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Work from Home or Back to the Office?
5 months ago by Christina Massaad

Work from Home or Back to the Office?

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As vaccinations get rolled out around the globe, slowly but surely, many business owners and managers are left with the decision of whether to return to work from their rented or owned premises or to give them up and let employees continue to work from home. It’s not an easy decision at all and there are many factors to consider. Here are the top 10 factors I have come up with, but I’d be interested to hear your views as well in case there are important points I have missed.

1. Your Employees’ Preferences

Your employees are the ones who are most affected, so their opinion is extremely important and their views should be taken into account when making the decision. When we asked our staff what they would prefer, the majority elected to work from home. 

We’ve also seen a similar outcome on LinkedIn surveys. Employees like the fact that they don’t have to spend time and money commuting to the office, perhaps that they are not “overlooked” during the day so they feel more freedom and many of them report being more productive because of fewer interruptions.

2. Your Employees’ Long Term Needs

As we know, what we want is not always what is best for us. As a long term plan, working from home could have a negative effect on the camaraderie of teams, employee engagement could be affected if not carefully nurtured; leading to a lack of job satisfaction, low employee retention rates and increased mental health issues. 

Any company planning a full-time WFH (work from home) scenario will need to carefully plan how to ensure teams regularly interact and staff feel a real sense of purpose and belonging. Over several years as your team grows or changes from the pre-covid team, this could become more of a challenge.

3. Staff Training

Training can be more challenging in a remote environment. It is not impossible in most cases to train people remotely, but it is an obstacle to effective training when team members and supervisors cannot sit side by side whilst practicing or learning new tasks. You may need to invest time and money in “Training the trainers” so that they can use the online tools available to conduct training remotely and keep a dialogue open.

4. Staff Supervision

Allowing all employees to work from home continuously requires a great degree of trust. Effective planning has to be put into place to ensure deadlines are given and met and quality and quantity of work are continuously monitored. A successful WFH company can allow more flexibility in working hours as long as employees are available for meetings, online chats and are meeting those deadlines, quantity and quality requirements.

5. Recruitment

A company’s premises can often be a strong part of its image. Think ‘Google’ for example and most young people would have dreamed to work for them because, apart from being such a successful company, they also have bean bags and ping pong tables in their modern offices. 

Not having fixed premises can make that image more difficult to cultivate. At Cedar Rose, we have beautiful seafront offices in Limassol and when we interview, most candidates’ first comment is about the amazing view. The same goes for clients who occasionally visit us in person. 

Working from home can be equally attractive, but interviewing remotely doesn’t always give you the full picture of your candidate so you may still need to rent premises or arrange a get together in another environment, so it’s an additional challenge to consider.

6. Cost to Your Employees

Working from home at the moment means that a lot of people are able to save money, or manage better with the same income. That’s because they are not going out as much as before, not spending on transport, cafés, restaurants, etc. But depending on where you are based, they could incur much higher costs for heating, air-conditioning, coffee, tea and water. 

They may have needed to upgrade their internet, buy a suitable desk and chair or even renovate a room in their home for office space. This should be considered if you decide to continue to work from home. At Cedar Rose, we have given our employees an annual WFH bonus to help them out.

7. Costs to Your Company

The monetary costs of everyone working from home are much less than the costs of running a workplace. Reduced costs include rent or mortgage bills (if you have given up the space), electricity, telephone lines, internet, water, cleaning and maintenance, furnishings, sundries including coffee, tea, toilet rolls, even pens. 

All of these small expenses when multiplied by a number of staff can add up. Fewer costs mean greater profits, so working from home is most definitely an attractive option for business owners in monetary terms. As your business grows you may also need a larger space, whereas in a WFH scenario you can grow exponentially without incurring any of these additional costs.

8. Environmental Factors

Thinking beyond the company and the employees, there is an important factor of the environment to consider. A company with 20 employees commuting to and from work every day can potentially save the environment an enormous amount of pollution by allowing them to work from home unless of course they can walk, cycle or use solar power to charge their electric car to get to the workplace.

9. Printing/Signing Requirements

Depending again on which country you are in, there may be times when documents need to be printed, signed or stamped in person. For example, my son in the UK still has my Christmas gifts because the courier company he wanted to send them with wouldn’t send collect them without a printed off piece of paper – and he doesn’t have a printer at home! 

Here in Cyprus, not every document can be electronically signed and often they need to be stamped as well. So this is a convenience factor that needs to be considered when the company’s authorised signatories are not always in the same location as the documents that need signing or the company’s stamp. The practicalities of remote working should all be considered and solutions would need to be put into place if WFH is the final decision.

10. Health & Safety

Last, but by no means least, there is the health and safety of your employees, customers and all visitors to consider. This is of course always a heavy burden for any company – premises should be regularly inspected to ensure cleanliness, fire safety, preparedness for accidents, etc. 

But Covid-19 has brought an additional risk to the fore – the risk of spreading a potentially deadly virus amongst your employees. This not only affects them but could damage your company’s ability to operate effectively and certainly until the vast majority of employees are vaccinated, it is an extremely important point to take into consideration.

This is a learning curve for all of us, after all – and none of us can claim to be an expert on this particular issue so please do visit the original post and share your thoughts and tips for working remotely.

This article was first published by Christina on LinkedIn and can be viewed here.

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