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Utah Business

The COVID-19 epidemic spreading around the world has many companies throughout the United States considering remote work. Here's what you should know.

Does COVID-19 have you considering a shift to remote work? Think about this

Long before the coronavirus was making waves and forcing employers to reevaluate the way their offices run, telecommuting was on the rise. According to globalworkplaceanalytics.com, the remote workforce grew by 153 percent between 2005 and 2018. New CDC recommendations regarding the spread of COVID-19 are pushing even more organizations to consider how telecommuting might fit into their overall business plan. 

Not only that but people all over the globe are thinking about how to protect their families without disrupting their careers. Telecommuting has been shown to provide a myriad of environmental and economic benefits―now we are seeing the value of telecommuting as a shield against the business disruptions that a pandemic or another disaster might cause. 

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But telecommuting is not the perfect solution for every business. It’s without a doubt that many companies would have greater resilience in the face of quarantines and substantial workplace absenteeism if their employees never had to leave their homes in the first place. 

Our company, PilmerPR has no central office and has been utilizing remote work for our entire team since 2003. To any other business weighing a work-from-home option for their team members, here are a few things that you might want to consider. 

Remote work saves money, even without an epidemic threat

From a management standpoint, allowing team members to work outside of the office automatically saves overhead. With fewer bodies in one place, you can reduce to smaller office space, or even eliminate the need for leasing a professional building altogether. You can say goodbye to massive electric bills and the cost of catered meetings. In almost 20 years of a completely non-insular office, we can say with confidence that most of our clients are happy to forego meeting in a fancy conference room, provided they still receive top-of-the-line service and products. 

Individuals are happy to save on commuting costs, too. Gas and wear and tear on your car from a daily commute to work add up to an average of nearly $3,000 per year in the state of Utah. Not to mention skipping the expensive professional wardrobe (we’ve found that having only one or two professional outfits will do when in-person meetings are less frequent). 

Remote work can limit the spread of disease and illness-related absences 

When even part of your team regularly stays home, there are naturally fewer bodies coming into close proximity with each other. It’s easy to see the immediate benefit of sick people not coming into the office and touching the same elevator button as everyone else. With fewer germs being spread around, fewer workers get sick. Remote workers are also much less likely to take a sick day, even when they don’t feel well, limiting the impact on your bottom line.

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Anyone working from home can attest that computer work in your pajamas is much less daunting than getting dressed up and facing a daunting drive into work while dealing with a headache or mild cold. Why waste a sick day when you can continue to work? This is especially advantageous for parents who may need to be home with a sick child but are perfectly capable of getting all of their professional projects done in a remote setting without missing a beat. 

Remote workers should remember though, there are times when you truly need rest. Be your own advocate, and if you’re seriously ill, let it be known and take time to unplug.

Clear expectations create a remote work environment that many can thrive from

Many businesses are still hesitant to allow a remote-work option because it’s an unknown entity. If your company is built on a traditional office model, it can be difficult to gauge how your team will perform when you aren’t there to check-in. Setting clear expectations with all team members from the getgo can help to alleviate confusion and mistrust. 

Have designated systems in place before starting a telecommute model. How will you communicate? How quickly do you need a response during regular business hours? How will you ensure deadlines and quotas are met? How will you keep data secure? Luckily, there is a wide range of online tools available to help answer each of these questions. Ensure that everyone has access to the same resources and that every expectation is clearly communicated. Above all, hire people you trust to get the job done – and then let them do it. 

eLearning Brothers, a Utah-based provider of eLearning resources, utilizes telecommuting for about 20 percent of its workforce. “Online resources like training courses and collaborative tools make it easier than ever to empower employers and employees to telework,” says Andrew Scivally, CEO of eLearning Brothers. “Of course, onboarding development materials must have accountability built into the process. We expect this transition to telecommuting to increase.”

Workers operating out of their homes should also set clear expectations. Whether you are working nine to five or part-time, communicate clearly when you are available and when you are not. When your home becomes your office, it’s more important than ever that you have clear boundaries between your professional and personal life. 

The traditional way of doing business will likely not remain the standard for long, whether or not the coronavirus forces more employers to utilize telecommuting. More and more companies and workers are realizing the advantages that come from remote work. Telecommuting can offer economic resilience in times of uncertainty. It’s an exciting time to watch the rise of telecommuting in the US and across the world.

John Pilmer, APR is an award-winning, accredited public relations and marketing communications advisor. Kylie Jackson Burgener is a mother of three and a freelance consultant, specializing in public relations, writing and content creation. They both telecommute to PilmerPR, a Benefit LLC leading the charge for high growth sustainable businesses for more than 50 companies to-date.