartz Best Company for Remote Work and is ranked 7th in mid-size companies overall. Companies were chosen by employee surveys, in which Quartz sought insights on happiness and professional growth opportunities. Soliant’s team, a remote-first team before the COVID pandemic, shared their thoughts with an independent research company on how Soliant makes a strong remote work culture a top priority. Key details shared by employees include strong and responsive leadership, transparent communication around shared goals, and reliable cloud-based tools. We know what it takes to thrive in a remote work environment. With our first-hand insights, we’ve helped many small businesses successfully build remote-first technology roadmaps and deploy cloud solutions. From comprehensive existing technology reviews to mapping and architecting how best to evolve and adapt to remote-first work environments, we deliver cost-effective solutions that are scaled to your exact needs. Make your business more agile, competitive, and sustainable with a focus on remote work and a trusted partner like Soliant committed to your long-term success. Contact us to learn more.