For many organizations, the last few months have been a crash course in working from home. Companies have had to adapt quickly to social distancing guidelines, moving as many people as possible to remote work. As a result, safety and environmental professionals that are used to monitoring and managing in person have been forced to find creative new ways of working.
Now, as the global economy starts to reopen, companies are slowly resuming their normal operations, albeit with some changes to their processes and new safeguards in place. However, for many people — including EHS professionals — remote work is likely to become the new normal beyond the current crisis.
The rise of remote work
To understand why, we need to back up a step. Although the pandemic has accelerated the pace of change, remote work has been on the rise for a while. According to an analysis by FlexJobs and Global Workplace Analytics, remote work has grown by 44% over the last five years and by 91% over the past ten years.
One reason for this shift has to do with the faster pace of modern life. Workdays have gotten longer, families are busier than ever, and everyone seems to be seeking the elusive “work/life balance”. Commutes have also gotten longer, with more people living and working outside major metropolitan areas.
At the same time, improvements in technology have made working remotely more feasible. It started with the internet and email, which helped people share information and communicate faster. Soon, mobile devices gave us access to our work email 24/7. Video conferencing tools like Skype, GoToMeeting, and Zoom eliminated the need to hop a flight in order to attend a meeting halfway around the world. Those were followed by a whole slew of tools designed to promote communication and collaboration, like Slack, Microsoft Teams, and Trello, to name a few.
The cloud has also improved remote worker access to important business information. Using cloud-based software, any employee with a laptop and an internet connection can access important work information no matter where they’re working from. Today, over half of employees globally work outside their main office headquarters at least 2.5 days a week, according to IWG’s Global Workspace Survey.
Benefits for employees
The shift toward remote work has been largely employee-driven — and for good reason. Employees who are allowed to take advantage of flexible work arrangements report that they are less stressed and happier with their jobs overall.
They’re also more productive: 85% of employees say they’re able to get more done when telecommuting, according to IWG. The hours they used to spend sitting in traffic or traveling to meetings can now be spent on their actual work. No surprise there.
Benefits for companies
Of course, employees aren’t the only ones who benefit from work-from-home arrangements. Studies show that companies also realize significant perks from allowing employees to work remotely.
For one, they’re better positioned to attract and retain talent. In fact, 83% of employees say they would turn down a job that didn’t offer flexible working for one that does.
Beyond improvements in job satisfaction and employee retention, companies see significant cost savings as well. A whopping 65% of businesses have seen reductions in CapEx/OpEx as a result of flexible work.
In short, working from home isn’t going away any time soon. That’s a good thing, but it means that companies will need to make some changes to their tools and processes.
In the same way that grocery stores and restaurants are adapting by setting up curbside pickup and delivery, companies will have to adapt their workflows to accommodate remote workers. That means figuring out how they’ll communicate with their team, locate and share documents, and check in on assigned tasks, among other things. With the abrupt shift to remote work during COVID-19, many teams are dealing with these situations on an ad hoc basis, but it’s a good idea to standardize your processes to avoid inconsistencies.
That also means equipping teams with the tools they need to succeed. Company-wide tools for messaging, file sharing, and video conferencing are essential to enabling a distributed workforce. So are cloud-based EHS software tools for managing compliance and risk. Much like Slack and Zoom, these systems are designed to keep EHS teams connected and in sync.
Your next steps
Remote work offers a slew of benefits, including happier employees, better productivity, and lower costs. With many teams already working outside the office due to COVID-19, there’s never been a better time to make a permanent transition to remote work.
The instinct for many is to wait until the current crisis subsides to implement new remote work tools and strategies, but that’s a big mistake. Rather than wait, now is the time to get organized for the long haul and put yourself in a better position after the pandemic passes.
Next, dive in and learn how EHS software supports remote work and collaboration.