Will Remote Working Work for SMEs?

The remote work boom has been a long time coming for business, even before the COVID-19 pandemic. Data from a 2019 study found that remote working had grown by 90% since 2009, with 99% of workers showing enthusiasm for working remotely. It is impossible to ignore that the pandemic amplified this even further.

However, remote working is not a simple transition. It can be especially difficult for small businesses that do not have an in-house IT team with the experience needed to successfully migrate to the cloud and coordinate a remote working infrastructure swiftly without exceeding your budget.

Advantages of Remote Working

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Considering why remote working may be beneficial for you, the primary advantage is increased staff happiness. An ONS survey on workers’ experience of work from home found that most employees enjoyed a drastically improved work-life balance. Without spending hours a day commuting, workers enjoyed spending more time with their family and doing what they love.

This increased staff happiness can lead to them being more productive, as a University of Oxford study showed that happy workers are 13% more productive. Furthermore, remote workplaces appeal to job-hunting employees, with requirements to go into the office acting as a deal-breaker for many. When conducting your recruitment, you may find that restricting work from home can make it difficult to attract the best talent.

The other key advantage to remote working is vastly reduced costs. Many small businesses struggle with their office rental costs, with office space in the City of London costing between £67.50 and £82.50 per square foot. In this renting climate, many small businesses are choosing to leverage remote work as a way to cut down on their office space and therefore boost profitability.

Disadvantages of Remote Working

Remote working isn’t an open and shut case for all businesses, and many are keeping hold of traditional office working environments. The main disadvantage can be seen in the isolation of workers. This leads to difficulties in collaboration, named as the biggest issue by participants in the previously mentioned ONS survey, and in employee socialization.

The latter can form a big issue for small businesses, many of whom are new to the industry and attempting to construct a culture that defines their practice. The simple lack of water cooler conversations and after-work drinks can prevent employees from feeling like something bigger and more important. Therefore, getting them to align with your ambitious visions can be difficult.

A more existential problem with remote working is more existential. Work from home has become a key vulnerability that cybercriminals are exploiting. Attacks such as those by Revil in 2024 have shown that the use of personal devices on poorly secured WiFi networks poses a serious security risk that all businesses must consider when switching to remote work.

Should Your Business Shift to Remote Work?

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This decision is the most important one for all small businesses as they move further into the post-pandemic world. However, there is no one right decision. Instead, you should consider the unique risks and rewards of making the change; carefully weighing up with a traditional or remote workplace is the best option.