The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many businesses to adapt to remote work. While this has had many benefits, it has also created new challenges. One of the biggest challenges is the cost of invisible labor.
What is Invisible Labor?
Invisible labor is the work that goes unnoticed or uncompensated. It includes tasks such as answering emails outside of work hours, taking calls on personal devices, and working on projects during personal time. While this type of labor is often essential to the success of a business, it is rarely accounted for in the cost of doing business.
What does it cost?
For business owners, the cost of invisible labor can be significant. A study by Buffer found that small business owners spend an average of 15 hours per week on invisible labor. This equates to over $10,000 per year in lost productivity.
There are a number of factors that contribute to the cost of invisible labor. One factor is the blurring of boundaries between work and personal life. When employees work from home, it can be difficult to separate their work life from their personal life. This can lead to employees feeling pressure to be available 24/7.
Another factor that contributes to the cost of invisible labor is the lack of visibility into employee work. When employees work remotely, it can be difficult for managers to track their progress and productivity. This can lead to employees feeling like they need to “prove” themselves by working long hours or taking on extra work.
The cost of invisible labor can have a number of negative consequences for small business owners. It can lead to burnout, decreased productivity, and increased turnover. It can also put a strain on employee morale and relationships.
What can be done?
There are a number of things that small business owners can do to reduce the cost of invisible labor. One is to set clear boundaries between work and personal life. Employees should be encouraged to take breaks, unplug from work, and focus on their personal lives outside of work hours.
Another is to provide employees with the tools and resources they need to be successful. This includes providing access to training, software, and other resources that can help employees be more productive.
Finally, small business owners need to be mindful of the invisible labor that their employees are doing. They should regularly check in with employees to see how they are doing and to offer support.
The cost of invisible labor is a real and significant challenge for small business owners. However, there are a number of things that can be done to reduce this cost. By setting clear boundaries, providing employees with the tools they need, and being mindful of the invisible labor that their employees are doing, small business owners can create a more sustainable and productive work environment.
If you’re currently considering going fully remote for your business, consider its size; the type of work that needs to be done; and the needs of the employees. For instance, a rapidly growing business may mean its sensible to save costs by going remote rather than increasing your square footage. If the type of work you’re doing requires immediate, hands-on work, then remote probably isn’t an option. Finally, your employees’ needs is worth consideration. Almost everyone has been in a work environment where, when once person is out of office, it feels like half the staff are out. It could increase morale to be fully remote.
For businesses that are able to make it work, working remotely can be a great way to save money, increase productivity, and attract top talent.