The first time a remote working request lands on your desk can be a daunting prospect. Yet it’s easier than it’s ever been for employees to work remotely, with improved internet connectivity, video conferencing and easy-to-use messaging systems. But that doesn’t mean it’s automatically the right choice for your business to offer it to all employees.
Many employers use job performance as the main factor in deciding whether or not to grant a work from home request. But job performance isn’t the only factor at play. Ask yourself: Is your business set up to handle remote workers? Do you have an accurate time and attendance system that can help you manage employees even when they’re working remotely? Do you have the necessary tech in place to help them do their job? Is it possible for all your employees to be able to work remotely when they need to, or does the nature of their role mean that they must be in the office?
It’s an issue which certainly requires thought and planning, not to mention an understanding of the good, the bad and the ugly of remote working.
You may find it surprising to learn that one of the benefits of allowing remote working is a productivity boost! 96% of employers with remote-work policies believe it doesn’t impede productivity. Indeed, remote workers have been shown to have a slightly higher level of investment in their work and perform equally to onsite workers. By showing your employees they’re trusted, you empower them to take charge of their work and get the job done. Not only this, being able to work away from a noisy office environment can improve concentration and help employees avoid unnecessary interruption from their colleagues too.
Are you seeing high levels of absenteeism in your business? Allowing remote working may be the answer. In a survey done by Indeed, 60% of workers said that remote working led them to take fewer sick days and 52% also believed it had reduced absences. Not surprising considering how easily germs are spread in an office environment, with those who really should be at home resting battling through to the office and helpfully infecting all their colleagues. Remote working allows those who feel well enough to work but are potentially still contagious to work without infecting anyone else. The key here is to ensure that managers check in with these workers to make sure that they aren’t too sick to be working.
It’s also helpful for those who have been on leave and may need a gentler reintroduction back to working life as it allows them to get on with their work without struggling through their commute.
Life happens and remote working can be an invaluable option for your workers should the unexpected arise, such as a sick relative that needs taking to see the doctor or if their car breaks down and it can’t be quickly fixed. Similarly, for workers with chronic conditions who can sometimes find it near impossible to leave the house, remote working can be a lifeline that allows them to do their jobs without having to take a day’s leave. Better for them, as it eases the pressure, and better for you as you don’t then have to reallocate their work or work around their absence.
Widen your prospective talent pool
Struggling to fill your vacancies? With 62% of Canadian employers already offering flexible working and 55% of people wanting more flexible working options, getting the right polices in place could really help to improve interest in your job opportunities
Is staff retention becoming an issue? Hiring and training new employees can be a costly task. With this in mind, companies who support remote work have a 25% higher retention rate over those that don’t. By implementing remote working, you could really improve employee morale as they’re able to achieve a better work/life balance.
Ditch the daily commute
Another benefit of being allowed to work from home is the lack of commute. Long commutes can have a detrimental effect on a person’s health and finances, it also brings higher levels of stress and less time for other activities. But this is negated by working from home as the need to get to the office by a certain time is removed. This brings an environmental bonus too, as it means there’s one less car is stuck in traffic, wasting gas.
Work come rain or shine
By implementing the right technology, processes, and systems, in the event of bad weather, your employees’ ability to work from home can mean that your business can stay open. This means you wouldn’t be caught trying to decide if employees would be at risk if you still asked them to try and make it in. Also, your employees then wouldn’t have to decide whether to use some of their leave for the day or risk the journey to the office.
Presenteeism can be a costly issue
Presenteeism costs Canadian businesses an estimated 15 to 25 billion dollars a year. It’s where people who aren’t really fit to be working come to work anyway. It’s easy for presenteeism to go unnoticed – especially in businesses where managers rate employee performance on whether they’re at their desks or not. But, employees working when they’re not 100% results in lost productivity and the potential spread of illness (if the employee in question is office-bound).
With remote workers, the potential spread of illness is less of an issue, but it is very tempting to continue working even when not at their best. This can be for many reasons, from a misguided sense of duty to attempt to avoid delays and adding extra work to colleagues’ workloads to simply having no sick days left to use. It’s critical that managers regularly check in with remote workers to ensure that they’re fine to be at work and don’t need any additional support.
Out of sight, out of mind
It can be easy to forget about remote workers. Without regular catch-ups in place, without bringing the remote worker into briefings and meetings, they can get forgotten about. In addition, remote workers can often feel left out of in-office activities such as social events, social clubs, general chatting with colleagues, and impromptu meetings that they aren’t dialled in for.
If social activities are a key part of your business’ culture, consider how your remote worker could join in. Is it an event that they may be able to come into the office for? Could they be dialled in to the event so they could chat with their colleagues? Depending on the personality of your remote worker, they may not want to join in with these activities anyway. The key thing is to ensure that they’re not forgotten about.
While working from home can seem like an idyllic option that allows for a better work/life balance, the reality is that it can be incredibly lonely. For some remote workers, they may not see another person at all during the day. If they’ve dropped out of sight and out of mind of those in the office, then they may not hear from their colleagues either.
For employees not in the office, it’s easy for them to fall out of the loop. They’re not present for those impromptu conversations at desks or spur of the moment team lunches. This lack of team engagement can drive feelings of loneliness or of being forgotten and ignored.
The Work Connectivity Study found that 40% of employees who communicate mainly by email classed themselves as always or very often lonely, saying they weren’t as engaged and had a high need for social connection.
Flexible working can do wonders for employees’ stress levels, helping them achieve a better work/life balance and eliminate the stress of a daily commute. But at the same time, working remotely can make it all too easy to keep working beyond normal hours to get a job done. With their work emails at their fingertips 24/7 and a desire to be productive as possible, it’s deceptively easy for work stress to build as it becomes harder for remote workers to switch off at the end of a work day.
It’s key that managers and supervisors are familiar with the signs of stress, so that they’re able to intervene if they spot those signs in their employees or themselves.
Should you allow your employees to work from home?
There will always be roles that simply can’t be done remotely, but for those that can the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. Indeed’s remote workers survey identified a number of benefits to allowing remote work:
- Improved morale
- Reduced absenteeism
- Operational cost savings
- Reduced employee turnover
- Reduced health insurance costs
It’s important to set up clear boundaries and expectations with employees working remotely so that everyone knows what it expected. If you don’t have a time and attendance system, now would be the time to invest so that you’re able to track the working times and attendance information of all your workforce. That way you can ensure that no one is putting in more – or less – hours than they should. Regular check-ins should be set up alongside with ensuring that remote workers are still made to feel like part of the team and not a forgotten spare.
Ultimately, it all comes down to trust. Trust that you’ve hired the right people who will still get the job done even when you can’t see them. If you don’t trust your employees to still get their work done from home, then there’s no point in implementing remote working as it’ll only cause stress for everyone involved. But if you do trust them, then the benefits are clear.