What CEOs need to consider about remote vs. on-site work

Four years after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S., more organizations are evaluating how they want to operate in the long term, as evidenced by the return-to-work stories saturating the news. After most businesses pivoted to operating remotely in early 2020 and stayed that way well into 2021, some workers began to appreciate the benefits of not working in the office every day of the week and even began advocating for hybrid or fully remote work options.

For entrepreneurs and newly appointed or rising business leaders, whether your organization can thrive and grow in a remote-work model will inevitably come up in this new landscape. Considering several factors can help you determine what makes the most sense for your organization now and what’s sustainable going forward.

Why Some People Won’t Go Back to the Office

Once millions of people were required to work from home, some inevitably discovered that they preferred a remote work setup. Remote and hybrid work offers flexibility, fewer distractions, and increased productivity. They offer upsides for both employers and employees.

The potential for cost savings is significant. Employees no longer have to spend money on commuting costs, office apparel, or dining out daily. Companies save on renting office space, keeping up with repairs and maintenance, and many other everyday costs. Taking factors like location and size of the workforce into account, businesses could save up to $10,600 per employee by some estimates.

Many former in-office workers also found that working remotely gave them more flexibility in their work and personal lives than before. They’re more productive and accomplish their work while still having time for family events, social outings, and recreation. Being fully present for work projects while maintaining a sense of self is an advantage that some people felt they missed out on when they were in the office full-time.

Why Some Companies Want Employees On-site

For all of its positive aspects, remote work isn’t for everyone. Spending time with coworkers in a shared office is necessary for some positions and preferred for specific other roles. For example, some people find it easier to brainstorm and innovate when collaborating in person.

There’s also the matter of sustaining company culture. While it’s possible to maintain a healthy work culture in remote settings, it can be tricky for new employees to get a feel for where they fit into the existing team when trying to connect over Zoom or Slack.

Then, for every person who finds comfortable flexibility in work-from-home settings, another person needs to keep their work life utterly separate from their home life. Total separation can be a stress management tool for people with fast-paced or high-stress jobs.

Tips for Determining What’s True for You

There is so much discussion around return-to-work mandates because there are many perfect ways to work. Yet, some business leaders insist that their preferred structure is the correct way. A report from Resume Builder showed that “a whopping 90% of companies plan to implement return-to-office policies by the end of 2024,” and nearly 30% claim they’ll threaten to fire employees who don’t comply with the mandates.

While these RTO policies won’t necessarily all require full-time on-site work, it’s hard to say how many leaders will consider their employees when developing their RTO strategy. Use these questions to help you and the rest of your leadership team consider remote, hybrid, and in-office work environments from different perspectives.

  • Is our current model sustainable in the short term? The long term?
  • Do people want to work this way, or have they expressed interest in more options?
  • What are our employees’ expectations for working from home? Do they want to work locally, regionally, or globally?
  • What barriers exist to expanding to a fully remote, global team?
  • Is a remote or hybrid setup true to the way we work now?
  • Will this affect our stakeholders? If so, how? Are there solutions for that?
  • Can we grow our business with our current model?

Although this list isn’t comprehensive, your answers can provide insight into what you and your employees see for the organization’s future. Companies are the product of their people, so setting aside time to work through which scenario fits your company and people best is essential when determining how to move forward.

Written by

Megan Snyder
Megan Snyder

Senior Editor | CEO.com

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