With nearly 27% of the U.S. workforce expected to stay remote at least through the end of the year, companies that are using enterprise resource planning systems are experiencing some unique benefits of their technology decisions.
Remote work is here to stay. Just over one year into the global pandemic, roughly 42% of the U.S. workforce continues to work remotely. An estimated 26.7% will still be working from home through the rest of the year, Upwork reports, and 36.2 million Americans (22% of the workforce) will be working remotely by 2025. This represents an 87% increase over the number of pre-COVID remote workers, and it puts new pressures on companies that have to manage their workforces from afar.
“The coronavirus pandemic has affected U.S. workplaces like nothing else in modern history, including high unemployment, the shuttering of businesses, and the shift of many workers to off-site, remote work,” reports Gallup, whose most recent poll found that nearly two-thirds of U.S. workers who have been working remotely during the pandemic would like to continue to do so.
“In all, 35% of those who have worked remotely would simply prefer to do so while 30% would like to do so because of a concern about COVID-19,” Gallup reports, noting that 35% of remote workers would prefer to return to working in an office. “A majority of U.S. workers now say at least some of the employees at their workplaces are on-site. Yet, nearly half of workers say they are concerned about contracting the virus at work, and most workers who have worked remotely during the pandemic want to continue doing so.”
When workers around the world found themselves “suddenly remote” in 2020, the companies they worked for were forced to take a good, hard look at their technology infrastructures. Those that weren’t using cloud technology, that relied upon on-premises systems, and whose technology platforms didn’t “talk” to one another found themselves in a predicament when COVID-19 reared its head.
Large tech firms like Apple, Google, Facebook, and Twitter were among the first to ramp up remote work plans for many or all of their employees globally. “Quarantines, lockdowns, and self-imposed isolation have pushed tens of millions around the world to work from home,” McKinsey reports, “accelerating a workplace experiment that had struggled to gain traction before COVID-19 hit.”
Remote work raises new issues and challenges for employees and employers alike. Companies are learning how best to deliver coaching remotely and how to configure workspaces to enhance employee safety, among a host of other thorny questions raised by COVID-19. “For their part,” McKinsey adds, “employees are struggling to find the best home-work balance and equip themselves for working and collaborating remotely.”
Companies with cloud enterprise resource planning (ERP) platforms in place have been able to more readily adapt to this “new normal” work environment. With anytime/anywhere access for authorized users, and a wide selection of functionalities (e.g., accounting, finance, customer relationship management, e-commerce, inventory management, supply chain management, etc.), platforms like NetSuite Cloud ERP give remote workers access to important information and capabilities. An on-premises system or disparate technologies, on the other hand, don’t offer this type of cloud-based collaboration and communication.
Cloud ERP also supports higher productivity levels across myriad different devices (i.e., laptops, desktops, tablets, etc.) and enables streamlined business processes even when the user can’t be at his or her desk in the office. Forms can be approved, orders released, documents filed, and reports generated all on a single, unified platform. And because that platform is available 24/7/365 in the cloud, employees can stay productive when working from anywhere.
“Thanks to cloud-based technology tools, people can work from wherever makes sense for them – that could be home or the office, but it might also be from a restaurant or construction site if that’s your line of business,” Oracle NetSuite GM Jason Toshack points out in Dynamic Business.
“As businesses look to move towards hybrid models, I believe the key to managing teams is setting clear goals and communication,” he continues. “While I might prefer the office, it appears that younger workers are more than capable of staying productive at home. Leaders should aim to align teams on goals that will keep everyone focused and working collaboratively.”