3 investments companies need to make for a successful transition to permanent remote work

  • More companies are making long-term shifts to remote work, suggesting that the remote workplace could be here to stay. 
  • But it can be hard to know how to make a successful jump to permanent remote work. 
  • A few things that companies should be paying more attention to as their workforces go remote for good include comfortable home office environments, mental health, and flexible accommodations for workers. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

For many companies, remote work is here to stay. 

Outdoor retailer REI just announced that it is selling its eight-acre corporate campus, and major tech companies from Amazon to Spotify to Microsoft have announced that their workplaces will remain remote through 2020, setting models for long-term remote work that other companies can follow. 

According to a recent survey of 400 HR and engineering leaders conducted by Terminal, a platform for remote engineering teams, almost 60% of companies discouraged or limited remote work before the pandemic. Now, half of these leaders anticipate increasing the number of permanent remote employees in the next two years. 

While the rate of companies transitioning to remote work has accelerated, some experts say that the future of work has been headed this way for a long time. But there's still a lot for companies to learn when it comes to establishing a remote game plan. 

Long-term remote work is uncharted territory for many companies, and there are a lot of factors to consider when deciding how to make the permanent transition. Here are a few crucial things that business leaders need to invest in to ensure that their workforce can make the successful jump to long-term remote work. 

Create a comfortable working environment at home

Most living rooms just aren't as conducive to work as the office, and it takes extra time and resources for employees to create comfortable workspaces. 

In March, job marketplace Indeed decided to reimburse employees up to $500 for standing desks, chairs, or lighting in their homes. Textbook company Chegg pays for the internet bill of remote workers, as well as $500 in-home office furnishings. E-commerce site Shopify is giving employees $1,000 each to cover the extra costs employees can incur from working from home. 

According to Arran Stewart, CEO of online career service Job.com, companies should ensure that employees are able to establish comfortable working environments where they feel equipped to do their best. 

"Everything needs to be set up in a way that you'd expect a work office to," Stewart said. "All of the normal resources in a traditional office should also be set up in homes, no different." 

Prioritize mental health 

The isolation and lack of structure when working from home can take a huge toll on mental health. 

According to a poll of nearly 10,000 workers, two-thirds reported that working from home has increased their stress levels. 

"People having to be isolated could suffer from declines in mental health, and companies need to be on top of that," Stewart said. "Someone could be at home day in, day out on their own without any other form of interaction." 

Stewart recommended calling in mental health professionals to provide support for struggling team members. But even for those who aren't struggling, it's important to consistently check in. 

"Listening to employees is always going to be first and foremost," Laura Sapp, head of talent at holding company IAC, previously told Business Insider. "And that goes down to the manager level and the team level, being able to take the time to really check in with people. It's important to make sure that you know where folks and their mental health are." 

But it's also important to navigate the fine line between checking in and micromanaging. According to Stephanie Nadi Olson, founder and CEO of freelancing matching platform We Are Rosie, demonstrating trust that your employees will get the job done is crucial to ensure a happy and productive workforce. 

"It's human psychology. When people feel like they're in control over their lives, they feel better, they work better, they're happier," Olson previously told Business Insider. "I think long term this will increase the trust within teams. It will allow teams to be more inclusive." 

Acknowledge each employee's unique situation 

The transition to remote work means something different for everyone. Each employee is facing their own, unique challenge. Some are dealing with childcare or eldercare, while others are dealing with the emotional strain of quarantining with a partner. 

That's why companies can't develop a one-size-fits-all approach for every employee. Instead, they need to approach each worker's unique needs with flexibility. 

Facebook will be adjusting salaries based on the cost of living of its workforce, CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced in May. While this means that employees leaving Silicon Valley will likely be subject to pay cuts, it also signals a new era of work at Facebook that takes into account the specific living conditions of employees. 

Other companies are offering accommodations and resources to provide employees with childcare. Both manufacturing company Origin USA and Cisco Systems offer on-site childcare centers for employees. 

"There's so much anxiety around the return to school and what that looks like, and folks have parents and seniors that they're taking care of. Managers need to take a pause and see how they can help with the issues we're seeing," Sapp said.

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