three planes in a flight show, all giving off different brightly colored exhaust
PHOTO: Mihai Surdu

Business leaders and public health officials are scrambling to determine when life can return to normal. But COVID-19 has changed our definition of “normal” and it may signal a positive, permanent shift toward cloud working.

With a majority of corporate employees forced to work from home, companies have doubled down on tools that empower their remote workforces. At the same time, executive-level fears related to remote work (e.g., decreased productivity and heightened disconnect) never materialized. In fact, Gallup found that employee engagement largely increased amid the newly remote workforce during the pandemic.

Although it’s impossible to know what the future holds, the widespread adoption of remote-friendly, cloud-based tools has fundamentally changed today’s workplace. And that means cloud working is here to stay. 

Cloud Working Is No Longer Optional, It’s Essential

In the era of cloud working, automated workflows and digital business tools have become critical components of company operations. Decision-makers must now fully commit to the digital transformation of manual and paper-based processes to equip their operations for the long run.

Essentially, cloud working not only enables your employees to work from anywhere (both now and on a go-forward basis), but it also ensures your business is ready for the future.

The pandemic has shown us that it’s time to go all in on the cloud. Cloud working provides a framework for creating a better operational model in your organization. Here’s why:

1. Cloud Working Is More Productive

There are valid business reasons why current employees and talented prospects want to work remotely. For example, 80% of IT professionals said moving to the cloud improved their productivity.

Another study found that remote workers were 13% more productive than their in-office counterparts. Employees’ increased productivity ultimately adds up for your business, since remote employees work nearly 17 more days per year than those who work in the office.

COVID-19 has spurred many companies — including Microsoft, Apple and Twitter — to completely reshape their policies around remote work. Going forward, other companies will likely follow suit, especially given the productivity gains achievable through remote work opportunities.

Related Article: Will We Ever Go Back to the Office Again?

2. Cloud Working Reduces Costs

The need to work from home during the pandemic started a conversation about potential cost savings. Reduced reliance on in-person meetings or large office spaces has caused many business leaders to wonder whether large physical footprints are worth the investment. 

But even if companies eventually return to pre-pandemic work routines, a cloud working model can still help reduce the cost of “business as usual” because of the added flexibility it creates. By cutting back on travel and real estate — which can cost hundreds of dollars per trip or square foot — companies can increase investments in digital tools that improve both their customer and employee experiences.

A flexible work environment also gives your HR team the upper hand in sourcing quality talent. Today’s employees are trading the allure of a cool office for the convenience of a fully or semi-remote position. Although this trend was already evident before the pandemic, many highly talented candidates now view a flexible work environment as non-negotiable.

Related Article: Are You Ready for the New Hybrid Workplace?

3. Cloud Working Can Improve Employee Satisfaction

Although increased productivity and reduced costs are valuable benefits, cloud working can make a lasting impression on your company’s most valuable resource: your employees.

Many employees enjoy working from home because it enables a better work-life balance. The elimination of a long commute — which is linked to a 33% higher likelihood of depression — gives employees more time to work on important company projects as well as learning and development.

In addition, a digitally supported cloud working style allows employees to work around their busy personal schedules. For example, with a flexible work-from-home arrangement, parents can more effectively align their work schedules with the demands of parenting, significantly reducing the possibility of missed meetings and unexpected late-for-work instances.

The COVID-19 pandemic didn’t change the way we work: it accelerated a transition that was already underway. Now, organizations that reject the standards of the new normal risk falling behind competitors willing to offer better digital support and cloud working to their employees.