Today, remote work is fast becoming the norm for small and medium businesses (SMEs). As digital transformation continues to reshape all industries, more and more SMEs are adopting a flexible, remote way of working. Remote work doesn’t just give employees greater flexibility and the opportunity to work from home. It also has a range of other benefits, including reduced office space and car parking costs and improved employee satisfaction.
However, if you’re considering adopting remote work for your small business, it’s essential to understand how remote workers can impact your organisation’s productivity and culture. With so much uncertainty around remote work adoption among SMEs today, this article addresses the challenges related to implementing it within your organisation. So you can optimise processes for the future of remote work.
Benefits of remote work for SMEs
The top benefits of remote work are flexibility, less stress, improved focus, a better quality of life, lower costs, less absenteeism, better employee retention and more productivity. There are many benefits of adopting a remote work policy within your organisation, including:
Improved employee satisfaction
With the rise of the freelance economy, remote work has become increasingly popular. In times of uncertainty, remote work provides employees greater flexibility and a sense of security.
Remote work also gives employees a chance to reduce the stress of commuting, which can be challenging in large cities. Research shows that long commutes can lead to various health issues including depression, anxiety and even an increased risk of death due to heart disease or an accident.
When people work in an office, they often have to deal with interruptions, including impromptu meetings, colleagues dropping by their desks and the noise of other nearby workers. But when you work remotely, you have more control over your environment and fewer distractions.
Office spaces are notoriously expensive, particularly in major cities. You can save on rent and utilities by allowing your employees to work remotely.
Why are SMEs hesitant to adopt remote work?
If remote work is such a great idea, why aren’t more SMEs taking advantage of it? There are several potential issues to consider, including:
When employees are remote, communication is vital. If remote workers are in different time zones, this can create additional challenges. It’s essential to have a strategy for remote communication, including using digital communication tools like video conferencing, instant messaging, video calls and email.
Communication is also critical when setting up remote work within your organisation. Determine who will be allowed to work remotely and which roles should be performed in the office. When setting up remote work, you may also want to consider creating a remote-only role; this can help your organisation find and hire the best talent.
When you implement remote work, you’re shifting your organisation’s culture. Remote workers often have more autonomy and may feel less accountable to the organisation. It may lead to resentment among your office workers and managers, who may feel they have less opportunity to contribute and grow within the company. It’s essential to examine how the change will affect your culture and set up safeguards against this.
Organisational challenges with remote work
While remote work has many advantages, it also presents several challenges for organisations and managers.
One of the most common organisational challenges is holding remote workers accountable. When employees work in the office, managers can see if they’re showing up, working or struggling with a task. Managers may have to put more effort into tracking and evaluating the work of remote workers, which could eat up time and distract from their core duties.
Managing the location of remote workers
Remote workers may work in different places, which can present challenges if your organisation uses tools such as online collaboration and project management software. Remote workers may also have issues accessing the technology they need to do their jobs.
The remote workers’ skills gap
Another challenge of implementing remote work is the skills gap among your remote workers. When you hire someone for an office-based role, you have the opportunity to observe them in person, and your hiring team can evaluate whether that person has the skills and experience for the job. In contrast, when you hire remote workers, you may rely more on screening techniques, like screening for expertise based on the job title or work history.
While remote work can be an excellent opportunity for some people, others may be better served by office-based roles where they can fully utilise their skills. When you’re hiring remote workers, you may encounter a skills gap. The remote workers may be underutilising their skills, or they may not have the skills your organisation needs.
Ongoing organisational challenges with remote workers
Remote work can be an excellent fit for many people, but it also has some potential drawbacks and challenges when implemented on a large scale. Here is what you should be aware of when implementing remote work in your organisation:
When you work remotely, you’re often more accountable to yourself than your office manager. It can be a good thing, but it can also lead to neglecting other aspects of your job or putting in fewer hours than you should. Remote workers must set boundaries within their schedules to ensure they meet their obligations.
Resentment from office workers
If you implement remote work and don’t have safeguards, resentment from office workers can build. Remote workers may receive additional benefits, like more autonomy or the ability to work from home.
Final thoughts: Is remote work worth the risk?
Remote work offers many benefits for your organisation but also comes with challenges. Before you implement a remote work policy, ensure you understand the risks and benefits. Be honest about how implementing remote work will affect your organisation’s culture and business processes.
Implementing remote work is not something you should do just because everyone else is doing it. Instead, it’s something you should do when it makes sense for your organisation.
Stefano Maifreni is the founder and CEO of Eggcelerate.
World’s Best Remote-Working Locations
According to research by NordLayer, a business cybersecurity provider, Denmark is the best country in the world for remote workers. Its Global Remote Work Index 2023 was based on data from 108 countries concerning their levels of: cyber safety, economic safety, digital & physical infrastructure, and social safety.
Top Ten Countries for Remote Working
European countries dominated the GRWI ranking, taking the first thirteen places, with Canada the first non-European nation coming in at 14th place. The United States (in 16th) and South Korea (17th) were the only other two non-European countries in the top 20. The UK placed 19th.