How Remote Work is Changing the Corporate and Business Landscape

By Andrew Dittman Posted 9/2/2020 in BUSINESS

History has long shown that industries and businesses that stagnate and fail to evolve with the times fade into obscurity. Old businesses disappear and are replaced by something “new,” “better,” or at least “different.” 2020 has shaken business norms all over the world and a new normal has emerged: Remote work.

The biggest change is the shift to remote work.  Remote working is here to stay – that is the reality. However, working from home has been a part of the corporate and business landscape for longer than you might have thought. 

From IT professionals to insurance agents, countless roles have been staffed by remote workers for years. The true change and evolution in business practices is the emergent trend that working from home (WFH) is largely replacing colocation and commuting. The change comes with both good and bad effects across the business landscape.

The Corporate Benefits of Remote Work

Cost-Effective Solutions:

This is the most obvious consideration for corporations but an increased emphasis on remote work reduces supply overhead costs – from reducing (if not eliminating) office space rents, reducing workers compensation, reducing supply usage -e.g., toner, paper, food, electricity, and for the workers – reducing commute times, ensuring that people can reliably be logged in for their defined shifts.

For small to medium businesses (SMB), these monetary and fiducial savings can aid in the continued and sustained growth and success of the company.

For larger enterprises, tens of millions of dollars can be saved simply by lowering electricity usage or renting fewer floors in an office park.

Increased Worker Productivity:

While there are diminishing returns when managed improperly remote workers have been shown to be around 10% – 15% more productive. These performance gains are attributed to the remote workers taking fewer breaks, working in a quieter and more convenient environment, and having fewer sick days taken.

While colocation is necessary for greater social bonding, video conferencing tools like Skype, Bluejeans, and now Zoom has made it easier than ever to stay connected with your peers.

This increase in productivity is also undoubtedly tied to not having a brutal commute, allowing remote workers more time to create a healthy work/life balance.

Global Talent Pool:

An unfortunate reality is that tech companies across the country, and the world, suffer from a talent shortage. Good talent can be difficult to find, and even more difficult to procure the requisite visas for if they happen to be a foreign national.

Photo by olia danilevich from Pexels

Remote working can obviate this almost entirely, insomuch as timezones go. If the best talent is comfortable in her home country, surrounded by their culture and values, yet can be a productive member of your team via an internet connection then you can more easily persuade them to work for you.

Increased Diversity:

This goes for physical ethnic and racial diversity, but mostly diversity of opinion. One of the worst things for a company is a homogenous workplace. If everyone emphatically agrees with each other, like a bobblehead, then there are internal blindspots that can miss potentially catastrophic product faults.

By incorporating diverse perspectives from people from different regions, timezones, and countries you can consider and plan for more edge cases and promote a better product that is more inclusive, and more accessible for all your potential customers and clients.

Downsides to Working from Home

Lack of Home Infrastructure:

Internet, internet, internet. Perhaps an underappreciated benefit of having an office is the ability to provide all your employees with consistent internet infrastructure. At the office network speeds might be greater than 10 Gigabits/second! Depending on where the worker lives, they might not even have quality broadband.


Sleep Connection Stop Snoring Device

Unequal home access to enterprise-worthy networking speeds can hamper collaboration if one key member of your team cannot reliably be reached. And while laptops are ubiquitous, certain professions require the extra computing performance that desktops offer, and those are much harder to make portable.

Lack of Boundaries:

Even before the coronavirus pandemic, tech workers were struggling with professional boundaries – defining periods of not responding to work emails, slack messages, and the like. If WFH becomes more common place then it becomes entirely too easy to send a simple slack message at 7 PM and expect your colleague to respond to it, especially if you assume that they are already at their computer.

Compounding this is handling a distributed team across timezones – is the one worker in a timezone that is 4 hours later expected to sacrifice their late evening or early mornings to handle meetings with the rest of the team? Something as simple as “tomorrow” suddenly has a different and possibly unclear definition if the timezone differences are around 10+ hours. One could expect the deliverable in 12 hours, or their morning, whereas the other person might assume they have 24 hours to complete the task.

And if a worker is always working, they might initially be hugely productive, but run a significant risk of burning themselves out if they cannot moderate their work/life balance appropriately.

Job Security:

The downside of remote work is that the entire world is now your competition. If WFH becomes the norm, then why would a Silicon Valley or Seattle based company pay the inflated salaries needed to live in these expensive regions when they can pay half as much if not less to an equally qualified dev in India? Since employee salaries are usually the principal component of business expenses, it makes sense to be drawn to the global talent that can be paid half as much; to the detriment of the San Francisco worker who can no longer afford rent without a six-figure salary.

Mental Unwellbeing:

For all the downsides a noisy, inconveniently located office park has, at the very least there is human interaction. The ability to unwind with coworkers over coffee, catch up, talk about the weekend’s must-see tv and the like. This promotes team cohesion and team unity.

This can be much harder to obtain via remote Zoom calls. Outgoing personality types might feel suffocated and claustrophobic by being at home constantly and this tends towards mental health problems.  The 21st-century tech landscape will be largely defined by remote working, to some extent. Like everything, it is a tool, an asset, a resource. It is not inherently good or bad, what matters is how your business utilizes and implements it.

If done properly, workers are more productive and corporate overhead is reduced. If done poorly then people stress over working long hours and fret about job security when they realize that anyone with an internet connection can do their job. It is easier than ever to collaborate with more people at a distance, and that is a great thing, but caution needs to be taken to properly and optimally implement remote environments.