Thirty two percent of workers named flexible schedules or remote work opportunities as their most desired perk. Between the rise of software-as-a-service, and video communication tools, this is an easy employee perk to offer—for the right type of role and organization. Some roles, such as warehouse receivers, need to be done at the company site. However, an estimated 50 percent of the US workforce holds a job that is compatible with at least partial remote work. Despite this, some organizations simply prefer their employees to come in so they’re available for face-to-face collaboration. If your organization is interested in how to make remote work a possibility, read on for four ways to make it work.
Everyone works from home, all the time
On the far end of the spectrum, some organizations choose to work 100 percent remotely. Without the overhead of an office building, and all that goes along with it, organizations can save a lot of money with a remote workforce. They also have the benefit of being able to recruit top talent from anywhere in the world—significantly increasing the size of their talent pool. Plus, without long commutes and chatty colleagues, many workers can be much more productive at home.
This arrangement can have some drawbacks, however. Mainly, not all employees like to work remotely all the time. Working exclusively from home can be isolating, and workers may miss the opportunity to see their colleagues, and build relationships with them, face-to-face. Other employees may take advantage of being home by slacking on their work. To combat this, be very transparent about your work from home arrangement during your recruitment process and implement a performance evaluation process [Read More: Performance Review Questions] . Let candidates know about both the upsides, and the downsides, as well as your quality of work expectations. Check in via weekly phone calls or video conferences, and try to get the entire team together in-person at least once per year.
Select employees work from home, all the time
This arrangement is similar to the previous one, except that only some employees work remotely. While you won’t enjoy the cost savings of going sans-office, you may still have the benefit of being able to recruit talent from around the globe (without the added expense of opening offices in new locations). This perk may also come in handy for your top-performers who would otherwise leave. This includes employees with long commutes, those who need to move out of the area for various reasons, and parents who want a better work/life balance.
The major drawbacks are that office employees might feel like the arrangement is unfair to them, while remote workers might feel disconnected from their in-office teams. For the first issue, try to be transparent about who is allowed to work from home, and why. For the second issue, the tips from the entirely remote workforce apply: communicate regularly, and bring them into the office from time to time.
Work from home as needed
Allowing employees to work from home as needed is a more casual approach many organizations are taking. For instance, employees may work from home on days they have a doctor appointment, or even after-work plans that wouldn’t allow time for commuting. This allows for a great work/life balance. It can also come in handy for sick employees who are feeling up to working, but don’t want to spread their illness to the rest of the office. Finally, it can be useful for head-down focus time, in the event that you have a very social office without much quiet space.
A major challenge is that it’s easier to for employees to take advantage of this approach. An employee who works remotely full-time can’t consistently slack off without it being noticed. Someone who only has the opportunity from time-to-time, however, could more easily play hookey for a day without being noticed. Combat this by setting the clear expectation that the employee should be working when they say they will be, even if it’s after-hours to make up for time lost during a doctor appointment. If you find that they’re non-responsive during those times, consider disciplinary action, including a loss of work from home privileges. This leads to the second challenge, which is that several employees could be out of the office on any given day, making it challenging to collaborate on important projects or to schedule meetings. The fourth remote work scenario below could be a good solution.
Work from home on specified days
If you want to offer this perk to all employees, and keep them on the same in-office schedule, try allowing them to work from home on specific days. For instance, some organizations allow all employees to work from every Friday so they can start their weekend without having to commute home first. Employees are encouraged to schedule any necessary doctor appointments on those days so they can be in the office when the rest of their colleagues are also there. This type of schedule can also allow for much needed head-down time so employees can finish projects without colleagues or meetings interrupting their work.
A downside is that communication may lag on these days, as people are working scattered hours. While things like doctor appointments might normally take place throughout the week, now all employees will be taking care of these things on the same day. You also run the risk of missing an important office visitor: perhaps a customer or business partner who is not familiar with your schedule, or an office delivery. Do your best to communicate your work from home policy with everyone—from customers to employees and partners—so they know what to expect.
Just as working remotely won’t work for every employee or organization, no one method will work best for those that choose to offer this perk. When considering which type of work-from-home arrangement to offer, consider your business needs and your employee’s thoughts on the matter. A 100 percent work from home arrangement might work best for a bootstrapped company just starting out. A larger company may begin with a “work from home as needed” policy, and later decide to test a “work from home Fridays” policy for the summer. With so many different ways to allow your employees to work from home, you’re sure to find a way to offer this sought-after perk.