Does your company offer remote work as an employee perk? Remote working arrangements are increasingly popular. One recent poll showed that 43% of Americans spend at least some time working outside of the office. In some cases, flexible scheduling can make or break a prospective hire’s decision to accept a job offer. But plenty of employers are still hesitant to offer this benefit, either out of concern that working remotely will hurt employee productivity, or that the benefits of face-to-face communication are too important to sacrifice.
As it turns out, remote work benefits employers as much as it does employees. Studies have shown that employees are more productive when they are working remotely. Working outside of the office cuts down on distractions and allows employees to tackle tasks that require deep focus. Remote work also allows employers to save on office real estate costs, letting companies offer rotating “hotel offices” rather than assigning every employee a desk. Most importantly, offering remote work can improve employee retention, a critical bonus in today’s tight talent market.
If you are thinking about offering remote working arrangements as a perk for your employees, there are a few steps you can take to ensure that the arrangement works well for all parties.
Set clear expectations from day one
If remote working is a new perk for your organization, all parties will benefit from clear guidelines in the beginning for how you’d like the arrangement to work. Establishing clear guidelines up front will eliminate the need to micromanage employees when they’re working remotely.
These are a few considerations as you establish your company’s guidelines:
Cap the number of days employees can work remotely each month (e.g., 10 days out of the office, 10 days in the office) or require all employees to be present on a “team collaboration” day each week.
Offer remote work as a perk for proven employees who have been with your company for a year or longer.
Set daily or weekly milestones such as a number of calls employees need to hit or a progress point they need to reach on a project. If an employee routinely fails to meet this milestone, work-from-home privileges could be revoked.
Establish daily “working hours” when team members need to be online and reachable for emails or calls. Some team members may be night owls and crank out their best work after traditional office hours, but they still need to be reachable during the day to facilitate collaboration.
Set guidelines for project status updates. For example, you might require a remote employee to have a quick touch point with you via phone at the end of each week as an update on work accomplished and next steps.
Make video conferencing part of your routine
It’s true that communication is better when employees are working in the same office, largely due to the additional layers of information that people can read from body language, tone of voice, and facial expressions. But opting for remote work doesn’t have to mean the loss all of these face-to-face communication benefits. Keeping in regular contact with remote workers through video conferencing can help to bridge the gap, and today’s technology has never been cheaper or easier to use. Although you will still lose some of the spontaneous information exchange that occurs when you’re sitting at a desk next to your co-worker, you’ll still be able to build a stronger relationship when you communicate over video than you would via phone or email communication.
Stay in frequent contact
One of the greatest perils of working remotely is being outside of the flow of information at the office. You don’t want an employee to spend an afternoon working on a project only to learn after the fact that the deliverable schedule shifted priorities to a different assignment. When you have a member of your team working remotely, it is imperative that you touch base frequently throughout the day to ensure that information is cascaded as needed. I have a member of my team who works remotely four days a week, and on days when he’s not in the office we are in constant communication via phone throughout the day.
Keeping in touch is also critical for employee engagement, and for effective coaching and mentorship. Communication is important not just for the manager-employee relationship, but also among coworkers. Everyone on your team needs to make communication a priority, and not simply assume that information will make its way around through osmosis.
Remote employees often perform better outside the office because they’re empowered to focus on a single task without constant interruption and to do so on a schedule that makes sense for their preferred work style. Setting clear communication expectations up front and requiring regular, in-office collaboration sessions will help your team thrive without sacrificing performance.
Have you recently begun to offer remote working arrangements for employees? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments below.