Five Common Fears About Remote Work in the Minds of Business Owners

With the pandemic quieting down, people wonder what the future of the post-pandemic workplace will look like.


According to the International Labour Organization (2020), during the second quarter of 2020, 557 million workers worked from home, accounting for 17.4 percent of the world's employment.


Even though many workers would prefer to work remotely even when the coronavirus outbreak is over, many employers worry that allowing it may negatively impact their business.


What are some of the most common fears business owners have regarding remote work, and how reasonable are these fears?


Retention

Now when the post-pandemic world is finally on the horizon, companies are slowly calling their employees back to the office. Many employers worry that their workers may quit if not allowed to continue working from home.


How Reasonable Is This Fear

Recent data show that the fear of losing people for insisting they return to the office is very reasonable. According to beqom’s 2021 Compensation and Culture Report, 77% of employees report they would switch jobs if another company offers them the ability to work remotely post COVID-19. 76% said they would leave their current employer if another company offered more flexibility in working hours.

The data from the Recruiter Index Report show that 53% of recruiters said candidates were "moderately" to "very" open to new opportunities. When asked what these candidates are looking for, 39% of recruiters reported that remote work is the key concern (Kosinski, 2021).

What Can Be Done About It

Remote working doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing proposition. Many employees would agree to a hybrid schedule. The HBS study (2021) showed that 61% of surveyed workers who have been working from home since March 2020 said they would like a hybrid work schedule where they go to the office two or three days a week.

Where it is possible, the employers could consider what positions are key for business and require for the worker to be at the office every day, and which job positions could be adjusted so the employee could have a hybrid schedule or even work fully remotely.

Loss of Productivity

One of the main concerns when it comes to remote work is that the employees won't be as productive as if they worked in the office. In a survey done by Parker, K. et al. (2020), 38% of managers surveyed agreed that remote workers usually perform worse than those working in an office, while 22% were unsure.


How Reasonable Is This Fear

Numerous studies done during the pandemic showed that the fears of productivity loss weren't realized. Various studies showed that the productivity rates are higher now than they were in the traditional working setting.


Surveying 30,000 Americans over multiple waves, Barrero et al. (2021, p.31) showed that the “data on employer plans and relative productivity imply a 5 percent productivity boost in the post-pandemic economy due to re-optimized working arrangements.”


According to Lister (2021), research has consistently shown that remote work substantially reduces time and energy drains that come with working in an office and increases productivity. For example, respondents said they lost 35 minutes a day less due to interruptions at home versus the office. Furthermore, employees reported they voluntarily worked on average 47% of the time they would have otherwise spent commuting.


Using their Remote Work Savings Calculator, Global Workplace Analytics calculated that a 15% increase in productivity due to remote work would be equivalent to getting 74 new employees at no cost (Lister, 2021).


What Can Be Done About It

Most conventional productivity measures don't capture the time savings from less commuting; therefore, only one-fifth of this productivity gain that comes with remote work will show up when measured in a conventional way (Barrero et al., 2020). Employers should adjust their productivity measures, so they are relevant and provide more reliable results.


It would be best to start by identifying the KPIs for all remote positions. Lulla (2021) suggests including self-discipline and communication effectiveness as two of the most important KPIs for remote workers. Project management software can be used to track progress and create visibility. One of the most important things to keep in mind is to value the result over the hours of work put in. Many prefer working from home because they can work at their own pace. To ensure that the work is still getting done in an appropriate amount of time, it is good to set and communicate the goals frequently, define milestones, and estimate the time needed to complete tasks. It is also helpful to develop a reporting structure and determine when and how an employee should report their progress and completed tasks. Frequent communication and feedback are crucial.


Loss of Control

Many business owners still believe they can and must control their employees. This command-and-control mindset is one of the key parts of their identity, and many are afraid or don't know how to let it go. But this archaic approach to leadership is slowly being left behind as the leaders realize that the empowerment of others to maximize their potential and success is what makes a leader great.


How Reasonable Is This Fear

The attitudes towards work and work/life balance are shifting. As Gallup's analysis showed years before the pandemic (2017, p.5), "Most workers, many of whom are millennials, approach a role and a company with a highly defined set of expectations. They want their work to have meaning and purpose."

The modern workforce wants to find a job that fits their life. They value learning and developing their skills and wish to use their talents to do their best. They know what they want and are ready to "keep looking for the organization that's mission and culture reflect and reinforce their values" (Gallup, 2017, p.5).

Remote work is not what should be avoided to keep the organization successful and retain the employees. Instead, employers and managers should work on their need for excessive control.


What Can Be Done About It

As mentioned above, the approach to work is changing, and the workers want their work to be meaningful and to reflect their values. All executive levels in an organization should move towards coaching the employees instead of commanding and controlling them. The organization should replace "a culture of 'paycheck' with a culture of 'purpose.'" (Gallup, 2017, p.3)

In today’s world, especially with the younger workforce, an organization that wants to thrive and retain the best talent “needs to switch from a culture of “employee satisfaction” — which only measures things like how much workers like their perks and benefits — to a “coaching culture.” (Gallup, 2017, p.3).


Loss of Culture

A strong organizational culture is vital in attracting the best talent and retaining the most valuable employees. Engaged employees are