Why Leaders Should Support Remote Working
With the impact of COVID-19 hitting the world by storm, many companies had to pivot how they were going to conduct business during the pandemic. While several businesses closed their doors temporarily or permanently, others were able to have their employees go remote. Regardless of COVID, the remote workforce trend shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, according to Owl Labs, 16 percent of global companies are now fully remote and 52 percent of employees around the world work from home at least one day a week.
From its beginning, Kuma has been a leader in the virtual work environment. Remote work offers employees more flexibility, is proven to increase productivity and overall employee satisfaction. Among all of the advantages of what working remotely offers, Ray Kimble, founder and CEO of Kuma, stated his reasoning behind this business strategy was to offer his employees maximum flexibility and provide more efficient service to their clients.
In this day and age, flexible work is what job seekers look for. According to FlexJobs, eighty percent of U.S. workers say they would turn down a job that didn’t offer flexible working. So why all the rage for virtual work? We sat down with Ray to learn more about why he chose to go virtual, his experience with doing so, and his advice to those who may pivot their business to be more welcoming of this type of work environment.
Reasons Kuma Went Virtual
Ray wanted to give his employees maximum flexibility. In order to do so, he knew there had to be a shift from the typical work environment to an atypical one. Ultimately, going virtual can improve your bottom line through a work-life balance, increased productivity, superior customer service, and less operational finances.
Going remote to offer flexibility
- Kuma hires people that are passionate about what they do, are extremely effective, and produce high-quality work. With technology and video conferencing capabilities, there’s a limited need for the in-person office space in today’s work environment. Our employees don’t have to worry about getting to an office by a certain time or what time they need to leave to get home by a certain hour. Limiting unnecessary commuting allows our employees to focus on their work rather than their drive to and from work.
To gain operational efficiencies as a company
- Employees can lose up to four hours a day commuting then tack on another hour for checking in, getting situated, and shutting down for the day. That’s five hours out of a person’s day that can be wasted by not working or spending time with their families or our clients. Time is precious, and ensuring that our days aren’t wasted, working from home allows us to use our time responsibly.
According to PR Newswire, eighty-five percent of businesses confirm that productivity has increased in their company because of greater flexibility. Additionally, ninety percent of employees say allowing for more flexible work arrangements and schedules would increase employee morale.
To give our clients superior customer service and service delivery
- Our employees are happier and more productive since they have more time (five hours) and are not worried about things in their home life as much. While Kuma still travels from time to time, the meetings have a purpose and they are more effective as a result. Our clients see these benefits by having access to our people more, our rates don’t have to include such a burden due to the reduced overhead, and we can jump on a call much more frequently.
Business operational overhead
- By having a remote team from coast to coast, this eliminates the need to rent or purchase an office building to work out of. This eliminates all other costs that come with an office including furnishings, technology, office supplies, etc. for the entire team.
For example, according to PGi, the average real estate savings with full-time teleworkers is $10,000 per employee per year. The insurance giant Aetna shed 2.7 million square feet of office space resulting in a cost-saving of $78 million per year. The cost-saving implications of remote workers alone make it a huge draw.
With this type of savings, we are able to offer our employees a technology credit. With a flexible work environment comes a need for the best technology. We allow our employees to choose their own laptop that Kuma will fund (or reimburse) and provide an additional stipend each month for technology use. Additionally, these financial savings can be realized on the client as well through our rates.
Kuma’s Experience Going Virtual
Work environments continue to change in today’s market (ranging from dedicated office buildings to “open space” work buildings to shared office sites such as Regus and others); Kuma offers complete flexibility in how our employees’ work environment is arranged. Our employees can choose to work from their home, a coffee shop, etc. (even a winery from time to time!). Allowing our employees to be comfortable with their work environment allows them to get their job done more efficiently and effectively. The following are ways in which we encourage our Kuma team to have healthy relationships since we’re not in a typical work environment.
Weekly calls with employees and clients
- With an abundance of technology at the tip of our fingers, staying in close contact with our team and clients is easier than ever. Whether we get on a video conference or a simple phone call, we can connect on a weekly basis to cover activities for the week or to give support to the broader team. By not having our employees sitting in an office and only limiting interaction to a handful of “line of sight” employees, it actually provides our clients with easier reach to the entire company and we can meet needs that may arise across a range of subject matter quickly.
Virtual happy hours
- With employees living from coast to coast, getting together on a weekly basis is impossible. That’s why we’ve introduced monthly virtual happy hours into our after-work routine. Since most of our conversations are based around a client or weekly activities, it’s a nice change of pace to take a break from our hectic schedules and have a more relaxed time with the team. We typically play a game, do yoga, or include some sort of experience with a happy hour. It’s a chance for the employees to connect, be vulnerable with each other, and interact in a different way than just talking about the day to day operations of our work.
Mimic a traditional office space
- Personal growth and personal development are important to each of our employees. To highlight this, we have our annual corporate goals, personal goals, and company values printed, laminated, and shipped to each of our employees so that they have them at their home office. While we can’t cheer for each other from the next office over, we can have a reminder above our desk about the goals that we are constantly striving for.
- While personal growth and personal development are important to our employees, business growth and business development are equally important to Kuma as a whole. To encourage growth, we organize focus groups or strategy sessions at a neutral and easy to travel to location. We also try to do quarterly strategy sessions with the company and an annual holiday retreat that includes all of the employees and their families. It’s important to remember that even if you’re a completely virtual company, you need to make time for the face to face interactions.
Kuma’s Advice To Those Who Are Making The Switch To A Virtual Environment
With change comes challenges. The same can be said by making a switch from a traditional work environment to a virtual one. Whether it’s training your team on best work from home practices or on technology, you will have to be patient and understand that it may not be easy for everyone. However, regardless of the challenges that come from a switch, the reality is that working with a remote team might end up being one of the best decisions you could make for your business. From Ray’s experience managing Kuma virtually, not only has given his employees more freedom and time back in their day, but their clients also benefit from having access to a wider team in a quicker manner and much more efficient work from an operational and a financial standpoint.
- What’s your most important business asset? Your employees. So when making the switch, consider how it will benefit not only you and your business but the individuals who make it successful every day. What will give them the work-life balance to truly make a productive work environment and also benefit your clients? Perhaps it’s in-person, but we bet that many people would be surprised when they truly go virtual. Employees need the ability to think creatively, bounce ideas off of each other, have a strong work-life balance, and don’t want to be micromanaged. Virtual checks all of these boxes.
Physical to virtual
- When going from a physical location to a virtual one, you say goodbye to water cooler chats and hello to beeps and buzzes. When making the switch, losing the little things like in-person conversations and lunch breaks with one another may be difficult for some of your employees. By incorporating things like virtual happy hour, video calls, fun chat channels, it can allow your employees to know that they are still a team regardless of location. Also, consider fostering quarterly in-persons when needed.
Trust your employees
- Are you a hoverer who makes sure that your employees are getting the work done in a timely manner and aren’t slacking off? If so, it’s time to show them they can be trusted. As mentioned before, 85 percent of businesses confirm that productivity has increased in their company because of greater flexibility. Without the pressure to get out of work on time or a hovering boss, employees are more likely to stay on track of their work and get it done on time. Two tips of advice to take from Ray, “First, you don’t need to check-in or keep tabs if you hire the right people. Know your culture and make sure you hire people that fit that culture. Second, you can always touch base virtually just as you do physically. Make sure you put those virtual touchpoints and culture-building activities on the calendar. Without trust and culture, it’s very hard to run a virtual company.”
Working virtually is hard
- We can’t sugarcoat the fact that working remotely incurs its own set of challenges. Many people may not be able to handle it while others will blossom in this work environment. It requires discipline and strong communication skills. Many people will love the idea of going virtual until they do it for a month or two and realize they need that in-office work environment to thrive. Understand that it won’t be for everyone, and that’s okay, but we have found that there are just too many benefits that our employees and clients get to experience that it makes going back to a predominantly physical location unimaginable.
A remote team can be just as effective, if not more effective, than a local, in-house team. Although it requires some coordination, it allows everyone more flexibility, which can help your team maintain a healthy work-life balance. The overall benefits to our business and employees through our remote work are evident in the relationships and work with our clients.