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Is Work From Home Working Out for SMBs?

There was an exodus out of the office during the pandemic. In the U.S., we went from only seven percent of employees working fully remote to the majority of white-collar workers leaving the office. This happened across the board — at large companies like Google and Cisco, as well as small to medium-sized businesses. In fact, work from home in small business environments has exploded since COVID first hit.

For SMBs, however, switching to a work-from-home or hybrid model poses unique challenges because small companies are less likely to have the infrastructure in place to enable a seamless transition. It also offers game-changing benefits, such as lower real estate costs and access to a wider talent pool.

The question is, will small businesses continue to let their staff work from home in the long term? Let’s look at how work from home has been working for small businesses and what the future might look like for remote SMBs.

How Successful Has Work From Home Been?

There are plenty of statistics pointing to the success of work-from-home models. Here’s a look at some of the stats on remote work since the pandemic.

1. Productivity

Even before the massive rise in remote work during COVID, there was ample evidence of the productivity benefits that come with remote work — a 2015 Stanford study found that work performance jumped by 13 percent after nine months of working from home.

In 2021, 83 percent of remote employees said they are just as or more productive working from home than they are in the office.

2. Employee Engagement

Overall, employee engagement is higher for those working from home.

A survey by Owl Labs found that 70 percent of those who worked in their home office during the pandemic said virtual meetings are less stressful than in-person ones, and 64 percent prefer hybrid meetings.

A Quantum Workplace study found that hybrid and remote employees are more engaged than their in-office counterparts.

3. Flexibility

One of the biggest benefits of working from home has been flexibility, which is something most employees don’t want to give up. Small businesses should keep this in mind — if skilled talent wants the option to work from home, you’ll be more competitive as an employer if you’re set up to operate as a work-from-wherever organization.

When asked in a survey conducted by Buffer, 97.6 percent of employees said they would like the option to work from home, at least some of the time, for the rest of their working lives.

Another survey conducted by McKinsey found that 52 percent of workers prefer a more flexible working model post-pandemic and 11 percent want the option to be fully remote.

According to a survey by Hubstaff, 84.5 percent of companies intend on offering some degree of remote work even when the pandemic is behind us. What will this look like for small businesses that don’t have the manpower or resources of a large organization?

What It Takes to Be a Successful Work-From-Home SMB

Shifting to a permanent work-from-home business model does require change — a new mindset, new processes, and new technology.

Managers and employees have to be able to adapt to a more flexible environment.

Can management ensure employees have all the information and tools they need to be productive each day without coming off as overbearing? A FlexJobs survey found that 31 percent of workers only need to hear from their boss a few times a week, 27 percent believe once a week is sufficient, and 22 percent wish their boss would rarely check in on them.

To be successful, your company will need tools that allow for hassle-free, flexible communications. For example, unified communications provides the ability to chat with staff through SMS messaging or start a quick video call at the touch of the button. This way, management can use the communication channels your employees are comfortable with.

Are employees able to create a quiet home office where they can stay focused, or does working from home create more challenges?

The same FlexJobs survey revealed that only about one-quarter of workers have a dedicated home office, with another 34 percent having to get creative to create a home office space once their employer made the shift to remote work.

Another issue is work-life balance and perceived stress. Research shows that employees who are given greater autonomy experience a reduction in perceived stress. Those who feel like they aren’t able to achieve a healthy work-life balance because of a conflict between work life and home life felt more stressed.

Overall, small businesses that can function well without a lot of manager oversight are best suited for remote work. You’ll also want to ensure your employees have the right time management skills to ensure their work time isn’t bleeding into their personal life.

Daily processes will look different, and SMBs will need the right tools to facilitate seamless collaboration and communication.

For example, meetings and training might be virtual. Employees will also need tools that make it easy to connect with co-workers and managers in a seamless way, such as secure file sharing and high-quality voice and video. Small businesses that haven’t already will need to consider moving all or most of their operations to the cloud to make work from home a success.

A Salesforce study, which surveyed over 2,500 SMB owners all over the world, found that 71 percent said they survived the pandemic by going digital. Today, 83 percent of SMBs have moved at least some of their operations online, which is key to operating a work-from-wherever organization in the long term.

How many small businesses will continue using a work-from-home model post-pandemic?

The Salesforce study found that 43 percent of SMBs do have plans to implement a work-from-wherever model over the long term. With important benefits, such as cost-savings on office space and the ability to hire from a much wider pool of talent, that number may increase over time.

If you’re thinking of transitioning your small business, start with ensuring you have the right technology to empower your remote teams to thrive. Find out how efficient, productive, and engaged work-from-home employees can be with Intermedia Unite, a comprehensive yet flexible cloud-based solution for wherever, whenever communications.

About Darcy Mekis