Countless research studies have shown that working remotely is the future of business. In a survey conducted at London Business School’s Global Leadership Summit, of the 600 executives, entrepreneurs and business academics in attendance, 34 percent said more than 50 percent of their full-time workforce would be working remotely by 2020. And 25 percent said at least 75 precent of their employees would not be in traditional offices.
Why are people so optimistic about the future of remote work?
Studies have shown a number of benefits, including an increase in productivity and creativity and even a boost in employee health. While this seems to be the trend, as a leader and business owner, you cannot wake up one day and decide all your employees should work remotely. It’s a decision that requires careful evaluation of the current business, work environment and the consequences it might produce.
How do you know whether your company is ready for remote work? You look for the tell-tale signs in your employees and your current workspace
1. Your competitors have already embraced remote work
While copying what your competitors are doing isn’t always good advice, in this case, it should be. Creative people want the flexibility of working from wherever they are. Most of them prefer telecommuting and will use this factor to decide whether to take a job or not.
If your competitors have already adopted remote work and you haven’t, you will find you’ll always lose your best talent to your competition.
2. Your employees are excited about remote work
If an employee has approached you about an opportunity to work remotely or if you overheard some of them wishing for a more flexible work arrangement, this is another sign your company might be ready.
People don’t voice their concerns out of the blue or share opinions for no reason. They do so because they have something to say or require an issue to be handled. In this 2016 study, work-life balance was ranked as the first contributor to job satisfaction, meaning that the ability to work from home was highly appreciated. So whether it is one employee or the entire lot, if they expressed the desire, consider your remote work options.
3. Some tasks in your company are already handled remotely
What happens when an employee you entrusted with a presentation doesn’t come to work because their child is sick? Or when an employee, running an errand, is late delivering a report on time? You try to liaise with them wherever they are, right?
These scenarios, despite their simplicity, are also considered examples of remote work, and they confirm your company is able to handle remote work effectively. If an employee can answer work emails, make Skype calls, deliver presentations, submit important documents and even close deals while not at the office, you’re ready to explore remote work.
4. You understand the benefits of remote work
Research has shown that remote work saves a company time, money and resources. By outsourcing some of your tasks or asking some of your employees to work from home, you’re saving a lot of resources and money. In fact, it’s estimated that if companies allowed employees to work remotely even half the time, a typical company would save about $11,000 per person per year. Imagine how much you would save.
Another benefit is the chance to work with the best of the best, without being restricted to a geographic area. By adopting remote work in your business, you’re allowing yourself the opportunity to search for the best talent beyond your city.
How to transition to remote work effectively
You cannot dive head-first into remote work. You need to identify which positions work better remotely and which ones are better done in-house. For instance, a position requiring the use of internal equipment and tools cannot be effectively outsourced or moved to telecommuting.
Here are a few ways to transition:
Start with a few employees
Since you are just starting out, evaluate the roles that can be performed remotely, and move those employees to telecommuting. By selecting a few to start with, you can easily measure the outcome without losing productivity.
Hire a few remote workers
Sometimes you don’t need to start with your own employees. You could start with freelancers. Test the approach by hiring a few freelancers workers to help with certain tasks. You can use sites such as LocalSolo, which connects businesses looking to hire freelancers locally, or Upwork, which connects you with remote workers globally.
Start with part-time telecommuting
Instead of allowing your employees to work from home on a full-time basis, consider letting them work remotely two or three times a week. Face time is still important for some departments, and it helps keep morale high.
Set up necessary office technologies
Remote work involves a lot of virtual meetings, requiring teleconferencing and video conferencing technologies. You will also need systems linking up all your employees and facilitating sharing of materials. Make sure you identify and set up the equipment you’ll need to create an effective virtual workspace.
A few years ago, one in five workers around the world was telecommuting in their job. Today, that number has grown, and it’s predicted that by 2020, U.S. offices will have six desk spaces for every 10 workers.
What does this mean for you as a business owner? It means you can’t deny the future is upon us. You can’t change it -- you can only adapt. The best way to do it is to take the first step today. Evaluate whether your company is ready for remote work and whether it makes sense to start transitioning now.
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This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com. Minor edits have been done by the Entrepreneur.com.ph editors