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Stay-at-home orders and social isolation restrictions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic forced many businesses to move their employees to home offices. But, as orders are slowly lifted, some organizations plan to continue keeping employees at home.
Roughly 90% of organizations currently have employees working from home due to COVID-19, according to a Nemertes Research survey of 460 organizations taken in early April. Before the pandemic, 63% of organizations had employees working from home full or part time.
"Practically overnight, companies had to move large, large numbers of employees to home offices," Nemertes Research analyst Robin Gareiss said in a recent webinar.
And remote work, it seems, will have a lasting effect as more than one-third of organizations said they plan to continue with employees working remotely. Quality of life is a major driver for supporting remote work, including reduced commute times and flexibility in work hours. These quality-of-life improvements can snowball into other benefits for businesses, such as reduced turnover and improved productivity, she said.
The second most common driver for continuing to work from home is to better prepare the organization for future disasters, Gareiss said. Establishing remote work best practices and deploying supportive technology during the pandemic have better prepared organizations to maintain business continuity in the event of a disaster.
"Companies are putting more effort into supporting business continuity and working from wherever they're forced to relocate," Nemertes analyst Irwin Lazar said in a webinar.
Team collaboration addresses remote work challenges
While working from home has its benefits, it also has its challenges. More than half of organizations surveyed in the Nemertes report cited remote management as the biggest challenge they faced with employees working from home.
Irwin LazarAnalyst, Nemertes Research
Gone -- temporarily -- are the days where managers could pop over to an employee's desk for a status update or tap someone on the shoulder to ask a question.
"People isolated in their homes requires a completely different way of engagement and different way of management," Lazar said.
Team collaboration tools can help organizations with remote work management by keeping employees engaged and communicating for work and social needs.
Team collaboration adoption has grown steadily in the last three years. In 2017, 19% of organizations were using team collaboration tools. By 2019, more than half of organizations adopted team collaboration. By 2021, more than two-thirds of organizations will adopt collaboration tools, Nemertes said.
"Team collaboration is a foundational requirement for supporting working from home," Lazar said.
Team collaboration tools can address the challenge of remote work management by providing a contextual workspace for employees. Managers and team leaders can set up channels where employees can ask quick questions. Social channels can provide a "virtual watercooler" where employees can chat about hobbies or special interests, Lazar said.
"You can build that camaraderie through team spaces," he said. "You can't do that in any other app today."
Native voice and video integrations within team collaboration apps enable employees to escalate a conversation from chat to a call from within their channel or team. Team collaboration tools can also integrate with third-party business applications to enable employees to bring their workflows to a contextual workplace, Lazar said.
"To make working from home successful, it has to be deliberate," Gareiss said. "Employees have to have the right collaboration tools to be able to communicate with one another."