Remote work is on the rise, and not just because of the pandemic. For years, people have been clamoring for arrangements that enable better work-life balance, and over the past decade, technology has finally caught up with that demand.
We now have a more extensive range of affordable tools, from devices to communications apps and collaborative platforms, that allow many tasks to be accomplished and coordinated off-site. This helps to alleviate many employers’ concerns about productivity. Workers enjoy flexibility and avoid the hassle of a daily commute. Both sides enjoy substantial cost savings.
The onset of Covid-19 merely accelerated things, as businesses were forced to implement remote work out of necessity. Overall, this trend is here to stay. So if you plan to start a business, can you embrace remote work from the outset? Here are a few points to ponder.
Advances in mobile technology haven’t just provided benefits to businesses and their employees. Most people who own a smartphone (and there are projected to be around 3 billion of them sometime in 2020) keep it within arm’s reach throughout the day.
The average person spends 4 hours a day on their smartphones. It has become the primary means of accessing the internet and shopping. Across demographics, people are becoming more comfortable with technology, and smartphones are a big driver of this change. Younger generations will grow up being completely at home with a mobile device in their hands.
These days, few people will blink an eye at the idea of online collaboration. You can reach out online to work with experts in any field. You can hire a product marketing consultant you’ve never met in person, and count on them to deliver outstanding results.
But only 37% of American jobs have been able to shift to remote working arrangements in the wake of the pandemic. Think of all the tasks your startup will need to get done daily, both now and in the long term. Are these jobs completely remote-compatible?
Capitalizing on advantages
For employers, remote work isn’t all about saving on office space and energy consumption. When employees are no longer required to report to an office, there’s no reason for them to be located within the same city, state, or even country, as your business.
This means that you can draw on an international pool of talent. Not only can you work across time zones, but you can use this round-the-clock model of operations to your advantage. For example, assigning customer service duties to different people around the world will let you provide all-day support to your customers, without asking anyone to work the graveyard shift.
That’s a significant advantage assuming that 24/7 customer service is a differentiating factor for your startup. The broader question is: can your business model capitalize on the benefits that remote work offers for employers?
Do you need to hire for positions that will benefit from the specialization available in the international labor pool? For instance, India is known for its skill in web and mobile design and software development. But in other areas, American talent remains the most desirable, which means you have to compromise or pay more.
A matter of readiness
Perhaps the most critical factor in deciding whether or not it’s a good idea to launch a fully remote startup would be your readiness. This is partly a matter of infrastructure. Your ability to provide employees with the equipment, software, and IT support they need is non-negotiable for remote work to be viable.
However, it’s not all about providing physical and virtual tools. After all, whatever financial outlay this would incur is probably minimal compared to the cost of setting up in a commercial office space.
The biggest component of readiness is the human element. Employers have learned the hard way that if a remote working arrangement is to be successful, there must be a high level of trust and good communication both ways.
It’s easy to have those things when you’ve spent some time with your team. You get to bond with them; there’s a stronger existing relationship to work with once you migrate to the virtual realm. And for a startup, where everyone’s expected to pitch in, help each other out, and work longer hours than expected, that can make or break your success.
If you rate yourself highly on all these fronts, your startup is probably in a position to enable remote work for everyone from the outset. If not, you might be better off working with a more traditional setup to begin with. Establish the necessary relationships and comfort level with your people, and you can gradually make a selective transition to remote work as it suits your business.