Today’s business challenges are unlike any others we’ve seen, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. In spring 2020, companies had to enable remote workforces virtually overnight, and although many businesses have begun to see the advantages of remote work, 71 percent are still struggling with the transition.
It’s not hard to see why. Though remote work brings many significant benefits, it also comes with several complex obstacles. For instance, IT departments risk running into costly production downtimes, and security needs change drastically when employees work on their own devices via unsecured networks.
Plus, the absence of in-person interaction makes management roles, mentorship responsibilities, and collaboration more challenging to carry out. Furthermore, there is also the often-overlooked challenge of maintaining a strong company culture over great distances; tight-knit teams can grow more fragmented without regular time to catch up with each other.
Yet the advantages of remote work do vastly outweigh the challenges. A primarily remote workforce can cut costs in areas like real estate, utilities, and office supplies. Moreover, extending telecommuting options to employees now and after the COVID-19 pandemic passes is one of the best ways to retain your talent.
How to Retain Talented Employees With Remote Work Options
Enabling remote work makes it easier to keep talented employees on your team. When employees aren’t tied to a specific office in a particular city, for example, they can stay on the payroll when they decide to pick up and move to a place with better weather, a lower cost of living, or other amenities they desire.
Maintaining your roster of highly experienced professionals is especially important right now because high unemployment tends to make it more challenging to find the right talent. High-performing individuals are worth whatever it takes to hold on to them, especially in this climate.
The advantages of remote work don’t stop there. This perk can also help attract fresh talent to your organization. Many people are now used to working remotely and the flexibility that comes with it. They will expect to have this option at any company they join in the future, too. According to Buffer’s “2020 State of Remote Work” report, 98 percent of employees want to have the option to work from home for the rest of their careers.
As countries worldwide deal with rising coronavirus cases and a fresh wave of lockdowns, companies must continue to facilitate remote work to preserve vital talent and business continuity in a time prone to disruption. To accomplish those goals, HR executives must prioritize the following four strategies to retain employees:
1. Provide the Necessities
In some instances, maintaining business continuity with remote work is not a choice — it is a necessity. With many countries issuing new stay-at-home orders to curb the spread of COVID-19, enabling a remote workforce is the only option for a lot of businesses.
Many organizations likely still have the processes and technologies necessary for remote work in place from the initial coronavirus outbreak this past spring. Still, HR and company executives should constantly communicate to ensure their team members always have the necessary equipment (e.g., Wi-Fi, VPNs, ergonomic chairs, extra monitors) to successfully do their jobs.
2. Allow Flexibility
While studies have found that working remotely can increase productivity by removing office distractions, remote work during a pandemic is a different animal entirely. There is a good chance your workers’ partners are also working from home, and they might have kids who are attending school virtually, too.
When you create an environment in which you trust your workers to get the job done and give people the flexibility to juggle the myriad demands on their time, you reduce their stress and build loyalty that will outlast the pandemic. What better incentive to retain employees?
3. Engage Your Talent
Now that telecommuting has become more commonplace, many workers are taking the opportunity to move somewhere new. Between 14 million and 24 million Americans intend to relocate due to remote work opportunities. Meanwhile, programs like Tulsa Remote — which offers $10,000 grants to remote workers who move to the city — are popping up to take advantage of the trend while allowing smaller cities to claim their share of the newly remote talent. Other workers might be looking to live on the road for extended periods of time to travel to locations that interest them while working along the way.
Be sure to consider options like these as you craft an employee retention strategy. These programs allow you to engage a higher caliber of employee without worrying about geographic constraints.
4. Consider an Employer of Record
If your company doesn’t currently have a national or international presence, rest assured that you don’t have to part ways with employees who plan to move across the country or overseas. Consider partnering with an employer of record (EOR) that can legally hire, employ, and pay workers while they continue to perform work for your company in different states or countries. In addition to allowing your company to retain valued workers, an EOR can also own compliance and liability, so you don’t necessarily have to worry about keeping track of employment laws in every jurisdiction where you have talent.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, remote work was already gaining significant momentum. When the crisis took hold and sent workers home in droves, companies were forced to focus on survival, which meant doing everything possible to minimize catastrophic business interruptions.
Now that the world has had time to settle into a new normal, priorities have shifted. Many organizations have embraced the competitive advantages of remote working, like the increased productivity, flexibility, and work/life balance it affords team members. With disruption around every corner, retaining employees is one of the keys to successful business continuity now and in the future.
Sara Jensen is the vice president of business development at Innovative Employee Solutions (IES).