The global Covid-19 pandemic has been much harder on some businesses than it has on others, even within the same industries. Translation companies are an excellent example of this, given their ability to adapt to the current focus on isolation, social distancing and the ability to keep employees working from home. Remote service providers are an increasingly important part of the work force, especially given the potential for a global recession as a direct result of the global coronavirus outbreak.
Businesses are moving online at an increasing rate, many people noting that downtown will resemble Sunday every day of the week as more and more employees are forced to work from home and otherwise serve as remote service providers. Doing business under Covid-19 has resulted in predictions for negative economic growth around the world. At the same time, business online is increasing virtually as fast as more traditional closed office spaces and small retail outlets are going out of business. Doing business under Covid-19 and in the ensuing economic recession seems to point to working online or in a work from home environment to be the best solution for remaining in business.
Those translation agencies that already had employees working from home, especially with certified medical translators and interpreters providing remote services, were in an excellent position to capitalize on the global crisis market and turn it into an opportunity! The ability of these remote language service providers to use their online presence, allowed them to capture a much larger market share. The need for certified medical translators and interpreters increased as the global coronavirus pandemic spread, but live medical interpreters and even traditional, office-based translation companies were not in a position to capitalize on the crisis markets.
In what is by all intents, a very interesting and relevant juxtaposition, an Economist at Stanford University, Nick Bloom has made some very interesting research available regarding this phenomenon and its potential impact on the global economy. His old research indicates that working from home or “zooming” as per the current preferred vernacular, could greatly increase productivity and efficiency.
However, in a more recent interview posted on the 30th of March, 2020, in the Stanford news, it is noted; “The global work-from-home movement intended to maintain output and efficiency during the COVID-19 pandemic could actually generate a worldwide productivity slump and threaten economic growth for many years, says Stanford economist Nicholas Bloom.”
What is the cause of such a drastic change of direction from such a renowned economic academic? The original study was based on an organization that had planned and implemented a viable business plan to allow people to continue working from home. The current global coronavirus crisis has resulted in a rushed effort by many businesses to move online without the benefit of planning or adequate levels of consideration.
Whether for better or for worse, the current covid-19 global pandemic is changing the way that people play, interact, shop and even work. If there is an upside to this, it is that those organizations that have carefully examined the current trends, can remain at the forefront within their industries, and be in a similar position to capitalize on the new market before it becomes the new accepted “norm” or business-standard.
Why the traditional office is dying and Why You Should Work At Home
Since at least 2018, research has indicated a much stronger proclivity for people to telecommute or otherwise discover how to work from home. A poll conducted by the gotomeeting website and reported by the New York Post revealed some interesting statistics.
More than three thousand people were interviewed from the US, the UK, New Zealand, India, Germany and Australia and showed that fifty-nine percent of US workers are more productive when working outside of a traditional office. Forty-nine percent of people preferred working in an office, but most still felt they did their best work outside of the office. More than fifty-seven percent of US workers now have the capacity to work from outside of traditional offices.
Perhaps most revealing of all was the fact that the study “found a notable rise in productivity occurring outside of the confines of an office setting”. It should be noted however, that again, these were the results from companies who had carefully studied and planned before implementing corporate strategies to allow people to continue working from home or “zooming”.
As stricter and more draconian measures become commonplace due to the global Covid-19 pandemic, people are increasingly forced to isolate, staying at home and in many cases, losing their jobs as a direct result of the ongoing worldwide medical emergency. It is also important to remember that many of those companies like the translation agencies mentioned earlier, who do employ remote service providers, were in a position to thrive even in times of global crisis.
For the corporation and its CEO, the most important factors to be considered are figuring out what portions of the operation can be continued remotely, what portions can be outsourced and what remain in-house. It is also important for the CEO to ensure that employees will continue to work remotely, even if they cannot be monitored as they would be in an open office environment.
If these factors, in combination with the added benefits of remote employees for the corporation are favorable, there is no time like the present to implement a more remote plan of operations.
What part of the business can be outsourced to People Working From Home?
Send the accounting department home. There are very few aspects of accounting that cannot be handled from a remote location. There is also some consideration for keeping at least one accounting department employee in the office, most notably because someone will likely have to physically endorse the checks.
In regards to accounts payable and accounts receivable, however, most of this work can easily be conducted from a remote location. Accounting services for smaller companies are frequently outsourced to a third-party remote services provider. Whether or not outsourcing is a viable option, the overall function of the department should not be hindered even by working from remote locations.
Many small corporations already outsource the majority of their Information Technology or IT department. Even large corporations with their own server racks often outsource much of the programming and server maintenance, with only a minimal staff in house to handle the physical maintenance of the server room.
App creation and the creation of other computer programs can also be outsourced. These services may or may not fall under the “jurisdiction” of the IT department, depending on the application and their function, but such operations can easily be outsourced. Outsourcing also tends to reduce the overall cost of production, though care should be taken to ensure that there will be a sufficient level of support for any apps or programs created by freelancers.
Social media marketing campaigns and content creation are an important part of marketing in the digital age. Many corporations will continually post new articles on their websites and social media pages. These services can often be outsourced with good results. There are an increasing number of remote service providers who specialize in just such content creation and marketing. Again, care should be taken to ensure that whether hiring a freelancer or a third-party agency, that there is an open line of communications to provide a sufficient level of support for the corporation.
Language service providers are often necessary for international corporations. In cases where there are only a couple of relevant languages, it may be beneficial to allow the translators to work from home. In cases where a great many languages will be required, whether for content creation, marketing and advertising campaigns, or even the strategic localization of content for international markets, it may be better to hire a translation company, more notably, a translation agency specializing in localization services.
NCND, NDA, Work for Hire and other agreements may be necessary when outsourcing work.
The NCND stands for Non-Circumvention-Non-Disclosure and is designed to ensure that people entrusted with trade secrets or other proprietary information do not use that information for their own purposes. This type of agreement is particularly important if the information being shared is such that it could feasibly provide others to compete based on proprietary data compiled and owned by the corporation.
The NDA or Non-Disclosure Agreement on the other hand, merely covers the data or other trade secrets or proprietary information and may be more applicable if there are no concerns about the third-party competing with the corporation. Work-For-Hire agreements ensure that the corporation retains all of the copyright on any and all materials that have been created through outsourcing.
What parts of the business should not be outsourced but can still work at home, Zooming to Work
Salespeople often work remotely, and there may be occasions when these positions are outsourced, though it is generally a good idea to keep the salespeople on payroll. People involved in direct sales will often be privy to more source or proprietary information that is more easily protected through the services of an employee as opposed to a freelancer or third-party provider.
Portions of the administrative and executive staff may be allowed to work remotely, though it is highly unlikely that any of these positions should ever be entrusted to a third-party service provider. The exact needs of the corporation and the applicable functions of the individual jobs should all be considered by the CEO before any such decisions are implemented.
While it is not very common, there are actually times that production can be done remotely. One example of this has been seen in parts of the world where there is a mass production of Christmas and Tivoli lights that do not require anything other than a large sampling of small parts. One person is scheduled to deliver the parts to the individual homes, and the completed product is picked up on a deadline, or brought to a central location for packaging and delivery.
Determining exactly which personnel and which processes can be done remotely, will ultimately be the decision of the CEO or COO. However, the suggestions contained herein should provide enough of a starting point to allow these decisions to be more effectively determined. The question then becomes how to manage remote personnel and maintain production levels.
How to Maintain Operational Control of Traditional Office Work Online For employees working from home?
According to a March 30th report from AppAnnie reported on Tech Crunch, “business conferencing apps have been experiencing record growth as a result, and just hit their biggest week ever in March, when they topped 62 million downloads during the week of March 14-21”. It is easy to see that video conferencing is an important aspect for remote employees, but it can also prove to be as detrimental as it is beneficial.
Too many conference calls will interfere with the levels of production for remote employees. Conference calls can be an excellent method for providing tasks, assignments, setting goals and other general meeting materials. They should not however, become so constant that they become irrelevant and more of an annoyance and distraction rather than contributing to increased levels of production.
There are many great remote tracking software programs available for managing remote employees. Some of the more simple programs simply record time in and time out, while others take screenshots or even pictures from a connected webcam. Since these programs often run “silently” in the background, they allow the remote service providers to continue working unabated, while at the same time ensuring that they are not spending more time on social media than they are on their assigned tasks.
Some of the more popular remote-tracking applications include Time Doctor, Time Camp, Manic Time and a host of others. Care must be taken by the CEO when selecting such an app as their selection will vary depending on the needs of both the corporation and the remote employee.
Company Benefits of Having Telecommuting Employees Working From Home
There are so many benefits for companies that utilize remote service providers, whether employees, contracted employees or outsourced employees, that it is challenging to build a list that can be contained in a single article.
Larger corporations with a higher operating budget may provide computers for remote employees to use, but this is not so important as it was in times past. Very few people live without any computer access in this day and age. There may still be some restrictions as certain programs may require more than the average computer can handle, or internal VPNs or Virtual Private Networks may have some restrictions, but this should not be a major issue for the CEO to handle.
Computers are not the only place where cost-savings will occur however, as with remote employees, office space and use will be greatly reduced. There will be no need for the larger, more expensive open office space. No costs for desks, chairs, trashcans and other expensive office equipment. Even utility consumption will be reduced. Water, electrical, garbage and even janitorial costs can be reduced as fewer employees are needed on site.
There are also many benefits resulting in a reduction of tax liabilities for the corporation. Home-based employees can be hired as contract employees, often making them responsible for taxes that the corporation was formally required to pay. Among the most common are unemployment taxes, Social Security taxes and even payroll taxes in some locations. Again, however, it is imperative that the CEO be familiar with any and all of the relevant tax laws and other regulations, and nobody should consider the information contained in this article to be legal advice in any sense of the words.
A simple cost-benefit analysis may be the first pertinent step in determining whether or not the corporation would benefit from having remote employees. Adding in the potential for increased levels of production, the increased level of safety for their employees, especially during the current Covid-19 global pandemic and the other factors mentioned herein, and it is easy to see why this is such a popular option.
If nothing else, the global coronavirus outbreak has shown us that it is easy to change personal habits if the proper incentive is there. People are increasingly making purchases online and working online, in many cases, providing an abundance of benefits for their employers. Remote service providers are not just the wave of the future, but a very real, and important consideration for the CEO of every company in existence during the current global medical crisis.
In a recent report by the Brookings Institute on the seventeenth of March, 2020, it was noted that there is a definitive increase in both telecommuting jobs and employees working from home as a direct result of the Covid-19 global pandemic. It was further noted “The prominence of telework in the response to the coronavirus threat is a reminder that the technology can help employers manage other risks as well. For example, telework can enable firms to reduce the risk of losing productivity to regular or catastrophic traffic disruption. Offering telework as a benefit can help employers afford the cost of hiring high-skill labor, and keep these workers connected to the office and each other no matter where they’re based. Teleworking’s reach allows employers access to a larger group of potential workers and, in turn, allows workers access to more job options.”
Guest post courtesy of Paul Fernandez