As the realities of a global pandemic settle into lives of everyday Americans, businesses have been thrust into answering a question that many have been pondering for some time:
Should yours become a fully remote company?
While COVID-19 might force your business to become temporarily remote, is this something your company should consider for the long-term?
Every new business strategy can create both opportunities and obstacles. If you’re contemplating closing down your physical location, you must look at the potential strategic impact from every angle.
To help you decide whether becoming a fully remote company is right for your business, here are the pros and cons of decentralizing your workforce.
Pro: You’ll cut costs
The big draw for any company considering going 100-percent remote for the long term is the money that could be saved by eliminating the office space. Rent or mortgage payments, utilities and related expenses such as insurance and maintenance costs add up quickly, limiting growth opportunities and profits.
If your product or service is knowledge-based, consider:
- What do you use your office for?
- How often are you there?
- Who are you there with?
- How did you choose your location?
If your answers aren’t crucially connected to your ability to deliver on your customer promise, cutting ties with your current space might enable you to majorly reduce your overhead costs, giving you new freedom to expedite other strategic plans. If you’re worried about how to implement a remote work policy, read this.
As a bonus, one company goal might become exceedingly easier: reducing your carbon footprint. Every mile that your employees don’t spend traveling to your office improves your environmental impact.
Pro: Technology is on your side
With each passing year, remote collaboration, video conferencing and artificial intelligence tools become more sophisticated, mimicking and sometimes improving upon in-person interactions.
Growing adoption of these technologies also increases their acceptance among your potential employees and customers and drives down their cost.
As long as your existing technology is compatible with the applications you would need to run your operations virtually, you will have little trouble equipping a fully remote company.
Pro: A potential recruiting advantage
While you may find it slightly harder to conduct interviews with job candidates via video conferencing, you’ll also enjoy some new hiring advantages.
Without a physical location filtering out otherwise qualified applicants from your talent search, you will enjoy a bigger and more diverse applicant pool when hiring as a fully remote company.
And flextime is an increasingly sought-after employee perk that you can offer candidates you’re actively recruiting.
Remote workers enjoy this kind of schedule flexibility to the fullest, fitting work into their lives rather than the reverse situation.
Pro: You won’t have to (completely) rewrite your employee handbook
At a fully remote company, memorializing the employee handbook becomes critical because of the lack of face-to-face work time where expectations can be observed naturally.
While the bulk of your employment policies can transfer smoothly into a remote company model, you may need to script out a few expectations specific to your new virtual working arrangements.
Policies and procedures describing your code of conduct, business etiquette, data protection practices and productivity and time management expectations will likely shift the most.
As you tailor your employee handbook policies for working remotely, remember to keep the language high-level because your expectations will likely vary among roles.
For example, some jobs at your company may require regularly scheduled hours of availability and some may allow more time flexibility. These differences should be called out in greatest detail in your job descriptions rather than in your employee handbook.
Con: You might spend more on travel and tech
Despite the cost-savings of decentralizing your office, you may end up increasing your budgets for team building, travel and technology.
Without regular shoulder-to-shoulder work time, it will be necessary to earmark money to bring your team together at least once a year. This could be in a retreat setting, or you could send everyone to the same conference and knock out training and team building in one.
And depending on the technology your business needs, you will likely end up spending more on premium software to bridge the distance between your employees. You may also need to upgrade your data security measures as a result of taking all of your operations remote.
Con: You’ll have new HR complexities
As a location-independent employer, you have to be strategic about hiring and managing remote employees in other states due to the various labor laws that would cover those employees.
These nuances will end up mattering for your accounting and HR departments, so you must decide early on where you are willing to recruit from.
For example, your employees’ Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) eligibility will depend in part on how closely your employees are clustered geographically.
Con: Your managers might become challenged
With disjointed teams working in various time zones, your leaders may find managing remote employees more difficult than managing their teams in a traditional office setting.
They’ll have to find new ways to connect with, coach and motivate their direct reports without face-to-face contact. It will also require them to accept focusing on outcomes more than processes, since they won’t have the same visibility into how work is getting done.
Con: Your credibility may take a hit
Think about your ideal customer profile. Do your customers associate your having office space with credibility? It’s important to carefully think through the impact going remote may have on your trustworthiness. (Note: this should not be a concern amid the current COVID-19 pandemic.)
But one way remote companies can still build authority is by having a strong online and social media presence. Many customers equate great online content and a large social following with reliability.
Closing your office may also raise concerns about the financial health of your company. To get ahead of any rumors, be as transparent as possible with your employees and customers about your strategic plan and why becoming a fully remote company makes the most sense for your business.
Weighing the upsides and downsides
Whether your company is ready or not, your employees are likely thrust into remote work amid the current pandemic. Use this experience as a test ground for considering a permanent transition to a fully remote company.
Get fresh insight into how to take the lead and run with your organization’s strategic plans when you download our free magazine: The Insperity guide to leadership and management.