Work at home options are becoming more and more popular with employees, but are these arrangements any good for employers?
With a recent study finding that 91% of telecommuters felt more productive working remotely than in the office, it’s hard not to want to take this idea and run with it. But there are some key things to consider.
Today’s employees love being able to make choices about when, where, and how they work.
Offering work-at-home options may give you the edge when it comes to recruiting and retention. In addition to feeling more productive, remote workers also felt more valued, had higher levels of job satisfaction, and said they were more likely to stick around than their in-office counterparts.
Allowing for remote employees can also open up your hiring pool significantly. Have a great candidate who isn’t interested in commuting, relocating, or sticking to a rigid 8 - 5 schedule? These things are no longer automatic deal breakers.
Work-at-home options allow your employees to be productive without physically being in the office. Major snow storm? No problem. Make some cocoa and work in front of the fire. Systems down in the office? Grab your laptop and head to a cafe. A little under the weather? Instead of taking a sick day, employees can log hours from home— without exposing the rest of the team to the crud.
Employers with telecommuting programs in place have reported lower levels of absenteeism, fewer employee sick days, increased hiring flexibility, lower turnover, and reduced overhead costs. Those are some pretty great benefits.
But before you decide to kick everyone out of the office tomorrow, it’s important to note that survey responses differed when remote workers were broken out by those who chose to work at home vs. those who were forced to work at home.
Not surprisingly, employees who chose to telecommute were happier, felt more valued, and were more likely to see themselves staying with the company than those who were mandated to work remotely. The lesson here? Today’s job seekers value choice and flexibility, and are taking these things into consideration when making career moves and decisions.
A word of caution regarding choice: If you do plan to offer telecommuting benefits, make sure to standardize the program as much as possible. If only a few select groups or individuals are offered work at home benefits, it can cause friction and resentment on the team.
And since we’re on the topic of team dynamics, it’s also worth noting that remote employees scored lower than their in-office mates when it came to rating the overall quality of their relationships at work.
Obviously, it’s harder for remote teams to feel and stay connected, but that doesn’t mean you need to toss your telecommuting plans out the window. Instead, you can use this opportunity to design programs that address these issues from the get-go.
Things to consider when designing a work at home program:
Communication is important for every organization, but even more so when you have remote workers. The good news is that there are a million technology tools to help your team stay connected and on track.
Programs that facilitate video conferencing and screen sharing like Join.me and Skype help coworkers collaborate from different offices, time zones, and even countries. Instant messaging apps like Slack and Teams allow everyone to have conversations and “hang out” in real time. Project management programs like Asana and Basecamp let everyone follow and contribute to the projects they are involved in.
No matter what technology platforms you’re using, you’ll need to tighten up all of your internal communications to accommodate your remote workers. Slapping a sign up in the breakroom ain’t gonna cut it. You’ll need a strategy that reaches out to all employees, wherever they are and however they communicate.
Just because everyone isn’t in the same place doesn’t mean they can’t be on the same page. If you hire primarily for cultural fit, you’ll end up with a group of people who are likely to work well together, even if it’s primarily online.
That said, you’ll want to take some of that money you’re saving on office space and furniture and invest it in making sure your team gets together in person from time to time. Fly your out-of-town staff in for the company holiday party. Offer to pay mileage for those who are willing to drive into the office once a week. Host regular team meetings and events that entice people to work and play together.
Tech solutions are fantastic, but nothing beats real, live interaction every now and then. Preferably with delicious food and a little fun thrown in.
If your company culture sucks, it doesn’t matter where your employees work. No one is going to be inspired to give their all. The same is true for companies who have fantastic cultures. Dedicated employees will be even more devoted when they are given high levels of trust and flexibility, even if they rarely step foot in the office.
If your culture is negative, questionable, weak, or undefined, telecommuting may not be something you want to try just yet. In other words, you need to get your own house in order before you let people start working from theirs.
If you’ve got a strong, positive culture going, know that it is on your side. Put together a telecommuting program and give it a try. You may be surprised at the positive results it brings.