Most of us have heard about the general benefits of working remotely. A recent article by analytics and management consulting company Gallup states that remote work improves business outcomes and it is a benefit “that the most talented employees desire.” The Harvard Business Review also published research that working remotely can increase employee productivity, positively impact morale, and even decrease overhead costs for organizations. As the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) took a more serious turn in the United States, the benefits to a remote work environment in light of these public health concerns were amplified.
In recent weeks, many organizations that were not geared towards a remote work business model suddenly found themselves scrambling to put together remote work HR policies, set up virtual communication protocols, and assess IT systems. Once the concerns over COVID-19 subside, these organizations may return to the way they operated before—pulling employees back into the daily grind of commuting to a central, shared office. But should they? Exponent Partners believes that the benefits of working remotely stretch beyond addressing concerns like COVID-19.
We’re Here for You
Remote work has always been core to our DNA. Founded in 2005, Exponent Partners is a social enterprise that exclusively serves nonprofits with over fifty team members who work virtually from their home offices across the United States. We believe technology for social change can enable organizations to improve their performance and advance their mission. We want the organizations that nurture our communities, protect our planet, and safeguard our human rights to have access to the best possible tools and knowledge to help them make our world a better place.
Remote work saves our clients money and allows us to deliver our products and services more efficiently. Leveraging the best technology and online collaboration tools for our customers’ benefit is baked into our mission. As an early BCorporation we are proud to be part of a movement to improve how companies contribute to society. We believe that working remotely by default benefits our employees, clients, and communities.
Remote Work Benefits and Tips
The Forbes article “Remote to the Rescue, How Virtual Jobs Are Saving the World” by Laurel Ferrar describes how working remotely has an immediate and positive impact on society in four key areas:
- Economic Development. When employees are geographically dispersed so is their impact on communities, industry innovation and the global economy.
- Environmental Sustainability. Remote jobs create less waste and shorter commutes, which means lighter carbon footprints.
- Diversity and Inclusion. Equal remote work earns equal opportunity. Period.
- Work-Life Satisfaction. Flexible workforces are safer emotionally, socially, physically, and mentally.
Ferrar states that “remote work isn’t about convenience, it’s about change. Virtual jobs aren’t indulging humanity, they’re allowing it to heal and thrive.”
These benefits align with our own core values at Exponent Partners. We believe that our remote work allows us to live our core values and positively impact our communities. As Talent Manager at Exponent Partners, I can testify that our virtual work model provides us with access to a wider pool of candidates that we would not necessarily have access to if our recruitment was tied to one geographic location. Plus, I personally appreciate not having to commute long distances as it provides me with more time to spend with my family.
However, remote work comes with its challenges. To help employees and employers combat some of those challenges, we’ve come up with a list of tips that can assist everyone from the accidental remote worker to the skilled virtual employee. Tips for effective remote work:
- Use video! Video chat tools like Zoom, GoToMeeting and Google Hangouts are a great way to hold video meetings and feel connected without losing the nonverbal, visual cues that can enhance a conversation. Use video whenever possible. Video meetings are great to use when working through issues or problems as a team.
- Find and use the right tools for your team and your work. Technology has come a long way. Instant messaging such as Slack, Google Hangouts and Microsoft Teams allow for real-time conversation and can improve team communication. Likewise, document storage and creation tools like Dropbox, Google, Microsoft Office and project management tools like Basecamp, Jira and Teamwork all help teams come together for real-time collaboration. Use technology for personal learning as well- online courses or virtual lunch-and-learn meetings are great ways to engage virtual workers in professional development.
- Be prepared for hiccups. Make sure you have contingency plans – if you lose internet connection can you use your phone as a hotspot? Or perhaps you have some of your work apps on your phone (Zoom, Slack, etc.) for those moments of outage.
- Don’t forget to connect as humans. Creating space not only for work talk but also for folks to be themselves and share photos of pets, kids and vacation pictures is important. Schedule virtual coffees to get to know your coworkers.
COVID-19 and Work Policy Adjustments
As the instances of COVID-19 continue to rise, all indicators point toward this being a longer-term public health effort to slow, contain, and hopefully ultimately eliminate it. We are fortunate in that our remote work environment allowed us to respond to this concern quickly, and with little impact on our daily operations. However, we have a civic duty to take this threat seriously and respond with caution.
Exponent Partners CEO, Rem Hoffmann, states that “we as a company, as individuals, and as a community have real things that we can do to support that effort.” To that end, Exponent Partners has adjusted the following policies effective immediately:
- Long-distance travel. The goal is to dramatically curtail the chances of transmission that come with air, train, bus, or other long-distance travel. During this time, we will not be asking our team to travel long-distance for work.
- Group meetings and events. We will work to move any upcoming group meetings from in-person gatherings to virtual meetings. Collaborating via online meetings is standard operating procedure for Exponent Partners but we regularly travel to meet in person with our clients or contribute to conferences. This policy adjustment in response to COVID-19 applies to any type of meeting, whether it’s with our customers in the conduct of our work, marketing and sales meetings with potential clients, presenting at upcoming conferences, or meetings internal to Exponent Partners.
Dedicated to Our Community
We are making these policy choices in order to be responsible and prudent and to support all the efforts to protect our staff, our clients, and our communities. While these preparations are important on an individual level, we truly believe that the steps we take collectively will have a positive impact on our society. This is especially true for those communities and individuals who are more susceptible to infection and are counting on others to take appropriate action.
We know that other organizations are doing the same in light of these recent health concerns, but we urge other organizations and CEOs to think strategically about whether remote work is possible beyond COVID-19. Maybe this isn’t a short-term solution to COVID-19, but the beginning of a change to the way companies operate that can have a huge, long-lasting, postive impact to our society.
If you’re interested in learning more about our values and joining our remote team, connect with me on LinkedIn.