The widespread emergence of remote work has presented both challenges and opportunities for small business owners. Learn how you can balance the shifting priorities of your employees with the needs of your company to find lasting success in this new environment.

The pandemic has drastically altered how many businesses work. Of the many changes, the wide-scale adoption of hybrid and remote work models is one of the most notable and has resulted in both benefits and drawbacks for small business owners.

With the arrival of remote work, opportunities have emerged for small businesses to draw from larger talent pools, provide new flexibility for their existing employees, and leverage new technologies that can support their growth objectives. But this shift has also brought its fair share of challenges. Employees working remotely may encounter different stressors that can lead to long-term fatigue, and business owners may need to adapt to operational changes that affect productivity, employee engagement, and information security.

Of course, remote work may not be possible for all small businesses. Given the nature of their industries, some small businesses may not have pivoted at all to fully remote or hybrid formats during the pandemic. But for those who have, there are ways to maximize the opportunities, manage the challenges, and successfully adapt your business to the new shape of your workforce.

A New Set of Challenges

The shift to remote work has created new barriers to connecting with your employees and managing the day-to-day operations of your business. Some elements of the workplace experience that were so common pre-pandemic are no longer prudent—or even possible.

For instance, your remote employees aren’t able to walk over to your desk and ask a question or pull aside a team member for a quick whiteboard session to brainstorm. Similarly, tools that you used to rely on may not be optimized for a virtual work world, and could even compromise your security.

However, while your work model may have changed, your day-to-day work has not, and your business still needs to perform at the same level it did before you transitioned online. Communication, connection, and oversight of your business may look different in a modern workplace, but they’re just as important to execute well.

Addressing these day-to-day challenges is a key step in enhancing your remote environment. Companies should carefully consider the key hurdles they’re facing in each part of their business to fully understand how the shift to remote work is impacting them. The next step is exploring solutions to these everyday challenges. Some solutions may be minor—like scheduling regular check-ins with your remote employees to maintain engagement or offering more opportunities for group collaboration in a virtual setting— while others may be more substantial—like looking into new technology to better fit the needs of your team or adopting new security measures to protect your information in a work-from-home environment.

Retaining and Engaging Remote Talent

The changing talent landscape is another key challenge in the new world of remote work. The “Great Resignation” has led many employees to reconsider their existing working situations and some are stepping down from jobs when they feel that employers are not meeting their needs. For businesses with remote and hybrid workers, retaining staff can be especially difficult and it takes added effort to keep these employees engaged and connected—but there are strategies that business owners can use to retain their staff in these new conditions.

It is crucial that small business owners remain aware of the key challenges their employees face in a remote workplace. Without seeing colleagues in person, some employees may find it difficult to connect, communicate, and stay engaged, and some may even experience burnout, especially while balancing home duties with work tasks. Companies should be constantly talking with their employees, both to better understand their challenges and to offer the tools and support they need to address them.

Providing in-person opportunities for your employees to interact outside of the workplace can be a great way to keep them connected and reduce remote work fatigue. Consider scheduling fun outings for your employees or volunteering as a group. This can also be a great way to build your company culture and highlight your values, which are increasingly important to younger employees entering the workforce. If your employees work remotely from different areas and frequent in-person outings are not practical, business owners could look to periodically bring their entire workforce together to meet, work, and socialize. Even doing this a few times a year can help your team feel more connected—to each other and to your business.

As employees continue to demonstrate that they are willing to leave their positions for better working environments, making an effort to bring your remote employees together and feel like a part of your business—no matter where they may be working from—is the key to a successful long-term retention strategy.

Evaluating a Remote Work Future

Remote and hybrid work models present challenges and opportunities for small business owners. Determining whether this style of work is right for your business requires a thorough evaluation of your existing workforce and your own vision for your business. Employee buy-in is crucial and providing a work environment that fits with the shifting preferences of your workers is a key aspect of retaining talent and achieving long-term business success. But business owners must also consider how comfortable they are with managing remote employees and whether they believe that a remote work model will allow them to maximize the potential of their business.

Balancing the priorities of your business and employees can be difficult, but there are strategies business owners can use when making this decision. Maintaining consistent communication with your employees will allow you to better understand what they expect from their workplace and the resources they need to succeed. Having a clear plan for where you want your business to go will provide insight into how the needs of your employees fit with the capabilities of your business.

Small business owners who can strike this balance and listen to their employees while keeping the ultimate direction of their business in mind will be better positioned to select a work model that works for them.

To discuss additional ideas for growing your business, contact your Senior Relationship Banker or get in touch with Santander today.

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